Shakespeare's plays continue to shape the minds of aspiring stage stars. Thanks to the Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSF), young audiences have an opportunity to experience these works through performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Through the to HSF Conservatory, they also can immerse themselves in the Bard's works while learning stagecraft from top theater pros.
The Houston Shakespeare Festival Summer Conservatory returns to the University of Houston's School of Theatre & Dance for its second year July 25 – Aug. 13. Led by theater educator Amy Steele Wernig, the conservatory provides professional stage training for high school students. They will learn acting, directing, stage combat, vocal techniques and the historical context of the festival's plays – "The Comedy of Errors" and "Hamlet." As part of the program, Students also will develop a performance that will be delivered at Miller Outdoor Theatre prior to HSF performances. They'll also take a field trip to Houston's Alley Theatre.
Conservatory instructors include HSF's guest directors Paul Steger and Steve Pickering, UH assistant professor of dramaturgy Rob Shimko, HSF vocal coach Michelle Lopez-Rios, veteran stage manager and UH professor Rachel Bush, HSF production manager Jonathan Middents, professional actor Pamela Vogel and UH School of Theatre & Dance director Steve Wallace.
"These students will emerge from this experience as more aware, more informed and more engaged theater artists," said Wernig.
The conservatory is the first of its kind in Houston and complements the long-running Houston Shakespeare Festival, which is in its 38th year. This year's festival presents "Hamlet" (Aug. 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) and "Comedy of Errors" (Aug. 4, 8, 10, 12). Guest actors Mark Metcalf ("Animal House") and UH alumna Cindy Pickett ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off") will appear in both plays.
In addition to receiving professional theater training, students also will learn about life on a university campus. For the duration of the conservatory, students will reside at UH and explore the campus.
"The conservatory also will focus on making the transition from high school to college," Wernig said. "We'll also address what's expected of theater majors, the audition process and how to prepare for the next phase of their stage careers."
Since 1975, the Houston Shakespeare Festival has attracted thousands of Houstonians to Miller Outdoor Theatre for free performances of the Bard's timeless classics. HSF productions have featured rising talents and esteemed stage veterans. Among the visiting artists who have participated in HSF are Oscar-nominated actor Dan O'Herlihy, who played the title role in the festival's production of "King Lear." Regional star Ken Ruta also contributed his talents to HSF, starring as Prospero in "The Tempest." Last year, HSF featured stage and screen actor Seth Gilliam in the title role of "Othello, the Moor of Venice." Directing the play was noted stage professional Leah Gardiner.
The UH School of Theatre and Dance produces professional plays, dance concerts, Studio Productions, a new play festival and school shows through the Theatre for Young Audiences program. The school performs in the Wortham Theatre and the Quintero Theatre. The Houston Shakespeare Festival is a professional project of the school, which is produced each summer at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor's and master's degrees in theater, and teacher certifications in dance and theatre. Its graduate program consists of a master of arts in theatre and master of fine arts in theatre with specializations in acting, directing and design. Faculty includes Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee, Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff, Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow and Tony-nominated designer Kevin Rigdon. Among the greats who have taught at the school in previous years are Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.