Even though so much about the arts world is on hold or, as we say in the theater, “dark,” CYT has been shining brightly during these challenging times. We remain more committed than ever to showcasing the talents of our young artists and entertaining and educating the community. We had our hearts set on bringing “Beauty and the Beast” to life as our summer musical this year, but we had to switch to Pandemic Plan B, as have so many others. Instead we’ll be bringing you our first-ever benefit concert, CYT Sings! A Virtual Concert for the Community, live-streamed from the Clayton Center on July 30.
CYT Director Nikki Dyke says: “The performing arts bring people together, and now more than ever, we need community. When faced with the decision to cancel our summer musical, we realized this was an opportunity to adapt and try something new. In a time when so many are struggling, Carolina Youth Theatre has a role to play and a responsibility to help our community.”
The concert format will be like a quilt. The students rehearsed in small groups for a week in early July, while wearing masks in socially distanced arrangements. They also worked on the music at home, using recorded musical tracks and attending virtual rehearsals led by CYT’s music directors. At the end of the week, nearly 40 current CYT students and alumni submitted individual video performances of their parts. A video editor is compiling the individual voices to create a virtual choir that will premiere during the concert. In addition, the livestream will feature seven CYT alumni soloists singing live from the Clayton Center stage with an alumni serving as the host. Because of public health guidelines, there will be no live audience at the Clayton Center.
“There's nothing straightforward about this process,” Nikki explains. “It's an exercise in improvisation and adaptability, but that’s what we do in the theater. Putting this concert together has been incredibly challenging, and the odds haven’t always been in our favor, but every step of the way we’ve managed to navigate, adjust, and ultimately provide a safe performance opportunity for our students, while at the same time giving back to our community.”
In addition to the marquee benefit concert, CYT has also forged ahead this summer with creative versions of its traditional summer camps, thanks to Zoom. Our weeklong Stage Right camp for rising 7th-9th-graders was a success last month, and we’re excited about our popular Backstage Pass series for rising 3rd-6th-graders at the end of July. Instructor Stephanie Benner says she’ll miss being with the students in person but is looking forward to trying something new.
“We will be brainstorming a storyline on the first day of camp with the themes of togetherness and unity,” she said. “I will piece ideas together into a short script, and we will work on acting techniques and how to translate those to an onscreen performance the last day (held through Zoom). Students will test their creative side by curating props and costumes from things in their house!”
Space is still available. The camp will run July 27-31, 9:-10:30 a.m. or 11: a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Join us for:
CYT Sings! A Virtual Concert for the Community
Live-streamed July 30, 7 p.m.
And help us reach (or exceed!) our $20,000 fundraising goal!
CYT is excited to be offering summer camps again this year, with a twist: We’re going online! Stage Right, our weeklong course for middle-schoolers, will be offered this month through Zoom. Even though it will be a “virtual” experience, it will still be packed with creativity and fun.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many areas of public life, including theater. But theater is nothing if not an arena for adaptability, experimentation and improvisation, so this is a perfect chance to take advantage of technology to bring young people together, even if only on computer screens. Just think: You can take the summer camp from your living room, or even your bedroom! We ventured online in April with our Audition Prep Workshop, led by Chasta Hamilton, so we know it can be done well.
Jordan Biggers, a CYT alumna and instructor, will be leading Stage Right. She has experience on both sides of theater-by-Zoom. She recently taught online through Seed Art Share in Garner, and performed with the Raleigh-based Women’s Theatre Festival as a human salamander — from her bathtub.
Even though Stage Right students won’t be able to share the same physical space, the online format will give participants a chance to see each other, and themselves, in new ways. The computer can actually foster a sense of intimacy that a large space or stage can’t do well, Jordan said. She plans to guide students through writing exercises leading to pieces that will be performed and recorded so their families can watch them.
Fittingly, the theme of this year’s camp is “togetherness.” In this time of protracted social and physical distancing, Jordan said, Stage Right will give students opportunities to make connections and form bonds that they would under normal circumstances, just in different ways. “They’re wanting social interaction as much as anyone,” she said.
Because of the shift to online platforms, theater teachers and students (and many other folks) are learning new skills, some of which are time-consuming and require new depths of concentration. The willingness to be flexible and learn new things can serve anyone, but these traits are especially helpful in theater, which is “always an amazing outlet for expression and personal connection,” Jordan said. Theater is a great training ground in empathy and learning how to put yourself “in other people’s shoes."
In this camp, students will be given space in which to express their feelings, through airing their voices, listening to each other and transforming stories into scenes. Even though they won’t be literally with their scene partners, Jordan said, Zoom has features that live theater does not that can enhance communication and collaboration, such as a chat window and breakout rooms. Students will completely have “the reins” for the week, she said, as they stretch themselves in new ways.
And even though Stage Right is different this year, it’s still a summer camp, which means it’s really about one thing: HAVING FUN!
Stage Right, for rising 7th-9th graders, will be held June 22-26, 9:30-11 a.m. via Zoom.
CYT Family –
I hope this note finds you and your family safe and well. I know you have many questions regarding Carolina Youth Theatre’s upcoming programming, so I wanted to share an update about our plans for this summer.
SUMMER ISN’T CANCELED, but it is going to be different! Due to uncertainty around the phased reopening of North Carolina, and its impact on our production timeline, CYT will not be able to stage Beauty and the Beast as planned. Instead, we’ll present a benefit concert at the end of July that will showcase our incredibly talented students and give our alumni the chance to perform together again on the CYT stage (yes … you heard that right alums!). The concert will consist of solos and choregraphed group numbers and will include selections from The Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen, Rent, Hairspray, and many other favorites. In addition, we are looking at ways to stream the concert, so even if there are restrictions limiting the number of people in performance venues, we’ll still be able to reach our audience.
Auditions for the benefit concert are open to rising 7th-12th graders and 2020 high school graduates and will be by video submission. Additional details about the audition process can be found here. Information about alumni involvement is also available on our website.
Summer camps will move forward as scheduled. Should restrictions dictate that we are not able to meet in person, the camps will be moved to a virtual platform and the prices adjusted accordingly. A decision about the format of each camp will be made 10 days before the start of camp.
While much has changed, many things are still the same, and that includes Carolina Youth Theatre’s commitment to serving our students and community. We miss you and can’t wait for the opportunity to be together again. See you at the theater!
Virtual Hugs, (for now!)
Carolina Youth Theatre
Carolina Youth Theatre (CYT)
Carolina Youth Theatre is a community theater focused on providing theater arts education and performance opportunities to students across the Triangle.