For the past six weeks, GRoW @ The Wallis’ Inaugural Summer Performing Arts Intensive brought together a powerful group of emerging artists, ages 8-16, from the surrounding Los Angeles community. Students participated in daily dance, music, and theater classes, led by program faculty Luke Kanter (Theater), Kelly Ciurczak (Dance), and Drew Lewis (Music), rehearsals for a culminating performance, and weekly master classes with guest artists in the professional theater industry. Pat Taylor, Education Programs Coordinator, designed this intensive to hone students’ creativity, intelligence, and performance skills in a professional, compassionate, and collaborative community.
Weekly guest artist master classes offered students insight into the professional inner workings of the musical theater industry from various lenses. One artist, Ana Miro, who specializes in Special Effects makeup, also known as SFX, shared the art of storytelling through visual effects. From bruising to scratches, students learned the secrets of creating realistic effects and had a chance to bring their own imaginative stories to life. In addition, Shari Washington Rhone, performer for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, offered insights to her experience touring in a major musical theater production. Shari taught iconic choreography from “Shake Your Tail Feather” and “Proud Mary.” As an actor and dance performer currently starring as Henry Cruz in “With Love” (Netflix), Vincent Rodriguez III shared the process of learning and performing musical theater choreography. Vincent taught a section of choreography from Matilda the Musical, emphasizing the artist’s individualized learning processes and to “breathe, focus and have fun!” Plus, Joseph Bwarie, a singer and Broadway veteran widely known for his record-breaking turn as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, individually coached students on taking their characters on a journey through authentic embodiment and expression. Finally, award-winner Christopher Murillo, a scenic designer, shared how stories are brought to life through authentic scenic worlds. He showed miniature models of his designs and emphasized the importance of collaboration and communication within the entire artistic team.
The Summer Intensive Program culminated with a ticketed performance of Musical Theater International’s Broadway Junior Revue, Raise Your Voice, at The Wallis’ largest venue, the Bram Goldsmith Theater. The family-friendly revue was composed of a thrilling selection of songs from classics like Guys and Dolls, Oliver! and Fiddler on the Roof Drafto Disney favorites The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and more. Program faculty, Luke Kanter (Director), Kelly Ciurczak (Choreographer), and Drew Lewis (Musical Director), assigned vocal parts and roles to encourage each student to shine as individuals within a powerful community. During rehearsals and the technical process, students had the unique opportunity to learn about and engage with the behind-the-scenes of a professional main-stage production: including lighting, sound, set design, costuming, and props. Through their journey, the ensemble developed into a tight-knit company, supporting each other to flourish as humans, artists, and performers. When asked, “Why Theater?” students responded with “community, confidence, and memories,” “self-expression and entertainment,” and “to be anyone I want to be.” The commanding and high-spirited student performance reflected the dedication, growth, and professionalism of the emerging artists in the program!
Jacque Forman, Education Intern
An LA native, Jacque is a dancer, choreographer, and student researcher entering her third year at Skidmore College as a double major in Dance and Neuroscience. She has trained and worked with dance companies/programs, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, BODYTRAFFIC, Interlochen Center for the Arts, ODC/Dance, and PARA.MAR Dance Theater. At Skidmore, she is independently researching the impacts of dance movement on focus and memory in elementary school students and is in a neuroscience lab exploring altruism and empathy in rats.
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