Young theater enthusiasts returned to upper school campus this summer for another run of Summer @ The Conservatory, during which students in a variety of grade and experience levels learned the fundamentals and finer points of performing for stage and screen.
The first session was a three-day course on screen acting, in which attendees underwent training in various film acting techniques and principles. “Students spent the first two days learning the art of how to act on camera and how it’s different from acting in on stage,” said performing arts chair and Summer @ the Conservatory artistic director Laura Lang-Ree. “They are on camera from day one, learning the nuances of being a film actor in real time.”
Students also did screen tests and created a short film on day three of the workshop. “They have a whole full shoot day on the third day, where they are filmed on-set,” said Lang-Ree.
In July, Summer @ The Conservatory featured a three-week session that included Conservatory Presents for grades 5-9 and Conservatory Intensive for grades 9-12. Students from each group auditioned for roles in productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “In the Village of the Brothers Grimm” and “Star-Cross Lovers,” which were all performed on the final day of the program.
The plays performed by the students were chosen by directors, who looked for works that would be both fun and appropriately challenging. “We love to pick things that will excite our students and challenge them in their acting world,” said Ellie Lang-Ree ’19, who directed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Conservatory Presents program. Directors also teach theater classes in the mornings and offer support to students in their learning. Students also dove into the study of musical theater, including dances from musicals such as “Hamilton.” “They got a taste of a bunch of different musical theater styles,” said Brandi Reinhard, a director who graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in theater performance.
The Conservatory Intensive program was open by audition only to students entering grades 9-12 who wished to deepen their knowledge of theater and expand their acting skills into new territory. This year’s students explored concepts including comedia – a style of three-act play from the Spanish Golden Age that incorporated comedic elements – and abstract forms of theater. “This particular group is really close,” said Laura Lang-Ree, “and they get into skills that are appropriate for their age level. Summer @ the Conservatory grows with our students and our performers love to return year after year, growing as theater artists.”
The program also received visits from industry professionals, who delivered special workshops. Improv performer Justin Smith, who has worked with the Upright Citizens Brigade and Second City, returned to deliver another improv workshop, and actor Fred Cross, whose credits include “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Office,” gave a workshop on film acting.