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Performing Shakespeare for kids Costumes and Props

Summer Drama Camp in 1-week – a Simple How-To Guide

Want to run your own summer drama program? Learn how to run a 1-week summer drama camp and all the questions around it.

If you’ve ever thought about running your own program and getting kids excited about Shakespeare and drama, this page is for you!

First of all, YES, yes you can do it. It’s easier than you think. Secondly, YES, yes the kids CAN MEMORIZE all their lines by the end of the week. I’ve taught a summer drama camp over 30 times and haven’t found a kid who couldn’t be successful yet! – Check the extra details below, especially where I’ll split roles for parts with many lines and even add in commercials!

shakespeare for kids class
Julius Caesar for Kids Camp

The Basic Steps

Here’s my basic formula, and I have teachers that vary this around, but, it’ll get you in the ballpark of where you need to be. Please keep in mind this class outline is all based around the Playing With Plays scripts that are designed to be 15-25 minute shows with adjustable cast sizes. (from 6-20+ kids. Very flexible!)

We base this on a 1-week summer drama camp that is 3-hours daily. We meet Monday morning and perform Friday at the end of class. How many kids you want depends on how you manage kids and if you have any assistance. Here’s a link to the Director’s Toolbox where I have many of the forms that I reference the in presentation. However, the basic key details are below:

  • Day 1: We meet, do warm-up games, name games, drama games, do a read-through of the play, and, of course, our unique and crazy auditions! (give me your best death!)
    • That afternoon I cast and email all the parents
  • Day 2: We do read-throughs as our parts, then we start blocking on stage.
  • Day 3: (still on-book) We do blocking and rehearsals
  • Day 4: (off book) Rehearsals and costume fun at the end of the day.
  • Day 5: Dress rehearsals (at least 2 if possible), photo-shoot, then show at the end of class. After cast party, if you want.
summer drama camp
Oliver Twist for Kids Summer Camp

That’s it, easy-peasy!

Extra Details

Now, here are more details to help you with your summer drama camp, as I just outlined the basics for you.

