Wednesday, 26 June 2019 15:01

Intensely Prepared: GR Civic readies teens for a life on the stage

Written by  Kayla Sosa
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"School of Rock" from GR Civic's 2018 summer intensive. "School of Rock" from GR Civic's 2018 summer intensive. Photo credit: Studio3twenty.

This summer, teens at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre are taking the lead in putting on two very different, but equally challenging productions.

The Summer Repertory Theatre Intensive is a summer program for teens in 7th through 12th grade who want to learn about all the various aspects of putting together a theatrical production.

Kristin Tomlin is the SRTI program coordinator, as well as director of one of the productions. She said the program provides an opportunity for young artists to work on a professional production at a theater.

“Look around Grand Rapids and West Michigan and see the number of really, highly talented young artists we have,” Tomlin said. “We kind of looked at how could we bridge that gap and get students where they may have a lot of talent and interest but not much training, to preparing them to going into conservatory or university programs.”

The SRTI is split into two tracks for students: performance and production.

“While it’s good for them to have training from both (tracks), allowing them to really focus gives them stuff to put on their resume or portfolio,” Tomlin said.

In the afternoons, Monday through Thursday, students come to the theater to take classes in their chosen track.

“So if they’re a production student and they want to focus on costumes, they will take all sorts of production classes but their predominant focus would be the costuming,” Tomlin said. “If they are a performance student, they would take acting classes, musical theater classes, dance classes, improv classes, things that are very focused on performance, but they do get an opportunity with electives to take a little bit of the production stuff.”

After classes, the students have a dinner break before coming back at night to rehearse and prep.

This year, the SRTI students will be performing the play Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the musical All Shook Up, a modern story based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The narrative centers on Chad, the cool guy on the block, who rolls into a dreary town that is set in its old-fashioned ways against music, dancing and hand-holding.

“They’re just against love in general,” said Josh Keller, music director for the show. “(Chad) doesn’t see anything wrong with (love) and the town is sort of finding their love life back into the town again.”

In addition, the musical is based entirely on songs by Elvis Presley, like Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock and All Shook Up.

“Presley was sort of like Chad,” Keller explained. “Bad boy, the girls all loved him.”

Keller said the music of Presley and the choreography makes it an especially high-energy show. Listening to the stories Elvis was telling through his music, Keller said he can’t help but be grateful.

“I think it’s just given me a window into the past to appreciate what we have now,” Keller said. “Also, I’m seeing more through music how relevant love is and how people can still feel the same things.”

The other production is a version of Alice in Wonderland. Tomlin is directing and said there are 25 characters, but only 11 actors.

“We’ll be doing a lot of quick costume changing,” she said. “We’ll work in rehearsals to really develop unique characteristics for each character, unique traits, unique ways of moving, of speaking.”

All the music you’ll hear is written originally for the show by composer Todd Lewis.

“I was just thinking of ways to flesh out the world of Wonderland,” Tomlin said. “There’s so much magic that has to happen and I thought that having unique, specific, original music to the show could add that little bit of magic. And that could also bring in a way for a local artist to work with the students, so they’ll be performing with this music for the first time.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
July 27-Aug. 3

All Shook Up
July 26-Aug. 4

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
30 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids
grct.org

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