OC performing arts camps teach more than just drama and dance numbers.
Whether your child dreams of lighting up Broadway, dancing in “The Nutcracker,” or is just looking to make lasting memories with their peers, performing arts camps may be the way to go this summer. Back in the day, parents with stars-in-the-making used to have to commute to Los Angeles for prestigious summer theater and dance programs. However, the performance bug took a big bite out of OC for the past couple of decades with nationally recognized theaters, universities, and institutions popping up all over the county offering onstage and backstage training for children of all ages at all levels.
Learning the ins and outs of dance and theater is more than just having your moment in the spotlight. The various summer camps offer such benefits as self-esteem building, bonding with peers, college and career prep opportunities, learning and discovering new skills, and the freedom to get creative. Every performing arts program and camp has their own experience and learning objectives, so you and your child will have to decide which O.C. camp or program fits their individual pursuits and needs.
The Chance Theater in Anaheim challenges kids in grades 7-12 to find their inner voice in its summer Speak Up program, a six-week camp that teaches its students the fundamentals of storytelling, improvisation, playwriting and public speaking. For 14 years, the regional theater has presented this opportunity for tweens and teens to act as a team in writing, designing, creating and performing an original theatrical production.
“Many performing arts programs are ‘star-maker’ programs, designed for the actor in center stage. Our programs are designed with the objective of using theater as a tool to build confidence and focus on what makes each individual student unique,” said Chance Theater Education Director Karen O’ Hanlon, “Teaching our students that they already have what they need and providing them with a safe environment to explore storytelling in a creative and exploratory way.”
The program meets three times a week for six weeks over the summer and is offered in a morning session for grades 7-9 and an afternoon session for grades 10-12. Anaheim resident and high school sophomore Jaztyne Lim, 15 – who participated in the Speak Up Program last summer – said she would recommend the camp to local children looking to not only grow as an artist, but as a person.
“It’s such an enriching experience that allows children to develop their abilities in the different aspects of theater in an environment that encourages them to be more confident in who they are and more compassionate to those around them,” said Lim, “It’s not simply a theater program that solely focuses on technical knowledge; it’s an experience that pushes one to be a better person off-stage.”
The Chance Theater will also offer a one-week summer camp “Creating Character” for kids in grades 4-6, in which they will learn the core concepts of acting, character development and improvisation. The week will culminate with a showcase performance for family and friends.
Perfecting the Process
Whether your child is looking to advance in their acting or playwriting, or they are simply interested in being familiarized in the world of theater, the Tony Award-winning regional theater South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa offers a two-week Summer Acting Workshop in the theater’s conservatory for grades 3-12. The training presents an introduction to both acting and theater by exploring the talents and gifts of your one-of-a-kind kid – including body, voice and creativity.
SCR also offers Musical Theater workshops for both beginning and advanced Broadway lovers, as well as a Teen Improv workshop for your child to learn the art of thinking on their feet. These specialized training classes appeal most to students who are looking to cultivate their technique, by emphasizing skill building and developing a deeper understanding of the acting process
“In all our work, the Conservatory emphasizes ‘process.’ In other words, we view acting as a craft. We don’t attempt to put on a show in two weeks; rather we focus on real understanding and growth,” said SCR Conservatory and Educational Programs Director Hisa Takakuwa.
“The kids certainly have fun, but we really also want them to learn, be challenged, and leave us with a deeper understanding and experience of the skills it takes to be an actor, and how to tell stories and create characters imaginatively and truthfully… we have an amazing, experienced, faculty of passionate professional artists and a state-of-the-art facility to offer.”
The SCR workshop is partially spent exploring acting in smaller peer groups and partially with guest artists who specialize in a wide range of specialties – everything from improvisation to miming to playwriting to stage combat. Your child may also have an international experience while participating in the SCR workshops, as students often come from different states and countries to partake in the programs.
“We care deeply about what we do here and the quality and professionalism with which we do it. We believe that building life and arts skills go hand-in-hand,” said Takakuwa.
College and Career Steppingstone
The pressure to get into the right school or college is exceptionally intense for kids who aspire to a career in the performing arts. Attending summer camps that specialize in the arts can be a solid springboard to develop skills and work with distinguished artists, receive insight into the entertainment field, and even explore college and other major options.
The Summer Academies in the Arts, presented by the UC Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts, offers intensive courses focused on college and career preparatory work in art, dance, drama, music and technology. The various arts academies are one to three weeks in length, ending with a final presentation for family and friends.
“Students get a glimpse of life as an undergraduate arts major, in which they receive practical and technical instruction in small classes taught by graduate instructors, professionals in the field and UCI faculty,” said UCI Outreach programs coordinator Kaysie Jose.
“With rigorous college-level coursework, the option to receive university credit, social and professional networking, and even having the opportunity to reside on campus, it is an immersive summer experience perfect for learning and development in a fun, challenging environment.”
Does your teen have visions of being the next Lin-Manuel Miranda? The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa offers the chance of a lifetime to middle school and high school Broadway aspirants to train under professional actors and actresses. The Five Days of Broadway program aims to prepare your child for the big stage – or just learn new dancing, singing, improvisation, or timing skills with their peers.
