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John Kinzer
IU Department of Theatre and Drama

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IU's Midsummer Theatre Program trains aspiring actors

WHAT: Final performance of 2009 Midsummer Theatre Program
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 20
WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, IU Bloomington

June 17, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A flock of teenage girls in various message T-shirts and sneakers struggle into their petticoats as a group of teen boys looks on ("Where's mine?" jokes one boy) for a "semi-dress" rehearsal in which the girls morph into giggling, dancing Shakesperean fairies. The 19 teens are in drama camp heaven for two weeks at Indiana University Bloomington, where the 2009 Midsummer Theatre Program is entering its 11th year.

This year's camp began June 7 and culminates with a free, open-to-the-public performance Saturday (June 20) at 2 p.m. in the Wells-Metz Theatre. The performance will include a variety of scenes from both Shakespeare and popular musical theater productions.

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Photo by Chris Meyer

2009 Midsummer Theatre Program students rehearse.

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Since camp began last week, students have taken part in workshops focusing on acting, musical theater, monologue preparation, voice, speech, movement and dramatic literature, as well as acting for the camera with the support of IU's Department of Telecommunications. On Monday, they even had a visit from two current cast members from the touring Broadway show Wicked, including Colin Donnell, a 2005 alumnus of IU's Department of Theatre and Drama.

"Our goal is to give them a two-week immersion in theater and drama training, exposure to professional artists and performance opportunities," said Dale McFadden, director of the Midsummer Theatre Program and associate chair of the Department of Theatre and Drama. "It also gives them a sense of what it will be like to study theater and drama at IU as undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Midsummer Theatre Program students range in age from those who have recently completed their freshman year in high school to those who have just completed their senior year. While transcripts and letters of recommendation from drama teachers are required, auditions are not.

"It's not an overly hard-sell program that says 'You will be a professional,' said McFadden. "We give high school students a sense of what it's like to train here on an undergraduate level and also give them some specific skills to take home for their time remaining in high school."

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Photo by Chris Meyer

Two students work together on lines during the IU Department of Theatre and Drama's 2009 Midsummer Theatre Program.

Print-Quality Photo

Back at drama camp, IU Associate Professor of Voice and Speech Nancy Lipschultz has dismissed the flock of fairies to run lines and practice dance moves. (They filter out singing "I Could Have Danced All Night" and gushing over the morning's visit from Colin Donnell).

Kelsey Smith and Ross Reagan take center stage to practice a scene from The Tempest. Lipschultz guides them with humor and gentle suggestions, encouraging the pair to act as though they've fallen in love at first sight. "The minute you see him, I need a reaction from you," she tells Kelsey. "You need to be warm and loving, like he's your new puppy. Do you have a puppy?" Kelsey shakes her head no. "A bird? A cat? A ferret?" The two laugh and try again, as Lipschultz incorporates their natural movements into her staging notes.

Out of the 18-25 students who sign up for the program each year, at least one or two become IU students each following fall, said McFadden. Kelsey Smith lives in California, but her mother, an IU alumna, learned of the program and wanted her theater-loving daughter to get a taste of the IU experience.

McFadden said he enjoys providing a supportive atmosphere in which students work their hardest.

"We are meeting them in a crucial time in their lives to say to them 'Whether theater is full time or part time in your life, if this interest is important to you, we're going to help you keep it.' These students keep in touch with each other after the Midsummer Theatre Program is finished," McFadden said.

"The students receive an introduction to the great learning experience IU has to offer on its wonderful campus in the vibrant town of Bloomington."