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Sunday October 2nd

PlayMakers summer program gives teens a chance to shine

At PlayMakers Repertory Company this summer, high school students will dominate the stage.

PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory will return for its fifth year after a hiatus last summer for construction in the Center for Dramatic Art.

The Conservatory aims to provide professional-level theater training for youth in the Triangle area, said Jennifer Wales, education manager for PlayMakers.

“Students get the full experience of being in the theater,” Wales said. “They are held to every standard that PlayMakers (artists) are held to.”

Students in the month-long program take classes with professionals in the field — some of whom are UNC professors — and rehearse and perform in the Paul Green Theatre.

“Having this many professionals attached to the program is a unique experience for the students,” said Jeffrey Meanza, associate artistic director for PlayMakers.

“They are interacting with professional artists morning until night.”

The Conservatory will conclude with four student performances of this year’s production, “Urinetown: The Musical.”

Rising ninth graders through recent high school graduates can audition and apply for the Conservatory’s Theatre Intensive and Theatre Tech programs.

Young actors in Theatre Intensive take classes in the morning and rehearse in the afternoon, Wales said.

Budding technicians in Theatre Tech are trained in scene, costume and lighting design.

Participants will begin taking classes a week before the Conservatory starts, and then will apply their skills in apprenticeships with PlayMakers staff, where they will create the world of “Urinetown,” Wales said.

For the first time, this year’s Conservatory will offer middle school thespians the opportunity to take week-long classes in the Theatre Quest program.

Previously, both middle and high school students could participate in the Conservatory’s ending musical, but this summer the two age groups will be separated.

“Middle school students will still have the same level of time commitment,” Wales said. “But this year we separated them to better serve both age groups.”

Kathy Williams, a UNC lecturer who coordinates Theatre Quest, said that the division allows middle school students to sample different aspects of theater without the pressure of having to audition for the program, like high school students do.

She said that the Conservatory gives students the opportunity to build a sense of discipline, push themselves creatively and concentrate on their craft.

“It has all the elements of a great summer,” she said.

Meanza said the young artists’ passion for theater has made the Center for Dramatic Art a more exciting place during the summer.

“Before, the building used to be quiet in the summer,” he said. “Now there is much more energy and life.”

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