Walla Walla Union Bulletin - August 1, 2012
Walla Walla — With foam pool noodles standing in for longswords, two hordes of summer campers charged across Wildwood Park's field Tuesday to meet each other in slow-motion battle.
This scene didn't come from a cheesy family action movie. It was the culmination of an hourlong course in stage combat.
Campers at the Walla Walla Council of Camp Fire USA's Super Summer in the Park camp were treated to a workshop taught by some of the leading actors in Shakespeare Walla Walla's upcoming production of "Romeo and Juliet."
Michelle Traveso, the education director of Shakespeare Walla Walla, approached Camp Fire with the idea of running a pair of workshops with teaching artists from the cast. The first workshop focused on tableau vivant, or telling a story through the visual presentation of bodies on a stage.
The stage combat workshop began with what the teaching artists called insult wars, with campers jokingly shouting Elizabethan insults back and forth at one another. Then they picked up pool noodles and choreographed a short fight sequence, complete with slashes and reversals, grinning all the way.
"We are really happy to have the opportunity to serve the Camp Fire camps," Traverso said.
While Shakespeare may seem like curious subject matter for a camp for children entering first through sixth grades, Traverso said she thinks it's easy to underestimate kids' comprehension abilities.
"All you have to do is help them unlock those little pieces. The approach is to just take it kind of slow and let them ask a lot of questions."
According to Traverso, Shakespeare Walla Walla originally planned on running a series of camps in partnership with Walla Walla's Parks and Recreation division, but those camps were canceled due to lack of interest. Local Camp Fire Executive Director Josh Gonzales said he thought the program was an excellent opportunity for campers.
"How many times do you get traveling actors who come in and are going to take the time to sit down with you and go over some of the skills that they've learned, go over some of the fun little activities that they have, and take the time to get to know you and get to meet you?"
Brittany Morgan, who plays Juliet, said introducing kids to Shakespeare is an important experience.
"It forces them to ask the big questions," Morgan said.
Casey Richards, program director at Camp Fire, said that she hopes Shakespeare Walla Walla will continue to work with the campers.
"Our goal is to keep those relationships positive and have them return year after year, so they get a little bit of 'Romeo and Juliet' this year from the actors, next year hopefully they'll bring in another play where the kids can get involved."