The children’s/teens’ theater group that my son performs with has released their summer camp schedule: Summer Classes 2013 | West End Studio Theatre – Santa Cruz, CA.
They have 15 different camps this summer, ranging in length from 1 week to 3 weeks (with two having a 1-week/2-week option), and ranging from ages 4–7 for the youngest group to ages 14–21 for the oldest. Most of the summer camps are done by grade range (grades 1–4, 4–10, 6–12, …), but the youngest and oldest groups poke out of the normal K–12 grade range, and use age ranges instead.
The grade and age ranges are usually fairly large (6 or 7 years) and the classes accommodate kids with a wide range of acting experience, from first time on stage to 40 previous productions. The teen productions often have many of the same kids in them (the theater-obsessed kids), but there are usually a couple of first-timers also. I’m always pleased to see how well the kids incorporate newcomers, make them welcome, and get them to perform at a fairly high level.
There is no auditioning at WEST—the teachers assign parts after observing the kids for a few classes and getting input from them about how big and what sort of part they want (some prefer having a lot of lines, others prefer having less to memorize, some like mainly verbal roles, others prefer primarily physical roles, …).
Casting is often quite complex, with one actor playing several roles, or multiple actors playing the same role. In some of the larger classes they do two casts, with the leads in one casts having bit parts in the other cast. One particularly memorable production was of Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, which had only one cast, but almost every role was played by 2 or 3 actors and almost everyone had multiple roles, using costuming to maintain continuity. I doubt that it would have worked in a more serious play, but Hitchhikers’ Guide is surreal enough and comical enough that it worked quite well.
This year, there are three summer acting camps that my son is eligible for:
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (a 3-week comic production)
- Conservatory with Theatre Témoin (1-week or 2-week physical theater and devised theater)
- Shakespeare Conservatory with Shakespeare Santa Cruz (1-week or 2-week Shakespeare intensive)
(He’s also eligible for the tech class, but he’s done that one before and decided he’d much rather be on stage than doing tech work.)
He’s decided he wants to do the comic production and the Shakespeare conservatory, but he’s not decided about the physical theater yet. Personally, I think that the physical theater would teach him the most, as his acting has almost always centered around the lines and the verbal delivery (even his improv work tends more toward the verbal than the physical). He’s worked with the Shakespeare Santa Cruz people several times now, but not with Theatre Témoin, whose collaboration with WEST is new this year.
But summer theater is at least as much about recreation as it is about improving skills, so I leave the decisions up to him. He may think that 7 weeks of intensive theater work is too much for this summer, as it won’t leave much time for recreational programming. (It would give him a good excuse for not working on college application essays for those weeks, though.)