  • Day 1: Meet and greet, and do warm-up games. We need to break the ice for many of these kids! Play some fun drama or name games to get the kids loose! Here’s a great how-to for doing a fun call-and-repeat with your kids! and here’s one of my absolute favorites: The Tiki Tiki!
  • Day 1: Read-through – when I hand out the parts for the read-through I sit the kids in a circle and literally hand out the parts in order as I go around the circle. Boys get girl parts, girls get boy parts, doesn’t matter. This helps me keep track of who has what part as we read. Also, remind the kids that auditions will be later, and this is NOT your given part (although, many kids choose the part they read, as they are already starting to feel ownership of it).
  • Day 1: Auditions – Since summer drama camp is short, I typically will take the main characters and divide their parts into two. It balances out lines for more kids, adds an extra decent role, and doesn’t put all the pressure on a kid that has a much larger part than the rest. (i.e. Hamlet, d’Artagnan, Oliver Twist, Prospero, Puck, Mowgli, etc. it’s your call) I will have the kids fill out an audition sheet (linked here) and advise them at that time that I will be dividing up “hamlet” to 2 parts. If they know this before, it’s no big deal, but if you tell them afterward, they might get a bit frustrated.
  • Day 1: Casting – I use this handy-dandy character line quantity cheat-sheet to let me know how many lines each character has in each play. ALSO, if a character has more than 45 lines in a play, I’ll typically split that part (first half of the play is one kid, 2nd half is another) It takes the stress off of you and that kid for so many lines in such a short period.
  • Day 1: Email the parents – in the email, I always let them know the basic schedule, when the performance is (don’t want someone heading out for a family vacation – it’s happened!), and when kids are expected to be off-book.
  • Days 2-4: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! BUT – sometimes kids with smaller parts get bored – there are a few things you can do: coloring sheets related to your play, commercial rehearsals, fill out their actor bios, and I typically have a large butcher paper taped down and some washable markers so kids can doodle!
  • Day 4: Costume fun – I always use this as a way to keep the kids on track. You may have a group of well organized and behaved kids, or you may not. But, they all like to play dress-up in their costumes. So, I let them know that we will be doing costumes at the end of day, IF we can make it through the script twice. (you use whatever criteria you want)
  • Day 5: Photo-shoot – this is a fun one. It’s a quick, with my iphone, photo-shoot. All of the shots are staged, such as pointing their swords at the camera, or melodramatic facial poses, or relationship poses (king and his henchmen; lovers in Midsummer; all the musketeers with their swords pointed up; or all the pirates giving me their dirtiest pirate face!) As well as a cast photo. Parents love seeing them later as I put them online (private only).
  • Day 5: Cast Autographs – If you notice, at the end of all my books, there’s a page called “CAST AUTOGRAPHS”. This is the perfect time for all the kids to sign each other’s script. They love it! And, remember, these are keepsakes they will have for a long time! If you are using printed scripts, don’t fret! Just do the same with these scripts!
tempest monster
Caliban from Tempest
  • Day 5: Dress rehearsals – I don’t help them. AT. ALL. I tell them that ahead of time. As well, they should read along backstage, so they know when to enter. If they are missing a line, or missing an entrance, I don’t help. AT. ALL. Sometimes, it’s painful to watch – but remember, when the show is live, you will not be helping. You’ll be AMAZED at how well they start realizing to pay attention, hitting their cues, and saving each other. By the time you do this twice, they have it nailed. Remember, let them know this is a team sport. We are here to help each other.
  • Day 5 Show – The last half hour of class is show. I never let the families in until a few minutes before show. Before I do let the audience in I tell the kids, “This is for fun. So, have fun.” Then I follow it up with, “I’ve done over 100 shows, do you know how many of them went perfect? None. Zero, zilch, nada… So, this one will not be perfect either, but that’s ok. We will have fun and help each other, that’s what it’s all about.” This is more about taking the pressure off of them about doing a perfect job. As one of my kids told me, “My parents’ expectations can be brutal!” True. I remind them that this is a “warm” audience, in other words, it’s friends and family who care that you do well and will support you. The last thing I have them do, before I open that door is scream. We all get on stage and let out the biggest scream we possibly can. This helps get rid of some of that anxious, nervous energy that comes along with performing.
  • Day 6 – What? I thought this was a 5-day class?! Yes, it is, but you still have to send out a link to the photos, and maybe a video, if you recorded it. I always record, 2 reasons: 1) I want Grandma and Grandpa who live 2,000 miles away to be able to see little Billy in his performance and 2) it stops parents from recording with their phones and basically being annoying to everyone around them. There’s nothing like an audience all with their phones out blocking the view of the parent behind them! But, if you post a video, be sure you set it to private, so the parents can only see it from the link you sent.
summer drama camp fun
Caesar Camp Laughter

When the time comes where you need to have the kids do something while they are not on stage, I’ll have them fill out their “actor’s description” sheet, and possibly make a drawing of themselves, too. We will hang these where the parents can see them prior to coming into the show.

What should I charge for camp?

Good question. First, find a location and understand that cost. I’ve seen people use school classes, their backyard porch, yoga studios, castles, churches, and parks & rec centers. If you do work with your local parks and recreation department, they will help you advertise, manage registration, and give you a place to use typically at no cost. They typically take between 30 to 40% for your enrollment. Let’s say you charge $100 per student, $30 would go to parks and rec and $70 will go to you. But, that $30 pays for enrollment, advertisement, and space. All you should have to do is show up and run the class.

Oh, one more thing, I always add a $20 material fee to cover the cost of the book as well as any consumable costumes for the week. The material fee gets paid to me on the First day of class. I have seen teachers do both material fees as well as no material fees, and give the books to the kids from the main cost of the class. This is your call, as to what you feel is appropriate for both you and your parents.

