The who, what, where, when, why, and how of the ASC Theatre Camp.
The American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp (ASCTC) is an immersive, intensive, residential experience for students. Campers work with each other and with ASC actors, professional directors, and renowned scholars to study the world of Shakespeare’s stagecraft in detail while learning about text, technology, and themselves. Each ASCTC session culminates with campers strutting and fretting the boards of the Blackfriars Playhouse stage in one-hour versions of early modern plays.
This is the only place where I can study Shakespeare in the light I want to and with other students who have the same love.
– 2016 Camper
The American Shakespeare Center is in Staunton, Virginia — in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. ASCTC likewise lives in downtown Staunton, with campers living in a Mary Baldwin University dormitory. They eat in the dining hall, rehearse in the University’s theatre (among other places), and attend lectures, classes, and workshops across campus. They make frequent trips to the nearby Blackfriars Playhouse (a few blocks from the dorm) to attend ASC performances and rehearse their own shows.
ASCTC accepts rising 8th graders through rising college freshman, ages 13-19.
The age/grade boundaries are a little fuzzy, and we handle applicants who blur those lines on a case by case basis. Generally, the rule of thumb is as follows: we will accept a current 7th-grader who will be 13 as well as a current high school senior who might be 19 by the start of the session.
Not sure if you’re eligible? Contact Lia Wallace at email@example.com to make sure.
ASCTC takes place over two three-week sessions every summer, with the Extended Experience Week taking place in the week between sessions.
Summer 2019 Session Dates
Session 1: June 16 – July 7
Extended Experience Week: July 7 – July 14
Session 2: July 14 – August 4
Tuition is $3625 a session. Tuition covers everything for the three weeks following a camper’s arrival at orientation — room and board, transportation in and around Staunton, any costs associated with camp activities (field trips as well as tickets to all ASC show performances), camp t-shirts, and professionally edited DVDs and digital downloads of the session’s Final Performance Festival).
We have some scholarship opportunities, and financial aid is available for qualifying accepted campers. Find out more about tuition payment options and financial aid in the Tuition & Aid section.
It will literally be the best three weeks of your life. You’ll make lifelong friends, meet amazing people, and learn so much more than a school can teach you. – 2016 Camper
Campers live on the Mary Baldwin campus in the University’s newest dormitory building (built in 2002), the PEG Center. Air conditioning, free laundry, and wireless internet are just a couple of the amenities offered.
Our Residential & Directing Assistants (RDAs) also live in the dorms in order to provide 24/7 in-house supervision and assistance.
The dorm is on the edge of campus bordering downtown Staunton – just two blocks from the Blackfriars Playhouse. The dining hall, rehearsal, and workshop spaces are all on MBU’s walkable campus (steep hills build strong calves).
The Mary Baldwin dorms are some of the nicest I’ve seen. – 2016 Camper
Dorm rooms are double occupancy, but some rooms house up to three campers. Each room is equipped with twin beds and desks. You must provide your own bedding, pillows, sheets, towels, etc. You are welcome to decorate your room with posters or pictures, but must use double sided tape as opposed to thumb tacks.
I loved the actual dorm and my roommate was awesome. – 2016 Camper
All campers (and residential staff) live in the same building. We assign roommates based on gender identity: campers room with other campers who identify as the same or similar gender. We decide room assignments for campers who identify outside of the gender binary in conversation with the camper, their family, and camp staff.
There are four community showers and toilets in the dorm, each serving approximately 10 campers. (Residential staff have en-suite bathrooms.) We have designated female, male, and gender-neutral communal bathrooms, as well as gender-neutral single-person toilets on the lobby level.
There are (free!) laundry machines in the PEG dorm for the campers to use. Campers will need to bring detergent. Staff are happy to show campers how to use the machines, separate clothes, etc.
Mary Baldwin University is located on 54 acres, with large field, varied outdoor spaces along with tennis courts made available to the ASC Theatre Camp.
The MBU campus is on a large hill, and we tend to keep campers fairly busy moving from place to place throughout the day; a certain amount of outdoor physical activity is thereby guaranteed.
Additionally, depending on interest, RDAs usually organize a morning running group led by one of our counselors.
Hunt Dining Hall provides a variety of nutritious options for every meal. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are always available (along with the salad bar and cereal station). Picky eaters may not always love the options available on a given day, but eating well when eating in a dining hall is valuable practice for making healthy decisions about food in college.
We allow campers to check out for meals (with family or in groups) and explore the many affordable dining options in downtown Staunton, which happens to be crammed with cafes, pizza joints, sandwich shops, and other lunch spots; not to mention our fabulous Farmer’s Market, a block from the Playhouse every Wednesday and Saturday morning.
I loved living on the campus. Everything about it was fantastic and it really felt like home. The food was also great and there were gluten free options, which was an extreme relief. – 2016 Camper
Like all residential colleges, Mary Baldwin has on-campus security.
