August 7, 2008

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Wicked experience
Palace Theatre brings in the pros first overnight camp
By Kath Tibbetts letters@hippopress.com

They act, sing and dance, but legally can’t even buy a pack of cigarettes.

About 20 high school students partook in a week-long overnight theater camp last week to develop their triple-threat skills. Offered by the Palace Theatre and Chester College, the Palace Professional Theatre Camp concluded its first session of camp last Saturday.

“My mom actually suggested that I do something this summer and it’s a great experience,” C.J. Russo, 14, from Long Island said about the new program. He said he was mostly a singer and an actor and only since the camp is he a dancer.

Students received one college credit for this week of classes, which took place at Chester College. Camp Director Andrea McCormick wanted the kids to be submerged in the theater and training. Aiming for a step up from the youth day camps the Palace Theatre usually holds, McCormick tried to determine what would be the best experience for teens.

“For the first time I’m sleeping in a dorm room with a roommate and there’s scheduled meals,” Russo said. “It’s different.”

Along with rooming at Chester College, the teens took classes with industry professionals. Between rehearsing lines and dance steps, students received help with an array of skills including improvisation, vocal technique, and a little bit of tap and jazz. Tuesday, original Wicked cast member Kathy Deitch gave them a lesson in audition technique. Arielle Rawding, 17, said Deitch was down-to-earth and helpful.

“It was a neat experience to sing in front of her because she had already been through it,” Rawding, of Tewksbury, Mass., said.

At the end of the week-long session, the hard work pays off with a performance on the Palace Theatre stage. The show is open to the public, and McCormick hoped other teens would come to watch their peers perform. Showing the public what the kids and the camp were able to do was a double objective.

The students get to bask in the limelight of former Broadway stars by performing scenes and songs from Beauty and the Beast, Rent, Hairspray and other shows. Both Rawding and Russo agreed “It’s Your Wedding Day” from the Wedding Singer musical was their favorite song of the showcase because of its high energy.

Despite the close quarters, long rehearsals, classes during the summer, and the occasional hormone-induced drama, no squabbles were had among the group of teenage thespians.

“We are all here wanting to do the same thing,” Rawding said. “We all rehearse together; we are all sharing the same passion, so it doesn’t make it difficult to get along.”

Post-camp, McCormick said she hopes the Palace will hold more of these overnight camps and offer more weeks in the future.


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Wake up to ‘night Mother