As for cost per student, that’s all dependent upon how many hours a day you run your camp as well as where you are located. In smaller towns, I have seen costs as low $70 for a 2-hour daily class and as high as $199 for a 3-hour daily class. Plus a $20 material fee per student. In the San Francisco bay area, or other larger metro areas, that same class I would charge $300+ per student as well as at least a $25 material fee. Again, you just need to know your audience and what they will pay. Look at any other camps in the area to get a feel of what is being charged for watching someone’s kids for a week! That’s a great baseline to see what you can charge. You may want to start slightly low until you build an audience and reputation.

As for the costs of books. And, if you are charging the kids to be part of the class, we do expect you to purchase a book per kid, assuming you are doing a Playing With Plays camp. You can get them directly through Amazon at $10/book and in 2 days. Or, through us at $8/book, but it does take 2-3 weeks for the books to arrive. Or, you can purchase through us ahead of time and return what you don’t use via media mail (USPS, very inexpensive!!!)

Easiest Class to Start With?

Julius Caesar for Kids is my number one choice, but, Jungle Book is 2nd. First, Caesar, the main reason why is the costuming. Making a toga is easy AND free. See this handy-dandy trick to make simple and free togas. And yes, I’ve done it several times from several hotels. Easy.

The other main reason Caesar is a good play to start with is it’s a tragedy. Kids LOVE to melodramatically die on stage. As well, it’s easier to get a laugh from the audience with physical comedy (melodramatic deaths, evil laughs, sword fights, chase scenes, etc.) than with a comedy that relies more on a line being said correctly to get the same laugh. It’s a nuance of language, but it’s better to hook the kids on the greatness of Shakespeare and classics via the tragedies! (I’ve done this countless times in dozens of schools and areas, it works!)

As for Jungle Book, it’s great for all ages and is a good ensemble piece. For kids who are shy, or young ones that have not been on stage before, they can hide behind masks as wolves or monkeys and have no lines. (but, if they want lines, have them make up their own – that the director approves, of course, and use those!) Costumes can be very simple, kids LOVE playing with makeup, and props are minimal!

That’s about it. So, get out there and run your own summer drama camp!

If you have questions or need any support, let me know! – Seriously, shoot me an email and I’ll guide you through ANY concerns!

Add a Commercial?

What in the world am I talking about?! Well, it’s simple, fun, and ever since I learned this trick, I’ve never done a show without a commercial! All the details are here in a separate post. But, in a nutshell, for those kids that don’t have a lot of lines, and you want to keep them busy or give them a bit more stage time, then have them write and perform their own commercial, somehow, someway, related to the show you are doing!

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By brendan kelso

Brendan is the main creative source and author behind Playing With Plays and the infamous Shakespeare for Kids series. You can typically find him inventing by day, playing with his family by night, and writing by very late night.

6 replies on “Summer Drama Camp in 1-week – a Simple How-To Guide”

Hello Mikayla, the best way to advertise these classes is via social media on a local scale, through your parks & rec if you are using their services, or going into your local school and getting the kids excited about your work! I always advise starting with parks & rec till you get a reputation or foundation of clientele. Let me know if you have other questions!


Thank you so much for your insight. I’m a drama teacher and I’m always looking for fresh new ways to teach my classes and summer camps. For the play Julius Caesar, what age would you recommend for this camp?

Hello Patricia, I’m not sure if you received my response via email, but my Caesar was designed for upper-elementary and middle schoolers. However, I’ve seen many high schoolers perform this version in conjunction with my other tragedies to make a longer play. And, believe me, when highschoolers do melodrama, they TOTALLY know how to perform over the top! Hilarious stuff!


Hello Pat, yes, you would purchase the books and/or copies. I do have educator’s rates if that applies. If you do a performance, there may be a performance royalty, depending on your audience type (paying, non-paying, education, etc.) I sent an email with further details.

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