Laughter and cheers echoed throughout Thoresen Theatre as participants in Randolph’s WildCat Theatre Conservatory deliberately high stepped and stumbled their way to the stage to receive an honorary, red nose. The students—ranging in age from third through sixth grade—had to earn the nose as part of their clowning class.
The class is a new addition to Randolph’s two-week theatre camp, which concludes with a public showcase Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Thoresen Theatre. In its fourth year, the camp drew more than 60 students for 2015, ranging in age from kindergarten to high school. The program uses theatre to teach life skills, while providing a strong theatre foundation. Nationally known theatre professionals and educators work with Randolph interns during the camp.
The theatre conservatory program is designed to reach a variety of age groups and skill levels, including high school students looking to enter the theatre field, students interested in learning the basics, and even younger children who spend part of the day at Randolph learning the basics of theatre and acting and the rest at nearby Camp Kum-Ba-Yah.
“The impact that these kinds of programs have on the community can be profound,” said Mace Archer, the program’s founder and director. A former Randolph theatre professor, Archer now serves as the artistic director of Mt. Hood Community College’s theatre department in Portland, Oregon. He has also appeared in Arizona Broadway Theatre and Clarence Brown Theatre productions.
“The goal of the Theatre Conservatory is to develop confidence, creativity, and communication,” he said.
Those traits, added Martha Reddick, the camps associate director, are important in both theatre and life. “If you can communicate clearly and defend your opinions in an honest and direct way, that’s going to serve you no matter what you choose to do,” she said.
Randolph students Seaver Sterling ’18, Daisy Howard ’17, Grace Cummins ’16, Marianne Virnelson ’17, and John Ruml ’17 served as interns for the camp.
Campers enrolled in the theatre conservatory take classes ranging from directing and the behind-the-scenes of productions to musical theatre, improve, voice and movement, and acting.
The clowning class, for instance, provided exposure to the history of clowning as well as important techniques. “When you say ‘clown,’ usually people think of the American circus clown with the white face, slap stick, and big shoes,” said Summer Olsson, a multi-disciplinary performer and class instructor. “We’re doing a little bit of that, but I’m trying to show the kids all the variations. We’re looking at Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, and Looney Toons.”
This was the first year the clowning class was offered as part of the conservatory and proved a big hit with campers, who got to “earn their noses” by proving they had mastered some of the skills, like a silly walk. The campers also learned about slapstick comedy routines, faking falls and hits, and received dance and voice training.
For Elori Smile, a fifth grader at North Branch Elementary School, Randolph’s camp fits right into his dream of becoming an actor and has even improved his listening skills.
“I’ve learned a lot about body language and how you can tell what people are feeling,” he said. “If I’m ever in a meeting or something it might help with that, or staying out of arguments and stuff.”
Sophie Csatlos, a third grader at James River Day School, first caught the acting bug at her school. She and James River Day School fourth grader Kaitlyn Reynolds agreed their biggest takeaway from Randolph’s camp was improved confidence and bravery on stage. Both enthusiastically added they are “definitely” returning next year.
For more information about the WildCat Theatre Conservatory or about Saturday’s showcase, please contact Mace Archer at 406-670-2144. Information about future camps will be available at http://www.randolphcollege.edu/theatre/wildcat-theatre-conservatory/