Acting on impulse
Riley Jackson's dream is to become an actor, Venture Theatre is a stepping stone on her way.
Rowan Vickers's company is holding a drama programme for middle and high school students this summer that the 17-year-old is “very grateful” to be part of, having enjoyed the production it put on for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.
“I saw The Glass Menagerie this February and it was absolutely amazing,” the Warwick Academy student said.
“And then Rowan came to school with the actors from the performance and they did a workshop with my theatre class and other theatre students and it was just really fun.
“I just thought, if this is what the camp's going to be like then I really want to go. It was a really easy decision. This is where I want to go, where I want to spend my summer.”
The “Let's Play” Drama Summer Programme 2020 is “generously sponsored” by the Bermuda Festival. Two two-week sessions for middle school students run this month; a three-week programme for high school students takes place in August.
“We're open to anyone and everyone who's interested,” Mr Vickers said.
“We have some people, particularly the secondary school kids, who are quite keen to audition for drama schools and looking to go into the acting industry.
“And we have kids in middle school who haven't done it at all, but maybe just want to have fun and learn some skills, develop confidence and public speaking.”
Team-oriented drama games and improvisation are part of the programme, as are monologues and scenes from some of Shakespeare's most famous plays.
The goal is to help the students “develop a practical approach to theatre and drama” and gain a “deeper understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare”.
“The Bermuda Festival and I have been working towards producing a summer Shakespeare programme which will use Bermudian students in supporting roles,” said Mr Vickers, a graduate of the Juilliard School, who has had success as an actor abroad.
“Due to Covid-19, the festival is waiting to finalise its plans for 2021 to the end of the summer. However, we wanted to make sure we were building the groundwork for our collaboration and decided that it was beneficial to start with this summer's drama programme.”
Space is limited. Bursaries were given to a promising actor in middle school and another in high school.
One of the recipients was Riley, who confessed to “having some difficulty” with her Shakespeare studies at Warwick Academy.
“But I know the impact that Shakespeare had on theatre and I know the significance of his work,” she said.
“I want to be able to understand it and I want to be able to relate to the art. We just did Othello and I struggled understanding the concept of the play, but I think having the difficult language is what makes it that much more intriguing to learn about.”
She was in Year 6 when Warwick Academy's production of the classic tale Treasure Island got her interested in acting.
“I played a British pirate and I loved my character, I thought he was so funny,” she said.
“That was my first speaking role and I thought, ‘this is it, this is what I want to do'.
“I was nervous. I get nervous all the time before performances.
“I freak out, I'll be sweating, but onstage, I just get so comfortable.
“By the time I'm up there I'm like, ‘OK let's just do this, let's go'.”
Once she has completed high school, her plan is to pursue a theatre degree.
“I just love everything about theatre. I love the concept of being different characters, I love the costumes and the make-up and everything that goes into it.
“But I'm not really sure if I want to venture completely into musical theatre. That could be a possibility but I'm probably [more interested] in working on movies and television series. I'm going to major in English as well. Acting is a very high-risk career and there is the possibility that acting does not happen the way I want it to for me. This way I will always have an English degree to fall back on.”
In the meantime, she is looking forward to being part of the Venture programme next month.
“I'm very grateful for this experience I'm about to have because this is something that I really want to become a better actress,” Riley said.
“I know when I go into this career path that there's going to be so many downfalls. I'm hoping this experience is going to help me build up my self-confidence.”
• For more information on the “Let's Play” Drama Summer Programme 2020 visit vtensemble.com. Follow Venture Theatre on Facebook, vtensemble and Instagram, venture_theatre