Baltimore Shakespeare Factory holds summer camp for kids

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," said Mark Antony, standing over the prone body of Julius Caesar. "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

At which point, Caesar jumped up from the grass in The Meadow at Evergreen Museum and Library.

"Caesar, I thought you were dead," Matthew Stanco, 9, of Guilford, told his brother, David, 7.

The siblings were performing for their families in the meadow Friday, at the end of a Shakespeare camp for children and youths.

The camp, the first of three this summer, was run by the Hampden-based Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, which also staged "Love's Labours Lost" on Friday, featuring professional actors and actresses, after the children's performances.

But the children's takes on scenes from "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Julius Caesar" were more than a warm-up act. The performances were also a way for parents to see how their children did, and what they learned in the camp, which cost the parents $300 per child and $150 per sibling.

And the kids, ages 7-13, did fine. They didn't wilt in the heat or shrink from the limelight. Wearing simple costumes like brown vests and white, wide-brimmed hats with black bands, they remembered their lines with a little prompting from head camp counselor Bess Kaye.

Sitting on lawn chairs and blankets, a small crowd of parents and grandparents applauded heartily and took photos with their cell phones.

Even before the performances, Mary Jean Herron, of Tuscany-Canterbury, the mother of 10-year-old Alex Kaufman, was a believer in the camp.

"It's good," said Herron, chief financial officer of the nonprofit Health Care for the Homeless. "I wanted to send (Alex) to an acting camp, because I thought it would be good for his self-confidence and speaking ability."

Only five children attended the first camp, a number that Kaye and Kelly Dowling, Shakespeare Factory's managing director, attributed to the economy and the dead of summer. But more than 20 are signed up for the second camp this coming week, they said.

Kaye and counselor Claudio Silva spent the week teaching children a wide range of skills, from how to move and balance their bodies to how to speak in the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare's verse and how to talk to an audience and "get in their face."

Kaye said Shakespeare isn't over the kids' heads, once they understand the language. She also said the plays are funny and "goofy," which appeals to children.,

The Stanco's children's parents, Maria and Tony said the children "get" Shakespeare to varying degrees.

"Matthew does. David likes the swordplay," said the boys' father.

As the children took their final bows, Kaye told their parents, "These are your Shakespearean actors. I have returned them to you classically trained."

More camps are scheduled this week and next - and Kaye is ready.

"I will be out here cramming iambic pentameter into children's heads," she said.

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