Midsummer night's scenes

Lauryn Evans, 14, calls her fellow Shakespeare Boot Camp participants her “acting family.”

“Spending time with the people here has been fun,” said the incoming Greenwood High School freshman. “I love this. It’s like a new family. Working with them is like having another family.”

The Shakespeare Boot Camp, led by Steve Iwanski of the Greenwood Shakespeare Project, is a five-week program for youth that will wrap up this week with a performance of 14 famous scenes from 11 plays — “As You Like It,” “Hamlet,” “Henry V,” “Julius Caesar,” “Macbeth,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Othello,” “Richard II,” “Richard III,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Taming of the Shrew.”

The camp and this weekend’s “Shakespeare Summer Scene Fest” is a program sponsored by the Greenwood Shakespeare Project, ArtPlace Mississippi and Greenwood Little Theatre.

During the past month, nine 11- to 17-year-olds — including Evans — have been learning not only about the famous English playwright but also about acting, speaking on stage, choreography, set construction and design and sewing costumes.

“They have had the opportunity to do every single aspect of putting on a show,” said Iwanski.

The program’s leader said that getting youngsters excited about Shakespeare wasn’t difficult.

“There was no reluctance at all,” Iwanski said. “I think the knee-jerk reaction is you assume that kids don’t want to do Shakespeare. I think a lot of teachers assume kids are going to dread it. This stuff is fun. They are having a blast doing this.”

Some of the boot camp members, such as Raghav Nallani and Jaylin Smith, were very familiar with Shakespeare.

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Smith, 16, recently played Viola in Delta Streets Academy’s production of “Twelfth Night,” which was also led by Iwanski with the Greenwood Shakespeare Project.

“The day I met him, he asked, ‘Can we do “Henry V”?’ He had been wanting to do that,” said Iwanski.

During the “Shakespeare Summer Scene Fest,” Smith will play Henry V and will perform a monologue. He said he had wanted to play Henry V since he first read it in the ninth grade.

“Henry tried to invade France because two bishops tricked him into thinking that everything in France was already his, so he was going to take it,” Smith said as he explained his monologue. “Most of his army gets wiped out. Then right at the castle with France burning down around them, he was scared. He felt a vibe like everyone was about to quit, so he ends up giving this speech to rally everyone up. Then, they storm the castle and take over France.”

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Nallani, 14, has already read three Shakespeare plays — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.”

“I just like Shakespeare,” he said. “The first play I ever read by Shakespeare was ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ I liked it a lot, and I kept reading more plays.”

That was Nallani’s motivation for taking part in the summer program. During the boot camp, however, Nallani has learned new some new skills he really enjoys.

“I think my favorite part would be the set construction,” he said. “I think it was just really fun to build stuff and design.”

Nallani also has a monologue as Richard II during the “Shakespeare Summer Scene Fest.”

Some of the other Shakespeare Boot Camp participants were new to the works of Shakespeare.

Tamilya Thomas, a 14-year-old from Isola who travels from her hometown to Greenwood for the program each day, said she’s learned a lot about the playwright.

“I had heard of Shakespeare, but I’ve never read any of his plays,” she said. “(During the Shakespeare Boot Camp) I've learned to analyze different texts of Shakespeare’s, because his words were different, and I learned different meanings of words.”

Thomas said her favorite scene that she will be performing in is as Lady Anne in “Richard III.”

“It has a lot of drama in it and a lot of intensity,” she said. “And I have lots of lines.”

Niobi Elliott, 12, who resides in Memphis but stays with her grandmother in Greenwood during the summer, said she began researching more about Shakespeare and all of his plays when she registered to participate in the program.

“I knew a play that’s very familiar, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” she said. “I had watched a movie about it.”

Now, however, Elliott said that she has a deeper knowledge of the writer.

“I learned a lot about Shakespeare and what he’s mostly about,” she said. “His plays are mostly about a killing or a dying scene or royalty.”

She has also picked up some new skills in the past month.

“I actually have learned how to use a drill, and I learned how to sew on a sewing machine,” she said.

Iwanski said the group of nine has been very dedicated.

“They are excited to get here each day,” he said.

“I walked in late to one of their work days last week, and they were all waiting on me and sitting around and going over their lines.”

Molly Germany, 11, said that she has enjoyed painting the background at ArtPlace because of the conversations she has with the other participants.

“We talk about what it’s going to be like on stage and what it is going to feel like or what we’re going to do like our hand motions or walking around,” she said. “I think (the Summer Scene Fest) is going to be perfect.”

Tickets to the Shakespeare Summer Scene Fest are $5 each and can be purchased in advance at www.greenwoodlittletheatre.com or by calling 947-1075 or at the door.