Workshop brings bard’s scenes to life for local youth

While the evenings of June 8-10 saw the staging of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" in Prentis Park, the afternoons of each day gave area youths a chance to take part in impromptu stagings of several of the play's scenes.

Whitney Egbert leads a workshop called “Shakespeare Alive!” for youths aged 8 to 13, which had the kids participating in warm-up exercises and the staging of scenes from “As You Like It.” Isreal Scott was the other workshop leader. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

Open to kids aged 8 to 13, "Shakespeare Alive!" was one of several workshops that were held over the three days of the inaugural South Dakota Shakespeare Festival.

The workshop was led by Whitney Egbert, who played Rosalind in the production, and Isreal Scott, who played Oliver.

Both actors live in New York City, and were recruited specifically for the festival.

"For a lot of kids with 'As You Like It,' they don't know the story yet, and so we're trying to give them something to look at and know, and then add in a lot of extra comments about the time period so they can brag to their parents about stuff that they know now," Egbert said.

"I want them to get a seed," Scott added. "The most important thing is having a seed planted for them to explore Shakespeare at their age and understanding level, and when they get older."

If the participants from Saturday afternoon's session were any indication, that seed was planted – and then some.

The theatre wing of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Arts echoed with the enthusiastic voices of the participants, who asked plenty of questions and shared their opinions of the opening night's performance.

"It was awesome!" was heard more than once.

The session started off with some vocal and physical warm-up exercises, and was followed by and explanation of characterization and some of the main plot points.

The kids then had a chance to act out some selected scenes from the play, after each of which the others were required to applaud.

"We want to make sure that everybody gets the chance to have that (applause)," Egbert told the students. "The other thing is, the audience is an important part. Last night when you guys were watching, the audience really gets involved, right? We wanted you guys to have that here, as well."

Friday and Saturday's workshops each had about 10 participants. Egbert and Scott said both of them went very well.

"We had a great group of kids yesterday, and another great group today, so we're looking forward to tomorrow," Egbert said.

"It really has been going great," Scott added. "The kids are very receptive to our energy. If you give them a lot of energy and respect, they give you a lot of energy and respect back."

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