Theater Camps Provide Summer Learning Opportunities for Kids

Theater Camps Provide Summer Learning Opportunities for Kids
HMT's summer camp program
Valerie Lord

May 29 2013

It's no secret that there is huge support for and interest in theater around our region.

There are dozens of new and established theater companies specializing in everything from staged readings to entire seasons dedicated to musicals. These companies not only give area audiences and performers an unlimited number of opportunities to dive into new and classic works, but have also served as incubators for many successful careers on stage and screen.

No doubt every one of those professionals can tell you about the first show they saw or were in. They were hungry to learn and experience more, preferably from the professionals themselves.

Enter the theater summer camp experience.

Happily, Saratoga Springs is home to enough theatrical summer camps to keep your budding Hepburn, Olivier, Streep or even Jack Black busy from June 24 to August 24. About 2 dozen sessions are available, although some are filling up fast.

This week we will meet the instructors and look at the offerings of Home Made Theater's 2013 "Youth Summer Programs for Children & Teens- ages 8-17," and Saratoga Shakespeare Company's inaugural year of "Shakespearience!" In the next installment, we will take a look at offerings from the Saratoga Children's Theatre and the Saratoga Arts Center. Sadly, Opera Saratoga is not offering their decade-old Summer Camp/Intensive this year, but there are several alternatives for young singing actors who missed out on that option.

Home Made Theater

Home Made Theater continues their popular Summer Programs for Children & Teens with some new offerings and an addition to the staff this year. Paul Sigrist returns to teach "The Foundations of Good Singing" (July 8-12) and "Shakespeare for Young Actors" (July 22-26). In addition, Sigrist will be adding a class in "Improvisation" (July 15-19).

All three classes will be from 1-3:30 pm at Bloom: A Movement Space located at 153 Regent Street. Sigrist, who previously directed at the Opera Saratoga Summer Intensive and is regularly seen in films, TV (frequently on Saturday Night Live) and for many years with the renowned New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NYGASP), gives some further insight into some of these classes.

About the "Improvisation" session he states "'Improv' is a world unto itself with its own set of rules, expectations for the performers, use of an actor's imagination, etc." He goes on to discuss his class in Shakespeare, now in its third year. "Students do detailed scene work and character study. The HMT students run the gamut in age and stage experience."

Having worked mostly with junior and senior high school students before migrating to HMT he was amazed with the intelligence and talent of the younger HMT students. He found them to be sharp, willing, cooperative and well-behaved. "The kids I've had in the Shakespeare classes have been a rather fun, 'ready for anything' bunch every year."

Known for expecting the same from the youngsters in his charge as he would from adult actors he found that "Kids seem to thrive in this environment and welcome whatever responsibilities (i.e. learning lines, blocking, etc. in a short time) with a great sense of purpose. Indeed, for last year's Shakespeare class two of my students, one of whom was a repeat student from the previous year, memorized and performed an extra scene the night before the public presentation because they wanted to take on the additional challenge beyond what they were already slated to perform."

HMT welcomes David Macaluso (NYGASP, Off-Broadway and a former director with Opera Saratoga's Summer Intensive) to the staff with his offering of "Theater Games" July 8-12, from 9:30-noon in the Saratoga Spa State Park Administration Building. Macaluso states he's "eager to help the next generation of performers experience the excitement of theatre. It will run the gamut from learning about the power of stillness, to the exuberance of movement. We will learn the fundamentals of the stage and discover everyone's talents. This class will be fun and at the same time give students the basic tools every professional performer needs. "

All classes offered by HMT
are $140 ($120 if registering by May 31st)
For info, call 587-4427

Saratoga Shakespeare Company

Shakespeare is having a good season in Saratoga this year. In addition to HMT's offering, Saratoga Shakespeare Company is presenting the first year of their "Shakespearience." Running the week of July 22-26, two groups are offered from 10-3 each day at Skidmore College. "Young Bards," for ages 9-13 promises "a thrilling week of ensemble exercises and theater games” with a Shakespearean twist. Students ages 14-18 may sign up for the "SSC Teen Ensemble" which "focuses on what it means to be a part of a theatre company. Students will have training in: voice and movement, improvisation, ensemble work, Shakespearean scene study and stage combat."

Longtime SSC veteran Tim Dugan serves as instructor for this new venture and comes to the camp with a long resume in introducing Shakespeare to students. Currently pursuing his MFA at Temple University, Dugan taught for 16 years at Schenectady High School's John Sayles School of Fine Arts, where the study of Shakespeare was incorporated into the acting and theatre classes each year. Dugan states that the school usually presented one of the bard's works at least every other year in their multi-offering season.

Saratoga Shakespeare Company's promotion for the group's new summer camp

About the new camp, Dugan says that "We, at SSC, are thrilled at long last to premiere Shakespearience! It will be a week-long theater camp jam packed with exciting theater games and exercises aimed at making Shakespeare accessible to anyone." When asked what attendees can expect, he said, "It'll be an on-your-feet, active and playful learning experience. Plus everyone involved has the opportunity to interact with professional theatre artists in the company." Shakespearience! culminates with each group presenting scenes on the SSC stage in Congress Park for family and friends before Friday's performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Tuition is $200 per student, which includes the week's enrollment, a 2013 Shakespearience! T-shirt and "pizza-day" lunch on Friday. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis and is open to kids of all interests and experience.
To register, contact Tim Dugan, Dir. of Education at 646-228-6460 with any questions.



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