In 2017, the camp was ran by Broadway actress Emily Rozek (“Wicked”), Broadway actor Stephen Buntrock (“Beauty and the Beast”), Broadway actor Danny Gurwin (“The Scarlet Pimpernel”), Broadway actress Erin Dilly (“A Christmas Story”) and television, film and Broadway actor Hank Stratton (“The Man Who Came to Dinner”). Various Broadway stars will return to the Center to train the young campers this summer.
After five days of learning an ensemble number with music, scene work, dance, technique and repertoire under professional artists and educators, the students will perform for their friends and loved ones. The program is meant to be both fun and educational, and campers have the chance to learn valuable information from real Broadway stars about the business aspects of working as a professional stage actor.
Your prima ballerina or passionate dancer can keep their muscles warm throughout the summer in some of the most notable and widely recognized programs – right here in Orange County. Sprinkled throughout the county are prestigious ballet and dance companies and universities that host summer camps for your tiny dancer to learn new techniques, bond with fellow performers, and train directly with professional dancers.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts and its ABT William J. Gillespie School offers the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum, a ballet program designed specifically for children as young as 3-years-old and older. The ABT California Summer Intensive program is aimed for more advanced dancers, ages 12-18, to train in a rigorous environment with ABT’s expert dancers in preparation for their fall terms. The program takes place on the UC Irvine campus, and dancers are even encouraged to stay in the dorms to have three weeks of intensive and focused training.
The expert teachers from American Ballet Theatre and other respectable companies also train students at various O.C.-based companies, such as Southland Ballet and Anaheim Ballet. Anaheim Ballet offers both senior (ages 10-20) and junior (ages 9-12) summer intensive programs, in addition to weekly afternoon classes. Admission to the intensive programs is based on auditions, but the afternoon classes are open to everyone.
The summer program has its dancers work daily with world-renowned teachers and directors, but Anaheim Ballet administrator Ashley Duree said the program strives for its campers to take more away from the program than just dancing, including: “Personal growth resulting from non-judgmental training, patient persistence, self-correction and peer appreciation.”
Other Anaheim Ballet objectives include developing students’ classical ballet technique and artistry, immersing dancers in diverse disciplines, providing session-end performance opportunities and creating a safe, positive environment that encourages risk-taking and growth.
“Anaheim Ballet regularly trains and inspires students from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. Students attending our intensive session have gone on to perform with Anaheim Ballet and ballet companies around the world, as well as TV, film and theme parks,” said Duree, “Others have used the Anaheim Ballet experience to raise their standards of personal excellence in other areas of their lives.”
Life’s a Stage
While performing arts camps and programs are geared around learning and honing one’s craft in theater or dance, many also place an emphasis on one of the most important objectives of all: having fun. Summers are meant to take a break from rigorous school schedules and curriculum, and any activities that your child engages in should not only be enjoyable, but also memorable.
The Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach presents an entertaining and intimate theater setting for kids to receive hands-on experience and one-on-one instruction in the performing arts. The younger kids (ages 7-8) can participate in Storybook Day Camp, while the older kids (ages 9-13) work on the musical production “Hamilton and Friends Redux.”
Laguna Playhouse youth theater director Donna Inglima said the main target of the theater’s summer camps is to introduce students to the joy and art of performing at a young age. Industry professionals lead the camps, so campers will receive professional training.
“Each camp is designed to give each age group the opportunity to expand their skills in a safe and nurturing environment. Campers are encouraged to develop their individual characters while learning to work with others in an ensemble,” said Inglima.
The Laguna Playhouse camps are small in enrollment – musical theater class is limited to 18 campers, while the Storybook Summer Camps is limited to 12 campers – which Inglima said makes it possible for the students to get more individual attention and performance opportunities than they would in a larger class. The camps also offer the opportunity for campers to perform on the Playhouse stage with props and lights.
Jennifer Tolkachev of Irvine, whose 10-year-old daughter Katerina participated in the Laguna Playhouse camp last summer, said she would recommend the camp to anyone who has a child of all experience levels that is passionate about musical theater. She added that Katerina not only grew as a performer, but made lots of friends in the camp.
“I have an extensive musical theater background, and I was amazed at what the musical director and choreographer at Laguna Playhouse were able to accomplish in two short weeks with a relatively inexperienced cast,” said Tolkachev, “They used each child’s strengths and expanded on it to give them the opportunity to shine. The result was impressive choreography and vocal execution of some of Broadway’s most challenging numbers.”
By Jackie Moe
2018 Orange County Performing Arts Summer Camps
American Ballet Theater
ABT California Summer Intensive Program
Ages 12-18; dates TBA
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa 92626
Summer Intensive Program
Ages 9-20; dates TBA
280 East Lincoln Avenue, Anaheim 92805
Speak Up Summer Program
Grades 7-12; June 18 – July 27, 2018
5522 E. La Palma Avenue, Anaheim 92807
UC Irvine Claire Trevor School
Summer Academies in the Arts
Late June to Mid August
4000 Mesa Road, Irvine 92697
“Hamilton and Friends Redux” – July 9-20
Storybook Summer Camp – July 10-19
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Five Days of Broadway
Junior High Week: June 25-29
High School Week: July 2-6
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa 92626
Summer Acting Workshop
South Coast Repertory
Summer Acting Workshop: July 16-28; July 30-Aug. 11
Musical Theatre Workshop: July 16-28; July 30-Aug. 11
Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop: July 30-Aug. 11
Teen Improv: Dates pending
655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa 92628