Whether due to personal passion or well-meaning parents, most adults can remember participating in a summer camp skit or school play at some point in his or her childhood. As a tree, as a star, as part of the warbling chorus, performing as a young person is usually an indelible experience. Sweet Tea Shakespeare, a local theater company known for its whimsy, creativity and live music, recently introduced a new opportunity for performers ages 12-17: Green Tea.
“Green Tea is not merely a class or camp activity, but over time will be closely integrated in the company as a way of fostering new talent,” said Jeremy Fiebig, STS artistic director and president.
Green Tea, which kicked off this March, is headed by Jennifer Pommerenke, STS general manager. She’s the previous assistant program director for Camp Kahdalea in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and she’s worked for Carnival Cruise Lines’ youth department. She said Green Tea is a program in which young people learn to create their own acting process and then perform in a show to put what they’ve learned into practice.
“Since the company and ensemble’s structure is such a vital component to Sweet Tea Shakespeare, we wanted to create a mini version of that (with Green Tea),” she said.
STS’ structure is similar to a medieval craft guild. It’s composed of committed members who contribute in a variety of ways, giving each other feedback and learning from each other’s strengths and mistakes.
Pommerenke said building friendships is an important part of Green Tea, too. At the start of each monthly two-hour session, she said, everyone warms up with improvisation games.
“At this pivotal point in their lives, this helps them learn how to listen to each other,” she said. “They’re games with no lines, no direction, no text. They really have to listen to one another to build a story that makes sense.” Next, they read chunks of Shakespearean text with the goal of processing and understanding the words together. The session ends with an acting lesson.
“I take what the kids want to learn and where they are at in the process and build it off of that,” Pommerenke said. “I am catering it (to) who they are and what they enjoy. I can see ... what gives them life, joy and delight and say that’s what I want to do next class.”
Various STS company members and visiting artists also come in and teach classes.
Green Tea’s first production will be a shortened adaptation of “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare’s romantic comedy about twins separated in a shipwreck. Pommerenke said the show will open some
time after Christmas.
“We are hoping a couple Masters can come in and take some small parts,” Pommerenke said, referring to high-level STS company members who often play leading roles in STS productions. “That lets Green Tea know they are part of the company.”
She said “Twelfth Night” will also feature a version of STS’ pre-show, a chance for actors to sing or dance in the half hour leading up to the start of the play.
Registration for Green Tea is rolling, and interested students can drop in for a free trial class prior to joining. Green Tea meets one Sunday per month at the Capitol Encore Academy, 126 Hay St. Ages 12-14 meet 1-3 p.m. Ages 15-17 meet 3:30-5:30 p.m. Students sign up for one year at a time.
For more information, email Pommerenke at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sweetteashakespeare.com/green-tea. To learn more about Sweet Tea Shakespeare and its 2018-19 season, visit www.sweetteashakespeare.com.
PHOTO CREDIT: Megan Dohm, Thistle and Sun Photography