In addition, our very capable residential staff are with our teen campers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The PEG Center features an alarm system that ensures proper access. Counselors perform nightly “lights out” checks, as well as, give morning “wake-up” calls to make certain everyone is safe.
Between our hands-on administrative staff, show directors, RDAs, production interns, and master class teachers, the ratio is about 4 campers to every adult supervisor.
Camp is a world unto itself, and residential life is an important part of the camp experience. As such, we ask that parents keep visitation to a minimum and visit their campers no more than once a week during the session.
The best time to visit is during the mid-session Showcase performance, held in the evening of the second Saturday in each session. In addition to their main shows, campers will work with their assistant directors to mount a ~60 minute Showcase of scenes from throughout Shakespeare’s canon. That performance will be on campus at MBU and is free and open to the public. Afterwards, we have a little “ice cream social” for campers and their families, and it’s a chance to catch up, meet some of your camper’s new friends, and see what they’ve been up to before we head into the home stretch of week 3.
If you want to visit outside of the Showcase time, we ask that you do so during one of our prescheduled “free” times (campers cannot miss camp activities). Lunch and dinner are usually check-out times for unrestricted campers (campers can have check out privileges revoked for bad behavior or if they are having trouble memorizing lines). Wednesdays are also the camp “day off” and though we take field trips to Sherando Lake and Gypsy Hill park on those days, campers will have free time in the morning and evening if they want to check out.
All visits must be approved ahead of time by Camp Director Lia Wallace or by Camp Life Coordinator Aubrey Whitlock ahead of time, ideally with 24 hours notice. Other than move-in and move-out days, parents are not permitted to be in the dorm, and campers will not be issued keys to the dorm, so they must be picked up and dropped off from campus by a parent or guardian and returned in the same fashion. Camp staff will not send campers off campus to meet anyone, nor will they release campers to the custody of anyone other than a parent or legal guardian without express, advance permission from said parent or guardian.
You do not have to audition in order to apply for the ASC Theatre Camp. Our application process is similar to the Common Application used by most colleges, and is based around a personal essay instead of an audition.
However, we do indeed conduct auditions on the first full day of camp in order to cast the campers into one of the session’s three productions.
Auditions are a combination of traditional monologue performance and collaborative improvisational techniques which simply require a willingness to play and creative choices in the moment.
I felt a lot better about the audition than I was expecting to — I thought I would be terrible, and then I wasn’t! Part of it was probably the collaborative, more personal nature, rather than just “stand in a line, say your piece, and shut up.” – 2016 Camper
All administrative staff, show directors, RDAs, and production interns are present for these auditions. Staff sits down to hammer out casting immediately afterwards, while campers take their introductory voice and movement workshop. We usually post cast lists and distribute scripts before dinner that same day, so campers can begin familiarizing themselves with their parts before the first rehearsal.
Each ASC Theatre Camp participant is cast in only one of the three shows we have slated for that session. Campers might receive one role or several depending on the demands of the play.
The final performance is not the only performance opportunity during camp, however. Campers have multiple opportunities and outlets to showcase their talents.
Each cast has a designated space on campus where the majority of their rehearsals will take place, including Deming Hall (MBU’s black box theatre space).
In the past we have used rooms in Grafton Library and the ballroom in Hunt as rehearsal spaces, but we are always on the lookout for other options that may be more comfortable, less crowded, and more conducive to creating theatre.
In addition to these spaces, each cast will have several opportunities to rehearse in the Blackfriars Playhouse – approximately 8 hours per cast, including the final late-night dress rehearsals.
Hunt was not sparkling clean but it was a good place to work. The trudge up to Deming was hard but the building made it worthwhile. – 2016 Camper
Rehearsals take place 6 days a week and are scheduled in 3-4 hour blocks. Most rehearsals are in the morning, between breakfast and lunch.
Campers are encouraged to schedule meetings with directors, RDAs, production interns, or camp administrative staff for extra help with line-learning and/or scene/monologue coaching. Every member of our experienced staff considers working with campers on their parts a big highlight of their job at camp – and the camp administrative staff in particular would relish any opportunity to work with students instead of spreadsheets. Seriously.
My director was awesome and my cast was super willing to work hard. Every rehearsal was super productive. Also rehearsals are just so fun in general! – 2016 Camper
On the final day of camp, we take over the Blackfriars Playhouse for the afternoon in order to perform all three plays one right after the other. We finish the day with a quick strike at the Blackfriars and then a big celebratory picnic with parents and friends on the grounds of Mary Baldwin.
The late night dress rehearsals were pure magic. Everything was dark outside, and then you enter this legendary space where you have seen fantastical performances put on, and you are acting on that very same stage. It is pure magic. – 2016 Camper