WILLSBORO — North Country students in grades six through high school participated in several workshops presented by professional actors, singers and musicians during the Festival of Theater Arts in Willsboro.
Starting the day with mock battles, the young comedians, in addition to displaying athletic prowess, were encouraged to stir as they engaged with each other. Among the scenarios was Macduff’s challenge to Macbeth: “I have no words: my voice is in my sword: you are a villain bloodier than words can give you!”
Other aspects of the workshop included voice engagement, acting, song coaching and theater technology, and ended with a question and answer period.
SO MANY FACETS
Following the event, Depot Theater Executive Director Kim Rielly said, “I think the festival was a tremendous success. Jennifer Moore’s vision for the day’s program worked very well and the many collaborating professional instructors were wonderful. The kids especially enjoyed the stage fight portion of the day.
Rielly continued, “It was great to see how committed the attendees were to discovering so many facets of the theater arts. In fact, during the question and answer period at the end of the day, there was a lot of talk about navigating to potential careers in the industry; from acting to sound design. The event aligns perfectly with Depot Theater Academy’s plans to expand our education and outreach to regional schools.
Several students lent their solo talents and received professional reviews from Kenny Greene and Adam Michael Telford. Among the deeper suggestions were: Find material you really like, which is very important; find out what’s going on with the song; Do, if you know it, you can do it; And, the power of stillness.
Boquet Valley Central School’s Ella Lobdell, who sang “Right Hand Man” from “Something Rotten,” said she felt “the event went really well and was super educational; especially for the people who are new to musical theater I think with singing, learning to open your airways and being able to place your voice to create a bigger sound was super helpful and something I will use in future performances.
Mallory Arnold of Willsboro CS said, “It was great to have so many kids from all over the area participating. I learned a lot at all the workshops and everyone seemed to have had so much fun. It was a nice day. The stage combat techniques I learned were especially fun. I haven’t done anything like this in a long time and learned a lot of new moves. My favorite part was definitely the duel at the end of Macbeth. Many thanks to Mrs. Moore for organizing all of this, and to the Depot Theater and all the wonderful people who came to teach.
TEACHERS ‘BROUGHT ENERGY’
“I loved this festival so much,” said Erica Klein of Willsboro. “It was great to see how people from so many schools could unite around a similar interest and learn more about it, and the teachers there brought an energy that was almost impossible to replicate. enjoyed trying my hand at stage combat and improving my monologue skills.
Discussing the impetus for organizing the festival, Jennifer Moore said, “Theatre has played such an important role in the lives of so many of our students and their families here in Willsboro for decades. For over twenty years Derrick Hopkins directed many productions while I did the prep and musical direction, but now he teaches at AVCS and we had to reinvent teaching theater at WCS without him at the heart. of the program.
“While we couldn’t launch full-scale production this year, we didn’t want to completely halt the program. With that in mind, I reached out to Depot Theater Executive Director Kim Rielly and the Depot Theater Academy program to partner on this Festival of Theater Arts project. The idea was met with genuine enthusiasm and commitment to quality programming that could support students, school theater programs across the region, and serve as an introductory experience to the academy’s extraordinary curriculum. of the Depot Theatre. Once the decision was made, all the pieces fell into place. We had expert practitioners from Northway to Broadway offering workshops on voice, classic stage combat, song accompaniment, monologues, and college and career advice.
These partnerships are particularly essential for small rural schools as a means of enriching educational opportunities for their students. They allow students to look outward and explore viable career options in the arts. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we depend on the arts to get through tough times. There’s room for anyone willing to do the work and it’s a rewarding life if you’re supported along the journey. It was, I think, the big takeaway of the day. Professional educators and teaching artists are here in our own backyard to help students develop the skills to live in those dreams.
Students from eight different schools were represented, which surprised me. I felt that both professional communities – our music/drama teachers in regional schools and the professional theater community affiliated with Depot Theater – had confidence in our ability to create something transformative for our students, whatever their level. of experience. I am honored that people seem to believe that when we present an opportunity to students, they can be sure that children of all ages will receive the best instruction we can provide in a safe and enjoyable learning environment.
We had the usual lineup of theater kids; those who have “done” theater for most of their lives in school and community productions, those who have been able to take private lessons and really focus on skill development (mostly singing lessons) and those who have little experience but who are looking for a welcoming community that supports them as they are. We had all of that and more, so all things considered, the day was a great success.
In addition to organizers Jennifer Moore and Kim Rielly, credit went to Gigi Mason, Adam Michael Tilford, Kenney Green, Alisa Endsley, Kathy Recchia, Lindsy Pontius, Paul Schnabel, Scott Gibbs and Sally Urban for their contributions to the success of the ‘workshop.