All of life is a stage, and so is Toronto’s High Park.
DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon gathered the students under the beautiful oak trees and passed a bag with pieces of paper. Each participant drew a line from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and read it out loud. They went over the plot, the characters, body language and “sculpted” the lines with their bodies.
As other people in High Park played with water pistols, blew giant soap bubbles and picnicked, the DAREarts Drama Campers walked, spoke, posed and created group montages that conveyed what they interpreted from the folio. They explored in depth what the gender bending Jaques says in her soliloquy about the seven stages of life. Two volunteer mentors, Zlata and Ron Huddleton, joined in the revelry.
They talked about gender identity, relationships, and comedy versus tragedy in Shakespeare’s time.
They munched on sandwiches “donuted” by Tim Horton’s and after a quick review of audience etiquette; they entered the world of Canadian Stage’s open air theatre.
The teens were courteously greeted by Canadian Stage front of house staff and conveyed to front row seats where they were able to watch the actors’ fight choreography and drink in the atmosphere of the set.
The performance was kissed with a beautiful night breeze with no rain, and the kids were clearly caught up in the magic of the play.
Lisa Norton, Program Coordinator, sums up her experience with the DAREarts Summer Drama Camp students this way:
“Shakespeare can be intimidating for teens, and that’s why it’s so important for them to see it live on stage. When DAREarts brings kids out to see these live performances, the complex language barriers of Shakespearean prose are suddenly manageable and the content becomes friendly. Being able to join the kids during these events brings me so much joy because when I was in high school Shakespeare’s plays were not taught to me as an approachable, enjoyable body of work. Instead, I was often handed the plays and told to just read them and report on them. I didn’t genuinely enjoy Shakespeare until I encountered his work again as a young adult in university, an opportunity that our kids may not come across on their own (they can’t all become English majors, after all!). These pieces are meant to be seen and heard, interacted with and enjoyed. As I was squished into the middle of the large group of teens during the performance, it was heartwarming to hear them laughing at all the right moments, gasping at others, and just being one-hundred percent engaged. Their morning with DAREarts’ Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, had perfectly prepped them for the show, and they loved every moment of it.”
We asked the Camp participants to give their own reviews of As You Like It, and they responded:
Dante: “I think the music added to the humour of the play. Because I know a lot of the laughing was based around the music. There were a lot of scenes based around the music.”
Austin: “The acting was very good. It was very well done. The choreography was amazing and the jokes were funny.”
Kassandra: “I found As You Like It, performed by CanStage to be funny and witty and it did not lose humour on modern audiences.”
Djordie: “I was really happy to see a Shakespeare play with a strong female lead. I thought Rosalind was a very interesting character and the actress did a very good job of portraying her. And the play was very exciting.”We’d like to thank DAREarts Founder Marilyn Field for personally ensuring that this drama camp was made possible.