News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Young Life: Theater camp At Riverside
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The folks at Riverside Theater will open their doors to their annual Summer Theater Camp for children and teens next Monday. Now in its 12th year, the camp has attracted a steadily mounting group of participants and, with the highest caliber crew of professional, veteran instructors, this is clearly not your ordinary summer camp.
“Our criteria for instructors are that they have broad experience with the performing arts and that they have the ability to communicate and relate their knowledge and skills to young people,” said the theater’s general manager and artistic director, Ron Wehman. He has taught voice at the camps since their inception.
Wehman is an example of the quality of staff that he talks about, having performed numerous principal stage-musical roles and directed ensembles at venues including the Kennedy Center and the White House. Also among the camp staff is celebrated actress Vilma Gil, whose résumé includes a number of Broadway performances, and who, in Wehman’s words, is a “triple threat,” whose talents include acting, singing and dancing.
While professionally accomplished, Gil is attentive to the talents of every particular group of camp participants and creates skits tailored to hone their skills, in which each child has an opportunity to play a role. Gil’s acting instruction includes guidance on pace, intonation, enunciation and basic stage blocking.
In addition to vocal and acting sessions, the camp’s curriculum includes choreography, audition skills and technical aspects of the theater, such as lighting, sound and set design.
“We’re uniquely qualified to teach the technical skills and techniques because we have the actual equipment on-site,” said Wehman. “Participants can see the rigging that allows objects to fly, the body packs with mics, the lighting that creates mood, and scrims that can change from opaque to semitransparent. They can get a unique firsthand perspective that is not available at other summer music camps.”
The site includes a scene shop that campers can tour and a makeup studio where they can see, for example, the technique that goes into conveying an injury.
While excellence is the byword of the camp, the family spirit that is a hallmark of Riverside Theater permeates the camp and the mutual support of group exercises provide the supportive atmosphere that allows participants to flourish.
“Many of the children may have never been onstage, but they gain a confidence from performing with a group of their peers that enhances their self-esteem,” said Wehman.
He recounts that one participant, originally too shy to attend camp without her mother, who emerged as a shining actress and has performed in a number of children’s theater productions.
Wehman also tells the stories of two other campers who went on to professional acting careers: Laura Yanez, who later starred in “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” at Riverside, has gone on to Broadway and national touring productions and Kristin Morris, who appeared in both Riverside children’s theater and mainstage shows, performed with the “Fiddler on the Roof” national tour.
“Honing any talent to a high level gives a certain confidence, which all kids need,” he said. “They may look back on their experience and think, ‘Gosh, I’m really good at this!’ and then use their talent and ability to help other people feel happier and uplifted.”
What: Riverside Center’s 2012 Summer Theater Camp
Where: Riverside Dinner Theater, 95 Riverside Parkway, Stafford
When: Monday, Aug. 6, to Friday, Aug. 17. Track I: Ages 8 through 12; 9 a.m. to noon; Track II: ages 13 to 18; 1–4 p.m.
Cost: $450 per child
Info/registration: 540/370-4300; riversidedt.com
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.