Day camps for children of all experience levels, ages 7-18.
For over 30 years San Francisco Shakespeare Festival has been offering Shakespeare camps for children of all experience levels, ages 7 to 18. Camp sessions range from 2 to 4 weeks and are held in venues across the Bay Area, typically on weekdays during summer break, with a few weekend and spring and fall options as well. Our teaching artists are working actors, stage managers, directors, and designers. In each session campers engage with each other in activities ranging from games and basic acting skills to more specialized training and deeper exploration of the themes and language of Shakespeare, culminating in a live performance attended by family and friends.
We offer 3 levels of camps: Groundlings (ages 7-10), Players (ages 11-13), and Advanced Shakespeare Workshop (ages 12-18). Scroll down to learn more about each program.
Advanced Shakespeare Workshop
Campers study Shakespeare’s theatre in a fun and supportive atmosphere. Professional theatre practitioners lead interactive classes in Shakespeare’s poetry, clowning traditions, and stage combat.
Summer 2023 sessions are now closed. Sign Up to get first notice for next season!
Upstart Crows is our summer camp for teens who are ready to get into the act and have some fun performing Shakespeare! They’ll acquire and develop acting abilities, learn about Shakespeare’s language, bond with their fellow cast members, and develop their own individual performance style.
Enrollment for summer 2023 sessions will be opening soon.
Intensive voice, movement, text, and monologue work are the hallmarks of this program. Actors take a deep dive into the themes and language of Shakespeare and engage in a thorough examination of character motives and objectives. Enrollment in this program requires previous acting experience and an audition submission.
Summer 2024 ASW is NOW accepting applications. Click for details!
The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is able to offer a limited amount of need-based scholarship assistance to campers who would otherwise not be able to afford Bay Area Shakespeare Camps. To apply for scholarship assistance, please send the following:
Mail your scholarship request to:
Scholarship Assistance, Bay Area Shakespeare Camp, PO Box 460937, San Francisco, CA 94146
Or send request to email@example.com with appropriate supporting documentation attached.
When you refer a new* camper to Bay Area Shakespeare Camp, your friend receives a $50 rebate after completing full-priced enrollment. For every friend you get to join you’ll receive a $50 rebate in thanks from us. It’s a win-win situation for you and your friends! You can even use this offer on a sibling who is new* to Shakespeare Camp. Refer as many friends as you like and receive rebates for each successful enrollment not to exceed the price you paid for enrollment. Just ask your friends to enter your enrolled child’s first and last name on their enrollment form in the box that asks: “Who referred you?”
* Please note: this promotion applies only to referrals of NEW campers — who have never participated with us before.
We are dedicated to keeping our campers and teaching artists, and their families, safe and healthy. All campers are required to observe SF Shakes’ camp policies regarding Covid-19 and other illnesses.
All campers must be vaccinated against Covid-19. It is highly recommended that those eligible for boosters receive them before the start of camp. Please email your proof of vaccination at least one week prior to the start of your session.
Masks are not required but are strongly encouraged for all campers and staff while indoors. Well-fitting N95s or the equivalent are highly recommended. Please pack a spare mask should you choose to wear one; lanyards are recommended to hold masks while not in use. Staff will have extra masks and Covid tests available on site.
Campers will be asked to wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer before and after snacks and meals. Staff will wipe down heavily used surfaces with alcohol spray or wipes.
If your camper has any symptoms of illness (sore throat, cough, fever, aches, nausea, runny nose/sneezing that is not allergy-related), whether or not you believe it to be Covid, please keep them home and test for Covid. If test is positive, please keep your camper home for at least 5 days. If test is negative, please test again after 3 days and keep camper home until symptoms subside. Camper can return to camp after a negative antigen test, and after symptoms subside.
A case of norovirus, rhinovirus, or flu can be just as contagious and disruptive as Covid, so please protect other campers and don’t send sick campers to camp. If staff notice that a camper has any symptoms of illness, they will call caregivers and request they be picked up immediately.
If your camper has a close contact with a Covid-positive person, please test on the 3rd day after exposure. Follow steps above if they test positive. If they are not symptomatic and test negative, and are vaccinated, they can continue to come to camp and do not need to quarantine. We recommend testing again 5 days after exposure.
Close household contact
If a member of your household tests positive for Covid, and it is impossible to isolate them from other household members, follow the steps above, and continue to test your camper every day as long as the household member is symptomatic and/or testing positive. We recommend the camper wear a well-fitting mask at all times, indoors and outdoors, unless eating or drinking in order to reduce the possibility of asymptomatic transmission. If at any time the camper begins to have symptoms, follow the guidance under “Symptoms” above.
