Theatrical therapy

How theater camp can change a child’s life

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Patrick Campbell of the University of Colorado Boulder
Theater camps help kids learn teamwork and confidence. Zoe Gomez-Quiatt took on the role of Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors.

If “all the world’s a stage,” it would make sense to start performing on a miniature one at an early age. Luckily, Boulder County offers more than a few options that provide kids with this very opportunity.

Every summer, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival hosts Camp Shakespeare at the University of Colorado Boulder for kids ages 10-18, giving them an opportunity to rehearse and perform some of Shakespeare’s greatest works in a friendly and creative environment.

Even for adults, Shakespeare can be difficult. His complex characters, elaborate plots and old-fashioned language can be daunting, to say the least. If this is the case, is it worth exposing Shakespeare to our kids who are, say, 10 years old? 

According to Amanda Giguere, the director of outreach for The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, children who are exposed to the complexity of Shakespeare at an early age benefit tremendously.

“Getting them to dive into language and those complex ideas forces them to think deeply,” she says. But beyond that, it’s team work and learning how to collaborate with a lot of people. The collaboration and the creativity that comes in any theater program is really vital for our youth.

“They also get self-confidence, public speaking, the ability to really handle themselves in a public space,” Giguere adds.

Zoe Gomez-Quiatt is one of the lucky ones. At age 10, she has been strutting her Shakespearian stuff for quite some time now, performing in some of Shakespeare’s most prolifically performed plays.

Her favorite so far is The Comedy Of Errors. For those who are unfamiliar with this play, the theme of identity pervades almost every scene. For Gomez-Quiatt, who has portrayed Dromio of Syracuse in the play, the experience gave her an opportunity to see the complexity and flexibility of the Bard’s work.

“It has so many twists,” she says. “It’s cool how, if it’s a girl playing [a male character], they can switch [the character] to a girl.” 

Performing in The Comedy Of Errors also taught Zoe to abide by a rule our parents consistently remind us of, but one we are apt to forget.

“From that particular play, I learned that you should think before you act,” she says.

“In Romeo And Juliet, I also learned that you should always be friendly to others, and always treat others the way you’d want to be treated,” she adds.

Although Shakespeare may be complex, the lessons to learn from his plays are in fact very simple. You do not need to be a rocket scientist — or a Shakespearian connoisseur — to understand the virtues of being kind and of thinking before you act. Maybe a Shakespeare play can help us implement these virtues into our lives more effectively.

Shakespeare isn’t the only option for young thespians in Boulder County. 

The Boulder Dinner Theatre Academy (BDTA) holds Children’s Theater camps every summer for kids of all ages. There is a camp for kids ages 5-10, 11-14 and 14-18.

Scott Beyette, one of the founding directors of BDTA, has high hopes for kids who join his camp.

“Even if the kids in our camp don’t turn out to be artists, they can become public speakers, senators, even the president,” he says.

“We’ve seen several of our kids that have been in our middle-school and high-school programs go on to pursue this in college and have gotten degrees in performing arts.”

This year, the kids who attend the BDTA will be performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Exuberant and symbolic, the story is taken from the Bible’s Book Of Genesis and includes a mix of dialogue and song.

Children who wish to attend the BDTA camps do not have to audition. For Beyette, it’s the experience that’s of the utmost importance.

“We don’t require kids to audition to get into the camp because we also felt that it should be something every child could experience, not based on anything other than that they have an interest in trying,” he says.

Beyette has received a lot of positive feedback from the parents of the children who performed in the camps, and he is optimistic about the next wave of kids coming in.

“It’s just a great experience. We’ve had so many comments from parents just saying, ‘Oh my God, this camp has changed my child’s life,’” he says. “‘They were always so quiet and so shy. They came out of their shell this summer.’”