Carousel Theatre for Young People will mark the silver anniversary of its Teen Shakespeare Program with a production of Henry V.
For the past 25 years, the intensive six-week summer Teen Shakespeare Program has provided an opportunity for 13-18 year olds to enhance their performance skills, receiving training in voice, movement, and text analysis toward a fully-staged public performance.
“I think this milestone speaks to the positive impact that this program has on young people,” says Carousel’s Artistic Director, Carole Higgins. “We’ve worked with and hopefully inspired about 500 teens and young adults during that time, and that is something we are very proud of.”
For Carousel instructor Mike Stack, who will also direct the 25th anniversary show, the choice of Henry V as the program’s milestone production is two-fold: “I love this play and have always loved Shakespeare’s history plays. And if you’re going to do one of his history plays, Henry V is a great place to start.”
It is also happens to be one of the few Shakespeare plays yet to be done as part of a program that is just as much as instruction, as it is about the final performance.
“There is a teaching element as well,” says Stack. “It is an opportunity to share some of my own experience and expertise to teach these young people how they might approach the work. It is also a great opportunity to learn together, and to nurture growth as young artists.”
For Higgins it is about fostering and mentoring the next generation of theatre artists, some of who start with the program at age thirteen and spend multiple summers honing their craft in rehearsals, and performing on the Performance Works outdoor stage on Granville Island.
“The artistic growth over that arc of five summers is fantastic; the teens begin to find the colour and power of their voice, their curiosity increases, they dig deeper into the text and they discover how to share their character’s journey with the audience,” says Higgins.
Stack also views Henry V as natural choice for a cast of young people to undertake.
“The great thing about Henry V is that it is all about imagination,” says Stack. “The very first speech tells the audience what they are about to see is a very large story, and it requires an imagination. You need to augment it with your own imaginations, and with a company of young people they have really do have great imaginations.”
Taking the lead in Henry V is 16-year old Noah Heyl who, like his fellow cast mates, is giving up his summer vacation to participate in something he would not have an opportunity to do at school.
“I don’t take drama during the school year because I’m focused on academics,” says Heyl. “Shakespeare is something I’m very passionate about, and I connect with the language and it is interesting to find hints and clues about how it was originally meant to be said. There is so much to learn from it.”
Considering a career in the theatre, coupled with one in computer science, Heyl is looking forward to tackling the role of Henry.
“I was really excited how Shakespeare fleshes him out so much and he has this really big personality,” he says. “I find him an interesting challenge.”
While Stack and Heyl get back to work, the final word goes to Higgins on the importance of the Teen Shakespeare Program for Carousel Theatre.
“Mentoring and supporting emerging artists is a core part of our mission,” she says. “Each summer the teens bring so much excitement, energy and enthusiasm to their process and that wonderful energy spills over into all areas of our organization. They keep us ‘hip’ and I always believe that we learn as much from them as they do from us.”
Henry V plays the Performance Works Outdoor Stage July 24 – August 8. All performances are free although advance reservations are available for a fee. Visit http://carouseltheatre.ca for tickets and more information.