Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 24, 2009
Shakespeare's faith blesses acting classes
Living Water College for the Arts summer students discover author's faith while perfecting acting skills
"She lectured on the step-by-step journey one can take through Shakespeare's many works to gain knowledge of his perception and message during a persecuted and oppressive era," Noster said. "Clare's authority and exhaustive research into Shakespeare's time period and the symbolism of his characters presented a compelling case for his Catholicism."
"I think it's wonderfully exciting to get 13 committed young people from across North America to immerse themselves in Shakespeare for six weeks," said veteran Canadian actor Frank Turner, the college's head of fine arts, who provided intensive practical study of movement, staging, vocal production and script analysis.
J.P. Fournier of Fight Directors Canada, and his assistant, Patrick Howarth, introduced the students to stage fighting through body work, fencing, broadswords, daggers, mace and hand-to-hand combat.
The students also enjoyed a visit from make-up artist and college supporter Cathy Lucas who led an intensive workshop in the basics and specialization of stage make-up.
"I think this summer camp definitely did refine my acting skills," said Markus Visscher, a dairy farmer, Pentecostal Church member and amateur actor from Morinville.
"I'm a much better actor now than I was before."
He also learned how to put on a show in a short time frame, something he had never done before.
Visscher, 19, participated in several high school and Church productions before joining the Easter play, Love According to John, three years ago.
He wants to be a film actor and plans to use his newly-acquired acting skills in his role as Blake, an abusive, psychotic boyfriend in the movie It's Just a Game . . . Or Is It?
Visscher said studying under Turner was a treat because he is a seasoned film actor who can pass on his skills. Turner did 16 of the 22 episodes of the series Lonesome Dove and had a role in Clint Eastwood's movie Unforgiven.
But what impressed Visscher the most was the ability of instructors to integrate art and faith.
"In the arts nowadays you don't find that," he noted. "You don't find Christian-based programs anymore; it's very much a secular world."
For Thomas Schiller, a 20-year-old Catholic from St. Albert's Holy Family Parish, coming to the Shakespeare Summer Camp was a "last minute kind of thing."
For a long time Schiller struggled with the idea of being isolated in the countryside far from family and friends. He was also working two jobs and wasn't sure if he could get a six-week leave of absence from them. Plus he only had just enough money to cover the program's tuition of $2,500.
But then he realized the camp was a "once in a lifetime kind of opportunity" and decided to join. "Drama is definitely something I'm interested in and this is a step in that direction," he said. "It is so unique to have faith built in with drama and Shakespeare."
Schiller, who has studied at Christ the King Minor Seminary in Mission, B.C., still doesn't know what he will take in college but acting is one possibility.
The Shakespeare Camp was definitely worth it, said Schiller, who has participated in school plays and has done some community theatre. "I never had quite the same amount of deep involvement in acting and exploring movement and voice and how aspects of each affect the other."
He also enjoyed the discussions on the purpose of drama and how it can bring out aspects of the culture. Discussing Shakespeare's faith background and how he managed to bring it out in his works was also inspiring.
Jenny Sawyer, 24, came to the camp from Topeka, Kan., because she believes Shakespeare "has most accurately and timelessly captured the human experience" and wanted to fill a gap in her liberal arts education.
Sawyer has been involved in community theatre since her early teens and has done drama in high school and at St. Thomas Aquinas College in California, where she graduated.
"I enjoy it but I hadn't studied it in conjunction with my faith specifically so I was very excited when I heard about this program because I think all too often people would just study art for art's sake and there is no concern about tying it to reality, tying it to truth or tying it to faith or spirituality," she says.
Sawyer will soon move to Edmonton to take a job as a history of drama teacher for Wisdom Homeschooling, which will help her in her quest to reclaim the arts for the faith.
"I'm very interested in showing people early on how they can use art to express their faith and their ideas about the world so they don't grow up thinking that arts is just the entertainment industry."
Living Water College for the Arts will continue offering a six-week summer program until it raises enough funds to offer a three-year full-time program, Noster said. Turner, the fine arts director, said Shakespeare might again be the focus of the 2010 summer program, which will also offer a visual arts component.
The college needs at least $2.5 million and ongoing funding to launch its full-time program.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.