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Featured Article: California Summer Youth Programs in Community Theatres

This month, we're taking a look at summer youth theatre camps and programs in California. We have a feature on Stage Kids, CA; info and advice from camp and program directors; and recommendations of youth productions. Find out a little more about what types of programs CA community theatres offer for summer.


Spotlight On: Gary Daigneault, Summer Youth Theatre Program Director and President of Theatre 29 in Twentynine Palms

"We are not training performers, we are training audiences.

Once a child has gone through an entire rehearsal

and then performance cycle, they will go to

live theater for the rest of their lives"

If you offer youth theatre programs/classes in non-summer months, how are your summer camps/programs different?

At Theatre 29 in Twentynine Palms, we offer a Summer Youth Theatre program during the month of July. We have 30, 7-12 year olds that meet from 10-12 every Monday through Friday, and another 30 12-17 year olds meet from 1-3. We first teach auditions, then they audition, then we cast a show, 3-5 kids are designated as crew and run lights, sound, and sets. Each age group then puts on 3 performances at the end of the program. This year we are doing Disney's Aladdin Jr.

With so many camps and programs offered to youth each summer, how do you attract first time attendees? How do you attract repeat attendees each summer?

Our first year we were a little light on attendance, but now we fill up right away with alumni and friends. four of our volunteers are teachers so they get the word out at the schools. I own the local Radio station so publicity is not a problem.

What is the biggest challenge in coordinating a summer camp/program? If another community theatre is considering a summer camp program (or is looking for new ideas for an existing one), what advice do you have for them?

The biggest challenge is making sure the curriculum is well planned and realistic. My advice is to sit down with everyone involved and make sure all the details are worked out ahead of time.

It's Never Too Early: Gary Talks Advice and Insight on Preparation & Auditioning in Theatre 29's Youth Theater Program

Theatre 29 in Twentynine Palms is getting ready for their third consecutive year of their very successful “Summer Youth Theater” program. Program Director Gary Daigneault says a big part of the theatrical process is preparation and the importance of the audition is highly stressed.

The All-Volunteer Non-profit Community Theater runs two sessions. From July 5th to August 4th the “Juniors”, ages 7-12, meet every Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon, the “Seniors”, ages 12-17, meet from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm.

When the letters first go home in early June informing parents that their child has been accepted, they are told to help the child pick out an audition song appropriate for an audition, and assist them in getting the backing track loaded on a phone, mp3 player, IPad, or any digital playback device.

The first day of the program (the only one where parents are allowed to be in attendance) reviews the programs policies, rules and expectations. Parents and student can ask questions about make-up, costuming, schedules, tickets, etc.

On the second day it is down to business and all about the audition process. The students first practice their audition song; work on simple choreography, reading from a script, and in general get to know what will be required.

The third day is an “Audition rehearsal”, where the full audition is run-through. The Artistic Directors, Music Director, and Choreographer all critique them and tell them how to make their audition better. All of the students are watching and hearing the critiques so all are benefiting from the instruction.

The fourth day is the actual Audition, done in as realistic a manner as we can to illustrate how important the audition is in showing your talent in the best light, and thus getting the parts they want to play. At the end of the fourth day, casting is announced and the fifth day is a read-through and then getting down to the rehearsal routine.

Days are broken down to blocking sessions, learning music, and Choreography. Another group of 3-5 kids from each group are designated as the technical crew and start learning the sound Board, Light Board, and building props and sets. Kids that are not directly involved in an activity all pitch in to help. We carefully stress the importance of, and respect due, the Technical crew.

At the end of the four-week program each age group then puts on 3 performances each of the show, this year we have chosen “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.”. The performances run three days, August 5th, 6th, and 7th, with Juniors doing their show, a one hour break, and then the Seniors perform.


Stage Kids California Talks Summer Camp!

Stage Kids develops and nurtures young people's potential through classes, workshops and performances—"Building Characters One Child at a Time"

Talking with Operations Manager, Susan Rojas, about

Stage Kids California's summer programs.

How are your summer camps different (both in structure and in production) than your "Spotlight Musical Productions"?

Our summer camps are a full day of fun and theater where the kids learn and then perform a full show in only 2-3 weeks. The kids also get to be part of the process, helping with sets, props, costumes and even creating the lobby bios and decor. There are no parent hours required for camp but many parents still do!

Our spotlight productions normally rehearse 3 days a week for an average of 7 weeks, prior to performances. Parents are needed to help with sets, props, costumes, etc.

What is the daily schedule/structure of your summer camp programs?

After the campers are dropped off and checked in by a staff member, the day starts with team building, camp games and then they break into groups to work on scenes, songs and dances. They have a break for snack and again for lunch and the afternoons are spent working together on the other areas for the production and going over what they learned in the morning. The day normally ends with a group activity.

There are a lot of summer camps to choose from - both performing arts and otherwise - for youth. What do you think it is about a performing arts camp that keeps kids coming back?

Kids have a safe place to be creative, be themselves, have fun and make friends. We have many families who have been with us 3, 4 and 5 summers and plan their vacations around our camps. We focus on each child's unique gifts and build upon them, therefore building the child. This follows our mission of "Building Characters ~ One Child at a Time".

How do you attract first-time participants?

Many of our first time participants are referred by friends or family members who recommend our program. Others find us via social media (Facebook or Instagram), Yelp or Google.

What is the biggest challenge in coordinating a summer camp?

Location, staffing, and knowing your demographic.

If a community theatre is considering a summer camp program (or is looking for new ideas for an existing one), what advice do you have for them?

Be different, offer something that your competitors don't.


Looking for Youth Productions? Stage Rights Has You Covered!

While you likely already have your summer lineup planned, here's a list of TYA productions from the Stage Rights catalog. You might just find the perfect show for your youth theatre group or camp!

Based in Los Angeles and founded in 2000, Stage Rights is one of the foremost independent theatrical publishers in the United States, providing stage performance rights for a wide range of plays and musicals to theater companies, schools, and other producing organizations across the country and internationally. As a licensing agent, Stage Rights is committed to providing each producer the tools they need for financial and artistic success. Stage Rights is dedicated to the future of live theatre, offering special programs that champion new theatrical works.


Not for Everyone: One Community Theatre Explains the Challenge in Producing a Summer Youth Program:

"We do not have a summer program. Our Fall & Spring sessions are very popular with nearly 60 kids doing each show. We need the summer off… Plus the added expense of running the air conditioners all summer greatly increases the cost."