Student thespians sample festival's spotlight

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“Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention! A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”

Lola Clark stood on a chair as she belted out these lines from Shakespeare’s play “Henry V”, sending echoes across the stage of the UpStairs Theater at the Texas Shakespeare Festival Center on Tuesday. Clark, along with other local high school students, is participating in TSF’s High School Acting Workshop, which runs July 14 through July 22.

“We’re about to start running through the show,” said Meaghan Simpson, associate artistic director for TSF. Simpson was directing the students through a series of monologues from Henry V as the students worked to memorize and master the antiquated language.

Over the course of eight days, the students receive over 50 hours of instruction in voice, movement, acting, auditioning and, of course, Shakespeare.

While professional actors are preparing to perform full-length shows in the Van Cliburn auditorium, the students were rehearsing lines just as challenging in the festival center. The acting workshop concludes with a free performance for the student’s family and friends.

Simpson pointed out some similarities between the monologue being delivered by Clark and the situation of the students in the workshop.

The monologue, given by the Chorus character (a type of a narrator), apologizes to the audience for being unable to accurately portray the life of the famous king Henry V using only a simple wooden stage and props.

“We’re not in an ideal theater and you won’t have costumes. It’s very referential to the material,” Simpson said. The students had to use their imagination to convey the story of written hundreds of years ago by the world’s most famous playwright.

Simpson also distributed tickets to the students for the Wednesday evening debut of TSF member Grace Abele’s original play “The Lovely Stepsister. As part of the workshop, the students have the opportunity to attend six productions during the festival season.

Camp attendees get to live a life very much like that of the professional actors in the festival. During the workshop, they are provided meals and housing by the company and rehearse for hours in order to prepare for their debut workshop performance. Just like TSF actors, they have only a limited time to learn their lines and rehearse their stage movement before staging a performance.

The TSF website describes the experience as a “workshop intensive”, allowing students to become immersed in the day-to-day life of a professional actor.

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