Wow! What a fabulous, eventful day at camp! Since our visitor today was Molly Booth, author of Saving Hamlet, it was a very Shakespeare themed day. We started off this morning with some theater exercises with Khris Lewin, a professional actor, fight director, and a teaching artist on staff here at Symphony Space. Khris led us through some theater games, and an exercise to help us learn how to approach a Shakespearean monologue! We talked about how punctuation adds tone to language, and practiced speaking the “To be or not to be” speech while paying really close attention to the punctuation. This helped us better understand the tone and meaning of the text, and how we could speak it in performance! Khris also had us incorporate movement, moving to a different part of the stage every time we reached a punctuation mark. This helped us get inside the text, and more importantly, get inside Hamlet’s state of mind! Then he and out Head Counselor (and actress) Emma Stephenson, performed the “Get thee to a nunnery scene,” between Hamlet and Ophelia. It was gripping! But, as happens in Saving Hamlet, they then switched parts and Emma played Hamlet, while Khris played Ophelia. And, guess what – it worked!! Khris also taught us how to stage slap, which was great fun.
After this exciting morning of theater, we were visited by Molly Booth, author of Saving Hamlet. Molly was vibrant and full of energy and told us all about how she came to find herself a published author (by her account, a series of lucky breaks! and I’m certain, great talent and dedication,) and the challenges and joys of writing historical fiction. Saving Hamlet is her first book. Molly then led us in some awesome writing exercises. First, she had us move about the room, and would have us react to different scenarios she put forth. (The floor is jello! It’s pouring rain! There’s a lion in the room!) We had to imagine these scenes and react accordingly. Then she had us sit down and speed-write a response inspired by this exercise. (Speed-writing means she put 5 minutes on the timer, and we had to keep writing without stopping until the timer went off!) Campers came up with all kinds of wild stories based on this exercise– it was different than anything we’d done before, and it was so cool to incorporate movement into our creative writing process! Next, Molly had us do a writing exercise using Shakespeare quotes. Each table had a different Shakespeare quote, and campers had to write a story inspired by the quote. Campers came up with some super cool stories: a man who has just murdered 692 people, and a disaster at a school play, among others!
After sharing our stories and eating lunch, we headed off for our field trip: a backstage tour of the current production of “Hamlet” at the Public Theater! Our author, Molly Booth, joined us for the trip, which was so much fun! We got to see a few of the different theater spaces and learn about the history of the Public Theater and the building on Astor Place. (Did you know the building was NYC’s first public library, and Charles Dickens was said to have done public readings there?!) Our tour guide, Gretchen Page, showed us the theater where “Hamlet” is currently running at The Public, and we got to talk to the prop masters of the show, Sarah, Claire, and Rebecca. They told us all about how the props and set are created, and the different choices directors and scene designers have to make when designing a show. They even passed around the skulls used in “Hamlet” — an up close and personal moment with Yorick! The set of this production of Hamlet is quite spare, but the prop masters revealed that the back wall of the set is a false wall, and the bathroom that appears to be a part of the theater is actually a built part of the set! It was so exciting to get the inside scoop on the theater magic of “Hamlet” at the Public.
What an amazing day! Definitely one of the most exciting days at camp so far. Can’t believe tomorrow is the last day!