How long have you been doing Bay Area Shakespeare Camps?
2023 marks our 31st season of Shakespeare Camps! We’ve gone from 1 camp in San Francisco to serving up to 700 campers every summer.
How old should you be to attend Bay Area Shakespeare Camps?
We have camps for children ages 7 to 18! 7 years old (rising 2nd graders) through 10 years old (rising 5th graders) for our Groundlings Camp and 11 years old (rising 6th graders) through 13 years old (rising 8th graders) for our Players camps. Our Advanced Shakespeare Workshop is open to middle and high school students, age 12-18. The age criteria are based on a few different variables, but its primary intent is to try and ensure that the camper’s experience is a positive and enjoyable one.
Is it okay to go to camp if you’ve never acted before?
Yes! Groundlings and Players Camps are designed for beginning and intermediate campers. Classes are small enough that our teaching artists are able to work with each individual at their level, including those who are new to performing.
What is the camper-teacher ratio at camp?
Each group has no more than 15 campers with one teaching artist, to ensure that everyone gets plenty of individual attention and a speaking role in the final production. For a full camp, there will be 3 teaching artists, 1 manager, and 1 intern.
Who are the teaching artists at Bay Area Shakespeare Camp?
Our teaching artists are working actors, stage managers, directors, designers, and more. Most have extensive teaching experience with camps and other programs. About a third have postgraduate degrees in theater. Some are currently enrolled in theatre degree programs at Universities. All of our teaching artists attend our company culture, classroom management, and curriculum training sessions. We are very proud of the quality of our teaching artists and curriculum. See our roster of Teaching Artists.
What happens during a typical day at Shakespeare Camp?
For the first half-hour, from 9-9:30 am, the whole group meets together to do a warm-up. Then the group divides into their smaller groups for theater classes, activities, and games. There is a 40 minute lunch break, usually 11:45-12:25. At the end of the day, each group has rehearsal for the final performance. If aftercare is offered at the site, aftercare campers have unstructured play time from 3-5:30 PM.
What are the classes like?
The classes are designed to introduce students to a wide range of theatrical elements. Voice & Movement helps each actor to learn to use their voice and body to communicate characters and on-stage objectives. Discovering Shakespeare focuses on exploring the language Shakespeare used and the culture he wrote in. Production & Design gives campers space to design and create their own props, scenery, and costumes.
What should my child bring to Shakespeare Camp? What clothes are appropriate?
Campers should bring a snack and a bag lunch (no food is provided), any necessary medication, and an afternoon snack if attending aftercare. Some sites have faith-based food restrictions, about which you’ll be informed in the confirmation letter. We highly recommend bringing a large bottle of water and sunscreen for outdoor sites. We provide all worksheets, a class folder, a script and materials for prop, scenery, and costume construction. Campers may sometimes volunteer to bring props or costume pieces from home. We cannot be responsible for lost property, so think carefully before sending something precious. Campers should wear clothes that are comfortable to move in. Please wear shorts or leggings underneath skirts or dresses. No flip-flops; closed-toed shoes or sandals with secure straps are best.
Why does the youngest group perform a scene or selection of scenes instead of a full play?
We work to make sure every camper has the most meaningful theatrical experience, and work hard to match expectations to each camper’s developmental abilities. While some children have the ability to memorize and recite larger amounts of text, we find that having a shorter production with a simpler dramatic structure is ideal for young learners. Instead of focusing only on memorization, they have the time to work more closely with their director and fellow campers, developing important theatrical skills such as interpretive movement, ensemble work, and a fully realized, embodied performance of Shakespeare’s poetry.
How do you cast the camp shows? Does everyone get a part?
Our camps are focused more on social-emotional learning, team-building, and developing appreciation for the art form of theatre than on training professionally competitive actors. During the first day of camp, the teaching artists will describe the characters and action of the play and play a series of games that help them understand students’ strengths in reading, speaking text, movement, leadership and creativity. The teaching artist assesses what level of challenge is a good fit for each child, and will make their decisions over the first few days of camp. Every effort is made to give each child an appropriate role for their level of experience and comfort, and not to overwhelm any child with a role that is too large for them to learn and perform. And yes, everyone gets a speaking role!
What if my child is unhappy with their role?
Most campers, even if they are initially unhappy with their casting, find that they love their roles after a day or two of rehearsal. Our teaching artists make a special effort to highlight every performer and the importance of their role in the overall story.
When is the final performance?
2:00 pm on the final Friday of camp. Performances last 45-90 minutes depending on how many groups are in a particular camp.
What is the disciplinary procedure at camp?
