On Sunday June 18th, 2006, I arrived in Staunton for my first day at what was then called YCTC, or Young Company Theatre Camp. With no idea who anyone was, and no idea what I was in store for, I headed for the Blackfriars Playhouse for the first of many times.
Doreen Bechtol led the 36 of us through some basic viewpoints exercises, and as the evening drew to a close, she asked us to pick a place in the theatre and to speak a line of Shakespeare. At some point, one of the campers said the first line of Puck’s last speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “If we shadows have offended.”
The next camper to take his place said the next line: “Think but this and all is mended.”
The next person the next line, and the noise and the energy grew. By the end of the speech, we were standing all over the theatre, all speaking together, the words ringing out through the space. We all knew the words, of course. Many of us were strangers, but right then it couldn’t have mattered less.
That was the beginning of the greatest summers of my life. I would never give up a moment of the fifteen weeks I spent as a teenager in Staunton rehearsing, performing, learning, and growing through art I am proud of and friends I still hold dear.
The Blackfriars Playhouse and its devotees have shaped my life permanently, and for those gifts I can’t thank the ASC enough.
– Jessie Cohen