OGDEN -- Amy James stood before her angry boss, trying to come up with an excuse for why she would be 18 hours late for her shift as a theater concession stand worker.
"Pirates stole my ... comb?" Amy guessed, trying to take cues from her concession co-workers, who were acting out the excuse behind the boss's back.
"No, my hair dryer," Amy corrected. Then, after more wild gyrations and jumps from her friends: "And then the pirates forced me to walk the plank!"
Amy and her friends are high school students attending an improvisational workshop, taught Monday at Ogden High School by actors of the Utah Shakespearean Festival educational tour.
The angry boss was tour actor Rob Thomas, from Cincinnati.
Amy got an easier late-for-work scenario than the previous actor, who guessed she had been abducted by bunnies. The charade version of alien antennae looks a lot like floppy rabbit ears.
About 800 area students attended a student performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," performed later Monday night for the general public.
About 80 of the students stayed after the early show to participate in workshops on improvisation and on reading Shakespearean text.
"It was very fun," said Amy, 17, a Ben Lomond High student. "It was fun to be creative and not have to be shy around people."
Alaccia Pittman, another 17-year-old from Ben Lomond, enjoyed the way improvisation challenged her.
"It forced me out of my comfort zone," she said. "These actors know a lot about acting, and they're very committed."
Company manager Joshua Midgett said the Utah Shakespeare Festival educational tour will perform 60 to 70 shows this season, making about 50 stops in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho.
This year's show is "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and the whole production is pulled off by seven actors and three technicians. Actors play as many as five roles each in the abbreviated production.
"The workshops are great," Midgett said. "The kids get to meet the actors right after the show and get a better grasp of how much work and talent it takes to be an actor."
But the tour's main goal is not to recruit actors -- it's to bring live theater, and maybe even an appreciation for Shakespeare, to students who might not otherwise be exposed to it.
"We get high school students to enjoy Shakespeare," Midgett said. "That's a pretty big job."
Midgett, in his third year as company manager, said it was fun to see Ogden High's restored and sparkling art deco theater, which was in serious disrepair the first time he saw it.
"Do you know the show 'Follies?' " he said. "It was like that, a once-beautiful theater, torn apart, crumbling and looking like it probably had ghosts in it."
Midgett said the Ogden High auditorium is now beautiful and has good acoustics that help both the audience and the actors.
Jennifer Whipple, a tour actress from Salt Lake City, loves teaching workshops.
"It's really fun to see the kids understand what you're teaching them," she said.
"And during the show, it's fun to see them laugh and react to the live theater, which a lot of them might not see if it weren't for the tour."