Boarding School Girls to Compete at Shakespearean Festival

Share Article

Six students from Copper Canyon Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for girls in Rimrock, Ariz., take the stage at this year's Utah Shakespearean Festival.

I make sure the girls know the entire play so they can portray their characters better

Six students from Copper Canyon Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for girls in Rimrock, Ariz., will compete in the Shakespeare Competition Oct. 9 to 10 in Cedar City, Utah. The competition will be held in conjunction with the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

The girls will perform a scene from Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" and monologues from "The Merchant of Venice" and "King Henry VI Part 1." The performances, held at Southern Utah University, will be staged three times in front of three different panels of judges. This will be the third year that students from Copper Canyon have competed in the 33-year-old competition.

The Shakespeare Competition draws thousands of middle and high school students from private and public schools around the country. The Copper Canyon girls often compete against performing arts schools, which devote a significant amount of resources to their drama programs.

"The girls may be stepping up in an area they hadn't before, so they get a solid feeling of satisfaction," said Ken Buxton, academic director at Copper Canyon. Buxton prepares the girls for their scenes, drawing on his own experience directing Shakespearean plays, and accompanies them on the four-day trip.

'A Solid Feeling of Satisfaction'

During the competition, performers are graded on presentation, proper text usage, character, voice and their knowledge of Shakespeare and his plays. "I make sure the girls know the entire play so they can portray their characters better," Buxton said.

Copper Canyon students are selected to compete based on their interest and background. "I prefer those with some experience in drama or Shakespeare because the competition is really stiff," Buxton said.

As a first step in the audition process, Buxton asks girls interested in competing to memorize and perform 12 lines of Shakespeare to show their willingness, self-discipline and motivation.

In past years, students from Copper Canyon have received distinguished marks from the adjudicators, as well as certificates and awards, for scenes from such classics as "Romeo and Juliet" and "Much Ado About Nothing."

A Wealth of Opportunities

One of the aspects the girls appreciate most about the competition, Buxton said, is the trust the faculty at Copper Canyon places in them to allow them to travel so far off campus. However, Utah is not the farthest destination that girls at the boarding school travel.

Twice a year -- most recently in July -- eight girls from the school take part in the Presidential Classroom program in Washington, D.C. Though the Presidential Classroom program is not unique to Copper Canyon -- it has been around for about 40 years and is offered to high schools throughout the world -- the boarding school is one of the few therapeutic schools that offers the program.

"It crosses boundaries between the clinical and the academic elements of our school," said Buxton, who is also charged with organizing Copper Canyon's Presidential Classroom trips. "It really educates the entire student because the trip provides a unique combination of academics and self-awareness."

Through the one-week program, students learn leadership skills, meet students from other countries and get a backstage pass to how the government works. Students participate in role playing exercises, write proposals, attend briefings at the State Department, sit on the floor of Congress, and visit the Pentagon and World Bank.

Leadership and Scholarship

Each day, participants in the Presidential Classroom attend sessions and classes until 10 p.m. The girls from Copper Canyon also attend a one-hour group therapy session with Copper Canyon staff at the end of the day so that they can process everything they have experienced.

"It's an intense week. They are stimulated from the very first day," Buxton said. "At Copper Canyon, the girls are secure and protected, and have few distractions. On the D.C. trip, they are out in the real world with 300 to 400 other teens."

Buxton and a therapist from the school accompany the girls on the trip so they can both provide guidance to the girls and observe their behaviors to assess where they are in their treatment program.

"We stress balance and moderation on this trip," Buxton said. "Many of our girls show a lot of leadership, and for all our students it is an opportunity to observe how they handle their triggers and other challenges, so we can see what they still need to work on."

Girls are selected to participate in the Presidential Classroom based on parent permission, the approval of their therapist and treatment team, solid grades, how long they've been at Copper Canyon and their age. Those girls who are chosen prepare for the trip six weeks before they leave, both clinically and academically. At the end of the week-long program, the girls are presented with a diploma and become a Presidential Classroom scholar.

"Many kids have said this was the biggest week of their lives because they have a feeling of a job well done, they did something they didn't feel they were capable of doing and they were taken seriously, maybe for the first time ever," Buxton said. "It can really turn their life around."

About Copper Canyon Academy:
Copper Canyon Academy is a therapeutic boarding school designed to assist young women 14 to 17 years of age. The school provides a chance for students to develop themselves in the areas of emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and social growth and development. Students attending the school receive a fully accredited education, individual and group therapy, extensive leadership opportunities and access to a variety of therapeutic modalities. For more information about Copper Canyon, call (877) 617-1222 or visit

Copper Canyon Academy is a proud member of CRC Health Group, the most comprehensive network of specialized behavioral care services in the nation. CRC offers the largest array of personalized treatment options, allowing individuals, families and professionals to choose the most appropriate treatment setting for their behavioral, addiction, weight management and therapeutic education needs. CRC is committed to making its services widely and easily available, while maintaining a passion for delivering advanced treatment. For over two decades, CRC programs have helped individuals and families reclaim and enrich their lives. For more about CRC Health, visit


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kenneth A. Buxton
Visit website