Through the Stage Door: Art Lives Here

A student's description of her time in an intensive summer art program (The Papermill Playhouse Summer Musical Theater Conservatory)

On my friend's Facebook the first thing you see in her 'About Me' is the quote "Art lives here."

I find that the greatest thing about being a part of the Papermill Playhouse Musical Theater Summer Conservatory is that art really does live there. There is so much art everywhere. I love being able to hear people practicing duets in the hall during my monologue class, to walk down the hall and laugh as people overdramatize the new scene from acting, or see people practicing the choreography to the opening number during section rehearsal through the glass walls of the fishbowl–a room that has a whole front wall made of glass.

One time someone was playing his guitar at lunch and a ton of people started clapping to the beat and drumming on the guitar case and singing along when they could catch onto the lyrics. It felt like a moment out of some cheesy movie musical. Except it wasn't cheesy; it was cool, and it wasn't a movie musical; it was just real life at it's most awesome. 

The past week has definitely been an interesting one, mainly because we began "section rehearsals." I am in Sarah Lazarus' section. It's the largest and longest section in the show, entitled "The American Dream." We spend the last two hours of everyday and the first four hours on Friday learning music and staging. What you do during rehearsal really depends on your section.  In John Housley's section, "The Joint is Jumpin'"–based off of the many night clubs featured in musicals–everyone in the section seems to be working most of the time.  Whereas in Sarah's section, we have more down time since there aren't as many group numbers. 

Section rehearsals haven't been too eventful yet from what I can tell. But Friday for the last four hours of the day we practiced the Opening and learned the staging and choreography for the closing of Act One.  The Opening, Act One Finale, and the Finale of the concert are directed by Mark Hobee. This was pretty serious and intense.  It was one of those times where you know there really shouldn't be any messing around. If we all gathered anything from that rehearsal it was that doing your homework and memorizing your lyrics is important! I also personally quickly caught on to the fact you need to be prepared to have new music and choreography thrown at you very fast and you need to learn it just as quickly.

For a taste of what will be heard in the concert there are songs from musicals like In the Heights, Shrek: The Musical, Newsies (movie), Once on this Island, The Wiz, Wicked, Mary Poppins, Chicago, and many more. 

In other news, classes have been going well. All my classes have gotten smaller because students in the dance section needed to have their schedules changed so they could be in the same dance class.  I for one am still in all of the same classes as I have been for the past three weeks.  A smaller class is kind of nice because it feels a lot more personal and people get to do more in the time we have for each class. 

In Acting we performed our scenes from Avenue Q. If you don't know the show, Avenue Q is a musical comedy done with puppets and is about Princeton–who just got out of college with his BA in English–trying to find his purpose in life. It was a challenge because the scene seemed so serious and dramatic on paper but then it was supposed to be a comedy.  We did not use puppets for the scene but moved as the puppets instead and in the end (after a lot of puppet dancing to TikTok and a very aggressive game of running bases–WARNING: Wear knee pads and bring ice packs before entering an improv game of  running bases using an invisible ball in a room full of young actors, it gets rough) it wound up being a really funny scene. 

In Monologues, we got the option to choose a second monologue or keep working on our original piece.  We have now started "coaching sessions" where we sit and perform the monologue of our choice for our teacher in front of the class. Then he spends about 10 minutes helping us improve. Coaching sessions are hard because of the fact you are putting yourself out there to be critiqued which is a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. But it really does help you improve and it teaches you how to take and use advise to the best of your abilities. 

In Dance and Musical Theater we haven't done too much this week. In Dance we spent the first few days learning how to waltz, a combination of a sort of swing dance, and got to practice the opening number so we would have it fresh in our minds for the big rehearsal on Friday. And Thursday two classes–mine included–had a "deep relaxation" day. It is hard to explain what happens but it is very calm and in the end you feel a bit like you've been zoning out for a long time and some people felt colder because it lowers your body temperature. As for Musical Theater, we performed individual full length songs that were either comedic, dramatic, or character based.  Then on Thursday we got to practicing our duets or trios.  For the next week we will be performing them for each other in our classes. 

The last thing that went on this week was the theme for Friday.  Each Friday there is a theme and people can come in dressed up to win a prize.  This week's theme was "pop stars."  Some examples of what people came as were the "Jonas Brothers,"  the "Spice Girls," and "Beyonce" with her back up dancers from the Single Ladies video. Things really seem to be coming along and I can't believe that I am starting my second to last week in the program! As a reminder the New Voices Concert is Friday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 31 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Papermill Playhouse. Tickets cost $22.50 and $38.75, you can buy them by calling 973-376-4343 or by going online to www.papermill.org.


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