SYGYZY. Sygyzy is defined as the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies. This is the word that starts the production of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – but it is also a word that could be used to describe the alignment of energies that kicked off Hartford Children’s Theatre’s 2012 Neighborhood Studio: Triple Threat Teens. Hartford Children’s Theatre, the Greater Hartford Arts Council and a terrific group of 14 students from 12 different towns in the Greater Hartford Region came together to begin work on an exciting series of summer performance projects.
HCT’s Education Director Lisa Foss began with an overview presentation of what the program would involve: A fully-produced musical production of the hilarious 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a social-issues one-act play presentation of a work created by the teen apprentices, a mentoring project in which the apprentices will work directly with the members of HCT’s Discovery Company of 5-8 year old students, as well a series of Master Classes led by the Teaching Artist Team of HCT in set design, costuming, curriculum development, dance disciplines, auditioning, front-of-house projects, time-management and more!
Director Jill Luberto started off day one of rehearsal with a series of intros and ice-breakers. She gathered students and the creative team to create a “Timeline-Spider web.” Apprentices drew out their lifelines including important dates, events that had a profound effect on them. This also included a future timeline with hopes, dreams and self-described goals. This proved to be a nice way for everyone to get to know one another and establish a “safe place” for expressing oneself in an honest way. She then segued into some quick, fun improvisation games to boost the energy and to get the teamwork started.
As the week progressed, Music Director Jeff Howey began to teach music from the challenging score! Choreographer Angellica Badillo got right to work and staged several key numbers from the show. Jill discussed character development with the cast. “Each ‘inner geek’ must be embraced,” she pointed out. “The contestant characters are the geekiest of the geek—but we want to love each of the contestants, not pity them. Each of them may be weird in their own way, and you have to find little character ‘ticks’ that make them who they are and why they are the way they are. We want to root for them.”
Progress was also made on the social-issues one act play. Roundtable discussions about social issues affecting today’s teenager led to wonderful heated debates. Many strong voices were raised amongst the cast, and all seemed to have shared concerns and views on many issues. Two of the most heated debates revolved around “Body image” and “Stereotypes.” Excellent and passionate observations were given by each apprentice.
Apprentices also participated in a Story Theatre workshop led by Lisa Foss, as they prepared for their work with the “little kids,” which will begin next week.
As the first new Neighborhood Studio program in the last seven years—HCT is extremely excited to have the opportunity to participate in this wonderful program. With a dynamic group of teens and enthusiastic leaders for each facet of the program, the SYZYGY is sure to continue.
—Lisa Foss, Education Director for Hartford Children’s Theatre