At a dress rehearsal Tuesday, actors hustled across Manhattan, completing intricate choreography and jauntily singing. The only difference between this production and one in New York was the actors — a collection of young thespians no older than 18.
PlayMakers Repertory Company’s Summer Youth Conservatory wrapped over a month of instruction and rehearsal with the debut of “Guys and Dolls” last night at the Paul Green Theater. The production will continue through July 25.
The Summer Youth Conservatory offers young actors the opportunity to craft a professional production from top to bottom. High school-age participants are split into two groups: Theatre Intensive and TheatreTech. Over the course of the summer, Theatre Intensive students rehearse while TheatreTech students create the world their peers will inhabit, working with professionals on costumes, lighting and more.
The Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Nathan Detroit’s traveling crap shooting ring in 1930s New York and is directed by Jeffrey Meanza, PlayMakers associate artistic director.
Meanza has managed the program since its inception. Though the focus of training actors is clear, he believes his program has further-reaching benefits.
“These young actors really take care of each other — it’s something we try to imbue in them, that they’re a team, that they’re responsible for each other and that they’re working together in support of a common goal, which is what theater is,” Meanza said.
The program features over 40 students from 14 Triangle-area high schools collaborating with a full staff of PlayMakers’ professional directors, choreographers, musicians, designers and more.
Meanza said “Guys and Dolls” brings the same quality of performance patrons have come to expect from the company.
This standard is what attracts young actors. Ainsley Seiger and Ethan Fox star as Miss Adelaide and Nathan Detroit, respectively; Seiger will be a senior at Apex High School in the fall while Fox will be a freshman at Vassar College.
“I feel genuinely supported at the conservatory; in a high school environment, theater often feels like a competition,” Seiger said. “But here, I can come in and sing in the strongest way I can and not feel put down at all,” Fox said.
For Fox, a three-time attendee, the conservatory is a chance to develop as an actor.
“You’re able to forget the stress and worries of everyday life when you come onto a set that you helped create and that you get to bring an audience into,” Fox said.
Choreographer and associate director Matthew Steffens said there isn’t a better show for the summer than “Guys and Dolls.”
“It has heart, it has humor, and the kids get that, and I really think the audience will enjoy it,” he said.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misstated some of the days the show is playing. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.