Each camper is asked to sign an agreement before the start of camp saying that they will agree to follow our basic camp rules of respect for the teaching artists, respect for the site, and respect for each other. During the first morning warm-up, the teaching artists will go over this agreement and ask campers to give suggestions for positive ways to support each other and the group. If a camper has difficulty respecting the rules of the camp they will have conversations with their teacher and depending on the severity of the situation this may escalate into a parent conference with the manager. Major infractions such as bullying or bringing dangerous items to camp will result in immediate expulsion. We do not tolerate behavior that interferes with other campers’ physical or emotional safety.
Do you accept campers with special needs?
Yes. In the past we have had campers on the autism spectrum, with ADHD, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, diabetes, and other mental and physical challenges. We find that most of these campers do extremely well at camp. Those with challenges requiring more attention may need the on-site assistance of a parent or caregiver – this is decided on a case-by-case basis. We ask that all parents of children with special needs indicate this on the emergency form. The more we know, the more prepared our staff can be.
Is it okay to miss days during Shakespeare Camp?
The campers who are able to attend every day of camp undoubtedly have a more rewarding experience. Even a short absence can cause your camper to miss out on a lot! Of course, emergencies and illnesses happen, and we do our best to work with them. Please give us as much of a heads up as possible if an unavoidable conflict arises. Putting on a play requires a team effort from all cast members, and absences affect ensemble and the production. Please do not plan your vacation to overlap with the camp. There are no discounts for missed days of camp. If your child cannot participate in the final performance, it’s challenging for our teaching artists to keep them engaged during rehearsals.
What’s the difference between Upstart Crows and the Advanced Shakespeare Workshop?
The Advanced Shakespeare Workshop is the one summer program with more of a professional training focus (although it’s still appropriate for teens who don’t intend to have a career in the arts). It is recommended for actors aged 12-18 who have attended at least one camp and are ready to work in a more intense and focused atmosphere. Students entering the ASW should have a good grasp of scansion, comfort with Shakespeare’s language, and speak and move confidently. ASW students work on vocal technique, physical conditioning and expression, and deep text work on one or more selected scenes and monologues. This allows them to immerse themselves in the language more completely and also acquire material for future auditions. Recommended for students who enjoy a professional atmosphere with one-on-one coaching, and the company of like-minded, self-motivated young actors. ASW students can expect to have a lot of material to memorize and occasional outside homework assignments. Participation in the ASW is by audition only.
Upstart Crows Camps are similar to the regular Camps in that experience is welcome but not required. There may be advanced actors as well as beginning and intermediate in Upstart Crows Camps; sometimes advanced actors enjoy participating in both programs since they are quite different. The camp ends with a final performance of a 30-minute Shakespeare play.
What do you do in Aftercare?
Aftercare is a space for students to play, socialize, and self-select activities. If campers are interested, they can continue with Production & Design projects, learn lines, and play theater games. We try to keep aftercare fairly loosely organized as campers have had a very structured day and often appreciate the free play time.
How does pricing work for aftercare?
Aftercare is included in the price of enrollment! We only ask that you let us know ahead of time which days your camper will be needing aftercare.
My child loved camp! Can we sign up for a second session, or will it be too repetitive?
Although the basic curriculum remains the same from session to session, different teaching artists have different approaches and a new ensemble of campers will certainly change the camp experience. Campers frequently benefit from multiple sessions in one summer. If your child is signing up for multiple sessions, let us know and we’ll put them into a different role or with a different teaching artist so that they will have a new experience in each session. Campers who enroll for a second session in the same season will receive a $50 rebate on their second enrollment!
How can my child best prepare for camp? Do you recommend any books or videos?
We do not require or expect any prior experience with Shakespeare! However, if your camper would like to have a bit of familiarity with the language before camp, your local library likely has a collection of Shakespeare performances on video, as well as illustrated books of Shakespeare’s stories for all ages and reading levels.
My child has been attending camp for many years, and wants to take the next step. How can s/he become an intern?
Please see our internships page for more information about our internship program. If your child is not old enough to be an intern, but is interested in a more intensive Shakespeare experience, we recommend signing up for ASW.
Do you have scholarships?
We offer need-based scholarship assistance on a case-by-case basis, and any student on the Free/Reduced lunch program may pay as little as $25. See the Scholarships section. We have never had to turn away a camper with genuine financial need, although we may have some restrictions on which camp sessions are available.
What are the transfer and cancellation policies?
Transfers from one camp session to another, on a space available basis, may be made prior to the start of the session. If you transfer more than once, a $25 administrative fee will be assessed for each additional change. There is a $100 administrative fee for cancellations prior to one week before the start of camp. No refunds can be made after the cancel date deadline.