WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams students got a crash course in theater Thursday from actors with the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
Before their free performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" Thursday evening at Williams Elementary-Middle School, the group put on three acting workshops in the afternoon at Williams High School.
Students from the middle school, high school and the Williams Christian Homeschoolers group participated and chose from three workshops - stage combat, performing Shakespeare's text and developing character through improvisation.
Tom Littman, who plays Petruchio in "The Taming of the Shrew," and Tetrianna Silas, who plays Baptista and the tailor, taught the improv class.
Silas said the goal of the workshops is to expose students to theater and Shakespeare.
Through the sessions, she said the actors are "kind of introducing (the students) to this world that they may not have been a part of yet...just kind of giving them a taste of the theatrics that we live every day."
Through its Shakespeare-in-the-Schools program, the Utah Shakespeare Festival travels through Utah, Nevada and Arizona from January to April performing a play for about 150 schools. The group started rehearsing for this year's production of "The Taming of the Shrew" in December. During the tour, the actors lead the theater workshops five to six times each week, before or after performing the play.
"We know that a lot of the schools we go to, maybe they don't have big arts programs, they don't have drama clubs, they don't have those kinds of things. But the Utah Shakespeare Festival believes that teaching theater is a fundamental," Littman said. "Whether or not any of the kids want to go be actors afterwards is irrelevant because they're still learning good life skills and it's good practice to work as a team, work as a group."
In the improvisation class, the actors led the students through different games to introduce them to improv. One game called Postcards from Paris challenged the students to form tableaus in five seconds as if they were a part of vacation photographs.
For example, for the Great Barrier Reef setting, students struck poses as swimmers, sharks, fish, coral and seaweed.
"We encourage them to try new things that are out of their comfort zones, but we also want them to feel like this is a place for them even if they're not the most outgoing person in the room, that theater accepts all types and that we try not to push people too far," Littman said.
After the workshop, participating students said the experience allowed them to see the fun side of their classmates and to do things without over-thinking them.
Silas said the lessons students learn from improv are applicable outside of theater, because they teach students "to open up to your environment and to anything that's going to happen in life."