Shakespeare camp helps kids grow

Children of all ages are piling into the Old Post Office Playhouse in Newton this week to recite 16th century old English and have fun doing it.

The playhouse is playing host to the 14th annual Summer Shakespeare Theatre Institute, a week-long day camp that gives first-grade through 12th-grade students the chance to watch, practice and perform classic theatre.

David Brown and Jonathon Ray started the institute 14 years ago.

“Theatre and acting itself builds learning skills,” Brown said.

“Shakespeare is good at an earlier age because it de-mystifies it for when they encounter it later on.”

The institute provides campers with five full days of action that flow toward a live performance at the end of the week. This year, campers will perform Shakespeare’s play, “Much to do About Nothing.”

After watching a performance by playhouse actors and volunteers in the morning, Brown said campers break into about eight small groups that all have a section in the end-of-the-week play.

Throughout the week, campers rehearse and do workshops to prepare for their roles.

On Wednesday, small groups were scattered around the OPOP. In the main auditorium, children ages 6 through 16 were on the main stage rehearsing. The group’s director gave suggestions to the students as they acted out their scene to be performed for a live audience at the end of the week. Each of the campers had a big smile across their face as they motioned and gestured to the make-believe crowd.

Nancy Macasieb, of Catawba, is an intern at the camp and has attended the institute for years. She said her favorite part, so far, is watching children participate in the activities she used to as a camp-goer.

“It’s so much fun,” Macasieb said. “Being able to put together your own costume and acting in front of a live audience is really fun.”

Macasieb, a recent high-school graduate who wants to attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said the institute also helps children's social skills.

“It really opens kids up,” she said. “I used to get really nervous in front of people, but this has helped me open up and be more confident.”

The public performance of “Much to do About Nothing” will start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.