Over the past five years the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre’s Summer Theatre Project program has grown exponentially. From 68 students the first summer to a record breaking 170 students in this years shows, one has to wonder how it all comes together. As the programs creator, it was a labor of love and passion the first few years to get the kinks worked out and now a talented team comprised of 100% student artists from both college and high school, work together to create not only a musical, but they create friendships, confidence, cooperation and a love for the arts in the hearts and minds of 170 K-6 grade students.
This summer brought a great mix of former teaching artists and new ones together to workÂ to create organized chaos with these students. For four weeks these students met from 9 to 4, four days a week, to prepare for the show and learn the skills it takes to be a performer.Â If you have come into the building this past week you will find small pods of kids singing their hearts out, learning new dance skills, getting into costume for the first time, and being reminded to project, smile and have fun! I would be writing through rose colored glasses if did not inform you that there are also many times when it seems like the whole building might explode with craziness, but all in all the pace is fast, the excitement is high, and the kids are having a blast.
At the helm of it all are two great young artists – Anna Rice and Christopher Damlo. These two, both theatre students at Concordia College, are each directing a cast of about 85. Both of them have had previous experiences in directing on a small scale in the Directing program at Concordia, but both admit this is a much bigger beast! I sat down with Anna yesterday to see how she felt it was going and what she was most excited about this week. Here are her thoughts about the program.
Anna Rice –
“This whole process has been anything but simple and familiar. I have had two full directing experiences prior to this one, both of which were directing other college students in a small cast setting. The largest cast I had directed prior to this summer was six upperclassmen college students. In both of these experiences I had no artistic teamâ€¦which I anticipated to be something that made this summer easier. However, I have learned throughout the process that the ability that directors must strive most to have, is the ability to communicate effectively with an artistic team. It is difficult to articulate everything to a group of people, yet when you get a hang of itâ€¦ it makes the production process so much more rewarding. To see, not only your work, but the work of a whole group of people come together into a final product.
There is nothing in the world that is more rewarding than seeing the final product of a show pull together. Costumes, lights, set, et c. All scattered with the smiles and pure effort and passion of eighty five children.
The one thing about this process that has been most rewarding is, without a contest, the kids. Nothing makes an early morning of work more fun than doing it with a huge group of energetic innocence. Kids are so simple, and so fresh. This lends itself so much to the world of theatre. Kids have the impulse and the ability to create that is slowly tainted as we grow into adulthood. These kids don’t yet worry about work and love and social perceptionâ€¦ they just perform. And the amount of passion that the cast shows for the performance is what drives our artistic team.
Our show is ready, the kids our ready, the team is readyâ€¦ and I am giddy with anticipation at the audiences reception of the production. I just KNOW they will all love it as deeply as I do. Who doesn’t love 8 year-olds singing A Whole New World”
Check back for a conversation with other artistic team members and maybe even a few kids…Anna hit the nail on the head when she said kids have the ability to create and perform like no other age group…just being in the building when the students are here gives all of us a new sense of passion and energy…like everything we do is worth it.
To see the end product of this month long summer theatre program, attend one of the shows this weekend. Shows open June 22 and run through June 26. Some performance have already sold out, but you can get tickets to the remaining shows by visiting www.fmct.org or by calling 701-235-6778.
Photos in this post are from last summer production of Willy Wonka Kids!