Through the Youth Theatre Workshop at the Putnam County Playhouse, which kicked off on Monday, director Caroline Good's ultimate goal is to help the youth look at the works of William Shakespeare in a different light.
"I want the kids to have a fun experience and get exposed to Shakespeare," Good said. "By participating in the workshop, not only do they get the vocabulary and the stage experience, they also go away with the impression that Shakespeare is definitely not boring."
Since 2004, Good and her husband Tim have led groups of middle and high school students in short plays based on such Shakespeare classics as "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet" and "The Taming of the Shrew." This year, the troupes are tackling "Twelfth Night," the story of separated twins Viola and Sebastian.
The younger group, directed by Tim Good with assistance from Alisa Isaacs-Bailey and Vickie Parker, will perform a condensed version of the play, while the high schoolers, directed by Caroline Good with assistance from T.J. Tincher and Jamie Barrand, will stage a variation called "Twelve Nights in the Caribbean" -- a comical cross of "Twelfth Night" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" penned by Good.
In addition to learning the play, students participate in theatre games and receive instruction in acting, movement, voice, improvisation, swordplay and character development and subtext.
"Shakespeare is so adaptable," Good said. "There is so much you can do with it. I use the actual play, but then I cut it down and I add some subplot."
Good encourages the workshop participants to make their characters -- and the show -- their own.
"I like it when the kids come up with their own ideas," she said. "They give their characters their own accents or quirks."
Despite his vast experience on the stage, Asbell feels his participation in the youth workshop has been invaluable.
"I love the fun of it," he said. "I really like how much stage technique we learn as far as acting. It's a lot of fun to do something you love with your peers."
Good graduated with a theatre major from Northern Illinois University. She has also done graduate work in voice and movement.
But working with the youth, she said, has been just as educational as her formal training.
"I love the kids," she said. "They're so much fun and they end up teaching me so much. They're just a joy."
The Putnam County Playhouse Youth Theatre Workshop runs for two weeks. The students come to playhouse for practice two hours each day.
On June 26, both groups will present their plays at the Hazel Day Longden Theatre. The middle schools students will take the stage at 7 p.m., followed by the high schoolers at 8 p.m. (there will be an intermission between shows). Tickets will be available at the door.
Plans are also being made for a workshop for children in grades one through five. That workshop is tentatively set for July 19 through 24, and will focus on learning how the theatre works, acting, speaking and moving onstage and imaginative character creation culminating in an afternoon of scenes from such classic plays as "The Secret Garden," "Chronicles of Narnia" and "Alice in Wonderland."