Shakespeare Camp FAQ's

If you or your organization would like more information about Shakespeare Sprites (ages 4-6), Shakespeare Players (ages 7 to 13),  Upstart Crows (ages 12 to 18) or The Advanced Shakespeare Workshop (for experienced performers only, ages 12-18) please call 415- 558-0888.

How long have you been doing Bay Area Shakespeare Camps?

2017 marks our 25th season of Shakespeare Camps! We've gone from 1 camp in San Francisco to serving up to 700 campers every summer.

How old should you be to attend Bay Area Shakespeare Camps?

We have camps for children ages 4 to 18! 4 years old through 6 years old for Shakespeare Sprites, 7 years old (or going into 2nd grade) through 13 years old (or going into 8th grade) for our Shakespeare Players camps, and 12 years old (or going into 7th grade) through 18 years old (or going into college) for our Upstart Crows Camp for Teens and our Advanced Shakespeare Workshop. We leave it to the parents' discretion to decide whether their 12 or 13-year-old will most benefit from being the oldest in a younger camp or youngest in an older camp.

The age criteria are based on a few different variables, but its primary intent is to try and ensure that the camper's experience is a positive and enjoyable one. Campers must be the appropriate age at the start of the camp session.

Is it okay to go to camp if you've never acted before?

Yes. Sprites, Players, and Upstart Crows Camps are designed for beginning and intermediate campers. Classes are small enough that our teaching artists are able to work with each individual at his or her level, including those who are new to performing.

What is the camper-teacher ratio at camp?

Approximately 10:1. The maximum number of campers at each session is 40. For a full camp, there will be 3 teaching artists and 1 manager. Full camps frequently also have a teen intern. Each group has no more than 14 campers with one teaching artist, to ensure that everyone gets plenty of individual attention and a speaking role in the final production.

Who are the teaching artists at Bay Area Shakespeare Camp?

Our teaching artists are working actors, stage managers, directors, and designers. Most have extensive teaching experience in other camps and programs. About a third have postgraduate degrees in theater. Some are currently enrolled in theatre degree programs at Universities. All our teaching artists attend our classroom management and curriculum training sessions. At least one per site is certified in First Aid and CPR. We do criminal background checks on all teaching staff. We are very proud of the quality of our teaching artists and curriculum.
See the bios of some of our teaching artists.

What happens during a typical day at Shakespeare Camp?

For the first half-hour, from 9-9:30 am, the whole group meets together to do a warm-up. Then the group divides up into smaller groups for three classes. Each class lasts for one hour - 9:30-10:30, 10:30-11:30, and 12-1. Our lunch break is from 11:30-12. At the end of the day, each group has a two hour rehearsal for the final performance, from 1-3 pm.

Upstart Crows Camps have a similar structure, but usually they only have two classes of an hour and a half each.

If aftercare is offered at the site, aftercare campers have unstructured play time from 3-5:30 PM.

Shakespeare Sprites meet for just three hours a day, during which time they participate in music, storytelling, and craft activities, culminating in an open class for family and friends.

What are the morning classes?

In Shakespeare Players camps, the classes are Voice & Movement, which helps each actor to learn to use their voice and body to communicate characters and on-stage objectives; Discovering Shakespeare, focused on exploring the words Shakespeare used, his language and the culture he wrote in; and Production & Design, in which campers design and create their own props, scenery, and costumes. In Upstart Crows camps, instead of Production & Design, we focus on Audition Technique or Stage Combat. 

What should my child bring to Shakespeare Camp? What clothes are appropriate?
Campers should bring a bag lunch (no food is provided), any necessary medication, and an afternoon snack if attending aftercare. Some sites have faith-based food restrictions, about which you'll be informed in the confirmation letter. We highly recommend bringing a large bottle of water and sunscreen for outdoor sites. We provide all worksheets, a class folder, a script and materials for prop, scenery, and costume construction. Campers will sometimes volunteer to bring props and costumes from home. We cannot be responsible for lost property, so think carefully before sending something precious. Campers should wear clothes that are comfortable to move in - skirts are not allowed unless shorts or leggings are worn underneath. No sandals or flip-flops; closed-toed shoes are best.

What show will my child perform at Shakespeare Camp?

In 2017, campers will work on the following plays:

Sprites (ages 4-6): will stage The Witches' Brew, a collection of magical scenes from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth
Player’s Youngest Group (ages 7-9): will perform Ghost Stories, spooky tales from Shakespeare plays such as Hamlet and Macbeth. 
Player’s Middle Group (ages 8-11): will perform Shakespeare's classic comedy, Twelfth Night.
Players’ Oldest Group (ages 9-13):   will perform an abridged version of Hamlet, our 2017 summer show for Free Shakespeare in the Park.
Upstart Crows (ages 12-18):will perform an abridged version of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s tale of politics and betrayal.
Advanced Shakespeare Workshop (ages 12-18): participants will be working on monologues and scenes from various plays in the 2-week session, and a fully staged production of King Lear in the 4-week session. (Back to FAQ list)
Please note: Plays performed are subject to change. Sessions with lower enrollment numbers may only do one or two of the above.

