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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac, July 27 & 28 2011

Originally I was going to have Camp Blisshaven be a craft camp where kids would make knicknacks and. tchotchkes and other hard-to-spell-things. But I changed it at the 10th hour, which is 60 minutes before the 11th hour, which is when most such important decisions are made. Please note the small injoke that I got a little wrong; the comedy & tragedy masks are based on the Andrews & McMeel logo. The goofier GoComics logo would've been more appropriate.

Theater camp was such an obvious and inevitable choice for Camp Blisshaven, not only for the ripe opportunity for small-kid comedy that it offers, but also for more sentimental reasons. My wife Amy  has worked in theater with kids for quite a few years, starting with my daughters' elementary school, which has a Shakespeare program for fifth graders. The kids spend half the school year working on a Shakespeare play, sometimes a comedy, sometimes a tragedy. It's a cut-down half-hour version with multiple casting, several to a part in the big rolls. The first time we saw a production, when my older daughter was in kindergarten, they did Romeo & Juliet. We didn't know quite what to expect.

A few minutes into the play I was almost suffocating with laughter, and some other emotion that I'm not sure what to call; awed delight, maybe, that peaked during Mercutio's death scene ("A plague on both your houses") after a hugely energetic sword fight. When I was in school we didn't touch Shakespeare till 9th grade, when we read Richard III in English class and looked confused.  But these fifth graders were giving a passionate, lively performance, made irresistibly funny by the fact that they were fifth graders. Also, all of the Juliets were about a foot taller than all the Romeos. It always takes me a few minutes or longer to get into the rhythm of a Shakespeare play, but I remember picking up on this Romeo & Juliet right away. Maybe the brevity of the production helped.

Anyway, Amy started volunteering to help run the production a few years later and got pretty intensively involved. One of the more glamorous skills offered in the program is stage combat, taught by a professional stage combat artist, where the kids learn how to fall, swordplay, do fake hairpulls and other vital life skills. There's even a production stuntman, a kid-size doll Amy made that gets tossed around and man-handled, and spends its offstage life on a chair in our living room. In the last 3 or 4 years Amy's been working at various after-school and summer theater camps too, and my older daughter's first summer job was assisting at one of them.
Surrounded as I am by theater folk, it's inevitable that some of it leaks into the strip. And I didn't even mention that my brother has been the master sound designer at Arena Stage in DC for almost 20 years.

10 comments:

Roto13 said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the show. The winter pageant strips were so, so good.

Chris Sparks said...

I love how you worked in the logo. i was wondering if you did it on purpose or... Now we know!

Mike said...

The nice thing about having fifth graders do Shakespeare is that it's hard to hit a new low, given the number of college and adult troupes doing a similar job without the excuse of being 11 years old. For all that I giggled over this strip, and expect to giggle through the rest of the arc, I appreciate any program that teaches kids that theater is something relatively coherent with lines and entries and exits and blocking. It's a start.

Nigel said...

... I came to acting later in life than some folk, but the benefit was an excellent coach with a love and understanding of Shakespeare (the plays, the language and the period) - wonderful... I was in a workshopped performance of "Pericles" with the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble (Dir: Ira Seidenstein) and I've never worked so hard in my life - double-plus good!
... the other side of my Bard-ic coin is that my younger daughter is in her final year of High School and her English Teacher has chosen "Macbeth" - because it's really short (and because she doesn't really 'get' Shaksespeare)... doh!

Neil J Murphy said...

August 27 and 28?

hartcartoonist said...

Great story, Richard.

richardcthompson said...

Oops, confused by the heat.

Fixed.

Ian W. Johnson said...

Oh man... The flashbacks of the 6th grade play I volunteered for are just flooding back.

Tomversation said...

I love the look of Miss Bliss and can't wait to see what goes on at the camp, the storyline drew me right in. :)

paul bowman said...

I have no fond memories of summer camps as a kid, but it's getting to be my favorite part of the year. Just the thought of Petey & crew in cartoon camp makes me smile!