July 10, 2018

New Theatre Camps Help Youth Find Their Inner Light

PA Theatre at WCU

“Empathy” and “humanity” are some of the first words from actor/teacher Charlie DelMarcelle when he speaks about the two new Pennsylvania Theatre Institute (PTI) programs WCU is offering this summer. It’s a hint that there is something special behind the theatrical curtain for the young students enrolled in these camps.

“Theatre is about empathy: listening to one another, working as a team, telling stories as a group,” camp director DelMarcelle explains. “When we teach the fundamentals of acting and storytelling, we’re actually teaching how to listen to one another, communicate better, support one another as an ensemble. These skills are useful for people of all ages, but especially important to foster in developing brains. It can be critical for young people to feel that they ‘belong’ somewhere, and we strive to create a space of radical inclusion.”

“We are producing confident, empathetic human beings,” adds Katherine Fritz, PTI managing director. “These programs are more about the process of learning about yourself and others, and less about the product,” whether that product is producing a play at the end of camp, an audition tape, a resume, or a college admissions essay.

Young Company is the first camp. Youth ages 10–15 are learning the craft from July 9–15. The second program, Pre-College Intensive, will host high school students from July 23–Aug. 10. Both will use the Department of Theatre and Dance facilities on the lower level of E.O. Bull Center, South High Street at Rosedale Avenue. Each program runs weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and all students are welcome — no auditions required, no experience necessary.

“We are just as much for the child bursting with confidence as we are for the ones struggling to come out of their shells,” says DelMarcelle. Building the community that becomes the theatrical ensemble for each camp means “using the joy of art to help each of our students become a better person. … We’re not big on lots of rules, but we feel good about this one: We value ourselves and we value others.”

DelMarcelle found it easy to secure faculty whose local stage credits and teaching expertise would best benefit campers: Fritz, Liz Filios, and Rob Cutler. After all, he’d worked for seven years with these teaching artists as staff of the Delaware Theatre Company’s “Summer on Stage” youth program. The quartet brings a unique cohesion and camaraderie to the WCU programs as an ensemble faculty, says DelMarcelle: “We just clicked from the beginning.”

DelMarcelle is assistant professor of theatre at WCU as well as a professional actor, director, and theatre educator who has been working with youth interested in the theatre since 1996. He is a multiple Barrymore Award winner, a renowned creator of strong ensembles, and an educational outreach specialist for several regional theatre companies. Fritz, an adjunct professor at the University of the Arts and Montgomery County Community College, has earned Barrymore nominations for theatrical design and costumes. She works regularly with the award-winning educational programs at McCarter Theatre Center and also specializes in creative writing.

Filios, who is teaching voice and movement, has a Barrymore to her credit as well as the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist. An actor, musician, and sound designer, she works in a variety of forms, including folk music, opera, cabaret, and musical theatre. Cutler, who is teaching improvisation, is a veteran of the Philadelphia-area comedy scene. In addition, he is a professional hand and rod puppeteer.

DelMarcelle and Fritz emphasize that the new camps create a community culture “where everyone feels special and everyone is valuable. … We are special because we see what is special in others, and we teach students to do the same.”

For additional information on each program and bios of the faculty, visit the Pennsylvania Theatre Institute website.