The Burbank Youth Summer Theater Institute (BYSTI) debuts a fun and contemporary take on Shakespeare with A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Starlight Bowl Thursday evening, June 26.
Approximately 20 kids and teenagers participated in the 2014 Burbank summer theater camp, learning lines, working on acting chops, painting scenery and immersing themselves in the world of the stage.
“I really like acting and BYSTI is such a family – all the lords and ladies are really helpful and supportive,” commented twelve-year-old Addie Miller. The adult directors of the camp are referred to as “Lord” or “Lady” rather than “Mr.” or Mrs.,” she explained.
Miller, who will begin seventh grade at Muir Middle School in August and performs the role of Helena in the production, also said, “I learned a lot. I’ve been attending this camp for five years and this was my first big role.”
Starting out at Woodbury University, BYSTI has drawn kids ages 8-18 from Burbank and surrounding communities for the past five years. The brainchild of Dr. David Rosen, BYSTI was founded by Lisa Dyson, Beth Morrison, David Prather and Crystal Robbins, after Dyson was introduced to Rosen by Peggy Flynn, BUSD Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator.
The acting and theater camp focuses each summer on one play by William Shakespeare to study and prepare for the culmination of the three-week experience.
BYSTI moved to the Starlight Bowl this year, after an invitation by Victoria Cusumano, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Burbank. The directors of the camp and the kids all agree the Starlight Bowl venue is pretty great.
“I like it up here a lot,” added Miller. “The stage is so much bigger and the acoustics are great.”
“We are having a blast up here at the Starlight Bowl,” Dyson, the theater camp’s Artistic Director, said. “It’s great to have a real stage to work with and the setting is awesome.”
While many of the camp’s attendees are returning from previous years, some youngsters are new to the experience and are enjoying it.
“This is my first year doing BYSTI and it’s really exciting,” commented Louie Zekowski, age 12. “It’s something I really enjoy, from the drama and the acting, to the attention.”
“Weirdly, I even enjoy learning my lines,” Zekowski added. The Luther Middle School eighth-grader performs the role of Lysander in the production. “I’ve found there’s a spark in acting for me.”
Sixteen-year-old Susie Miller was helping out behind the scenes, painting fairy tree branches, at a recent rehearsal. She volunteers at the camp, along with other older teens, providing needed off-stage help.
Eight-year-old Taaryn Cooper likes his first year at BYSTI and especially his role of Philostrate, “Philostrate is more formal and royal and I like to get into the character.”
Robbins, Dyson and Prather use all original lines and scenes from the Shakespeare play they choose to work on each year for the theater camp. By focusing on preparing core scenes, they are able to stage the play in three weeks.
“We always add in some elements that the kids would appreciate, perhaps a bit of a current popular song or dance,” explained Robbins. “It helps our audience, who are mostly young, too, to see these old stories have a lot in common with events and actions that go on today, even on the playground at school.”
BYSTI’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream lasts about an hour and begins at 6:00 pm. Thursday, June 26. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and picnics are welcome. Admission and parking are free. The Starlight Bowl is located at 1249 Lockheed View Drive in Burbank.