Are there exceptions to any of the above?

Yes. Some camps have fewer than 40 campers, so they are broken up into only 1 or 2 groups. In these cases, younger campers may be in either of the shows for older campers or all age levels may be together, depending on the age breakdown. Also, if we have more than 14 in one age group, the campers at the younger and older ends of the spectrum may be moved into the younger and older groups.

Ages overlap in the age groups? How are campers placed in each group?
Groups are determined by dividing the campers in the camp as evenly as possible by age, and so may vary based on the age breakdown of the camp. In a smaller camp, there may be campers from the entire age spectrum in one group. Likewise, in a large camp with three groups, if there are many more campers at one end of the spectrum, there may be an ‘older’ youngest group or ‘younger’ oldest group. We also take into consideration the camper’s grade in school and whether or not they have been to camp (and in a particular group) before. We try, but are not always able, to honor requests to keep friends together and siblings either together or apart. However, we have learned that campers have the best experience when grouped with their peers who are closest in age.

Why does the youngest group perform a scene or selection of scenes instead of a full play?

We work to make sure every camper has the most successful theatrical experience, and work hard to match expectations to each camper's developmental abilities. While some children have the ability to memorize and recite larger amounts of text, we find that having a shorter production with a simpler dramatic structure is best for our youngest campers. Instead of focusing only on memorization, they have the time to work more closely with their director and fellow campers, developing important theatrical skills such as interpretive movement, ensemble work, and a fully realized, embodied performance of Shakespeare’s poetry.

How do you cast the camp shows? Does everyone get a part?

We believe in teach the Art of theater versus the Profession of theater, and as such do not focus on traditional auditions. During the first day of camp, the teaching artists will describe the characters and action of the play and play a series of games that reveal students’ strengths in reading, speaking text, movement, leadership and creativity. Intermediate campers, who can be heard and understood, stand comfortably on-stage, and seem energized and committed, are likely to be cast in roles with a larger amount of stage time. Beginning campers, who still need to work on the above skills, will probably start with smaller roles. The teaching artist usually decides on the casting that night and distributes parts on Tuesday during rehearsal. Every effort is made to give each child an appropriate role for his or her level of experience and comfort on stage. And yes, everyone gets a speaking role.

What if my child is unhappy with his or her role?

Most campers, even if they are initially unhappy with their casting, find that they love their roles after a day or two of rehearsal. We find that even if cast in a role that has only one scene and a few lines, an actor with a good attitude can make the most of it, and often becomes one of the most memorable actors in the show!

When is the final performance?

Sprites (ages 4-6):11:00 am on the final Friday of camp, with a cast party reception following.
Player’s Camp/Upstart Crows: 2:00 pm on the final Friday of camp. Performances last 45-90 minutes depending on how many groups are in a particular camp. A potluck cast party immediately follows, and the day is finished by 4pm.

**At camp locations that have BOTH Players’ and Upstart Crows, performances may occur at different times on the final Friday to keep the length of performance manageable. This will be communicated in the electronic camp newsletter BARD’S BABBLE that is sent throughout the camp experience. Camp performances and parties will also conclude by 4:00 pm.
Advanced Shakespeare Workshop (ages 12-18): ASW students will perform an afternoon of scenes and monologues at 2:00 pm on July 28th, the second Friday of the program with a pot luck cast party following. Students participating in the 4-week course will perform
King Lear  twice during the final week of the program on Thursday evening Aug. 10th and Friday afternoon Aug. 11th.

What is the disciplinary procedure at camp?

Each camper is asked to sign an agreement before the start of camp saying that he or she will agree to follow our basic camp rules of respect for the teaching artists, respect for the site, and respect for each other. During the first morning warm-up, the teaching artists will go over this agreement and ask campers to give suggestions for positive ways to support each other and the productions. If a camper violates a camp rule, he or she will first receive a warning, then a time-out with the manager, then a parent call from the manager, then a call from the Education Director and expulsion from camp. Major infractions will result in immediate expulsion. We do not tolerate behavior that interferes with other campers' physical or emotional safety at camp.

Do you accept campers with special needs?

Yes. In the past we have had campers with autism, cerebral palsy, Asperger's syndrome, diabetes, and other mental and physical challenges. We find that most of these campers do extremely well at camp. Those with severe challenges may need the on-site attention of a parent or caregiver - this is decided on a case-by-case basis. We ask that all parents of children with special needs indicate this on the emergency form. The more we know, the more prepared our staff can be.

