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Written on August 18th, 2012 , Arts in Community, Arts-in-Ed, Performing, Teaching Artistry Tags: , ,

Picture if you will, a starry-eyed performer/teaching artist. The year is 1996, and said artist has been on faculty at the Community School of Music and Arts in Ithaca, NY for about a year. A brand new program, Star Search, has a writer/vocal coach and a dance choreographer, but is without a theatre person…. and thus began my love affair with a project I have done, without fail and with supreme joy, every August since.

Star Search is a no-audition, 2-week camp for folks between the ages of 10 and 16 in which we put on an original full-length musical, and everyone sings, everyone dances, and everyone acts. Everyone makes their own costume using creative problem solving instead of money, and the cast designs and creates all props and set decorations.

But what’s the big deal? Surely such projects aren’t THAT rare, right? Welll, yes and no. On the first day, we have ‘placement’ auditions, deliberately ‘challenging their strengths and strengthening their challenges’, as my friend Doreen says. So they will have a solo and may or may not be strong melodically. They will learn stage combat and physical comedy, even if they do not excel in hand-eye coordination. They will study lines, think about character arc, get choreography, and notate their blocking (which they only receive once), even if all of these are brand new ideas. Most importantly, they will learn how hard artistic work brings such tremendous joy, and that a piece of the joy a performance brings to an audience is in the bold faith and commitment to the piece and the characters themselves.

Tonight, once again, I witnessed that magic happen; 12 students took over a script called “CSI: Macbeth”. Most played two roles, and the eldest was 13. We had sword fights, a pie fight to the Blue Danube Waltz (as performed in tutus and bloody aprons by the 3 Stooges), silly songs by dead Shakespearian kings, pop music karaoke, and lots of classic vaudevillian physical comedy. And the kids were amazing. Their courage, their timing, their energy and passion…. who could not be moved? In these times when there is so much pressure to conform, bail, comment rather than create, may such programs where anyone and everyone is asked to reach for the stars, leap into space, and sell the scene/song/soft shoe continue, unabashed and sublime, and may we feel honored to take our small part in their fruition.

If you are interested in learning more about CSMA: http://www.csma-ithaca.org/index.html

 

 

 

 

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