Is it okay to miss days during Shakespeare Camp?

The campers who are able to attend every day of camp undoubtedly have a more rewarding experience. Even a short absence can cause your camper to miss out on a lot! Of course, emergencies and illnesses happen, and we do our best to work with them. Parents and children should remember that putting on a play requires a team effort from all cast members, and absences hurt the production. Please do not plan your vacation to overlap with the camp. There are no discounts for missed days of camp. Attendance at the performance on the final day of camp is critical for a child’s involvement throughout the camp.

What's the difference between Teen Camp and the Advanced Acting Workshop?

The Advanced Shakespeare Workshop is recommended for actors aged 12-18 who have attended at least one camp and are ready to work in a more intense and focused atmosphere. Students entering the ASW should have a good grasp of scansion, comfort with Shakespeare's language, and speak and move confidently on stage. In the 2-week ASW, students work on a collection of scenes and monologues instead of a shortened 30-minute version of a play. This allows them to immerse themselves in the language more completely and also acquire material for future auditions. In the 4-week ASW, students continue on to rehearse a full production. ASWs are limited to 15-20 students. Students enjoy a professional atmosphere with one-on-one coaching, instruction from a certified stage combat teacher, and the company of like-minded, self-motivated young actors. ASW students can expect to have a lot of material to memorize and occasional outside homework assignments. Participation in the ASW is by audition/interview only – auditions this year will be held in Spring 2017. Please email the Education Director Carl Holvick (cholvick@sfshakes.org) to schedule an audition slot. Students can choose to enroll in the first two week session (July 19th-28th) of ASW or the entire 4 week session (July 19th –Aug 11th), but cannot enroll in solely the final two weeks (Aug. 1nd to Aug. 11th).

Upstart Crows Camps for Teens are more similar to the regular Camps. Campers are in a larger group, and no experience is required. The camp ends with a final performance of a 30-minute Shakespeare play. There are frequently advanced actors as well as beginning and intermediate in Upstart Crows Camps; sometimes advanced actors enjoy participating in both programs since they are quite different.

What do you do in Aftercare?

This depends on the site. At outdoor sites, there may be time to play on the playground or with a Frisbee, etc. At indoor sites, we may be able to show PG and G rated films of Shakespeare plays or documentaries on Shakespeare's life. At most sites, there is time to continue with Production & Design projects, learn lines, and play theater games. We try to keep aftercare fairly loosely organized. Campers have had a very structured day and often appreciate the free play time.

How does pricing work for aftercare?

Students can enroll in aftercare for a two-week camp for $140.  Alternatively campers can attend a day of aftercare for $35 each day.  If you plan to drop into aftercare for a day, please inform the camp staff at least 24 hours in advance.  Payments can be given to camp staff in check form.  We can't take cash at camp.  You may also call SF Shakes 415-558-0888, and pay with credit card.

My child loved camp! Can we sign up for a second session, or will it be too repetitive?

Although the basic curriculum remains the same from session to session and year to year, a different teaching artist may have a different approach, and campers frequently benefit from multiple sessions in one summer. If your child is signing up for multiple sessions, let us know and we'll try to put him or her into a different show or with a different teaching artist so that he or she will have a new experience in each session.

How can my child best prepare for camp? Do you recommend any books or videos?

Although it's fine for campers to walk in without having read the plays or seen any Shakespeare, it's always an advantage to have a little prior experience with the language. Please see our Amazon reading list for books and videos we suggest for our campers. (Purchasing through this list helps the Festival - a percentage of the cost goes back to us, helping us to provide camp scholarships for kids in need.)

And please support live theater - aside from our own Free Shakespeare in the Park production, there are also numerous live Shakespeare productions for the whole family all over the Bay Area every summer.

My child has been attending camp for many years, and wants to take the next step. How can s/he become an intern?

Interns should be former campers at least 14 years of age. Please send a letter of interest indicating availability and location preferences and a resume of work experience to Education Director Carl Holvick. SF Shakes hosts weekly professional development meetings for interns to learn from theatre professionals in various disciplines who have successful careers in theatre.

Do you have scholarships?

Yes. We offer need-based scholarships on a case-by-case basis, and any student on the Free/Reduced lunch program pays only $25. Please submit a letter stating your need with your enrollment form, indicating how much you are able to pay and attaching any documentation that may advance your case. We have never had to turn away a camper with genuine financial need, although we may have some restrictions on which camp sessions are available.

What are the transfer and cancellation policies?

Transfers from one camp to another, on a space available basis, may be made prior to the start of the session. If you transfer more than once, a $25 administrative fee will be assessed for each additional change. There is a $100 fee for cancellation prior to the start of camp. No refunds can be made after the first day of the camp.


Any questions we haven't answered?

Give us a call (415-558-0888) or send a note!