Entering their 34th year, the Rhode Island Youth Theater is returning to the stage after a year without performances. This summer, the Rhode Island Youth Theater resumes summer programming, with voice lessons, playwriting workshops, master dance classes, and staged productions at Warwick Veterans Middle School in July and August.
Ann O’Grady, executive director of the Rhode Island Youth Theater (RIYT) said in an interview Monday that this year has felt like “a big leap” and it’s “wonderful to have made it to the other side.”
Registration is now open for RIYT summer programs. All programs, except for virtual voice lessons, are full-day programs. To register, visit www.riyt.org.
Starting July 8, and running for four weeks, students have the opportunity to take part in virtual voice classes with RIYT alumnus and professional singer-songwriter Helena Widmann. The program is limited to 8 students.
Students in the voice classes will explore the fundamental techniques necessary to sing well in any genre, and will learned how to promote longevity and efficiency in their vocal habits.
As part of their theater camps, the RIYT is staging an adaptation of a Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors in the courtyard of Vets Middle School. The camp will take place from August 2 to August 13, and is open to youth ages 12 to 16.
O’Grady said this summer’s performance will incorporate live music, instruments, and more. The adaptation will only be an hour long.
“This will be a very special performance,” said O’Grady. “It’s been done many, many times before, but we’re going to take that production for the summer and make it our own. It’s a great story about fairytales, and it’s a play within a play.”
The Midsummer Night’s Dream program is limited to 25 students.
RIYT master classes include a ballroom dancing workshop and playwriting courses, taught by RIYT alumni and industry professionals.
On August 16, youth ages 11 to 18 can join Dave and Annie Weeks, a competitive ballroom dancing duo.
“Annie came up through the program, and held numerous leads,” said O’Grady. “She was our Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and Cosette in Les Miserables. This is a great chance for students to reconnect with alumni and learn from them.”
Students in this program will learn intermediate to advanced smooth and rhythm dance from waltz and tango to cha cha and salsa. The program is limited to 12 students.
From August 18 to August 20, youth ages 12 to 18 can join the Treasure Island Staged Readings & Playwriting Development program where they will learn what it takes to bring a musical to its feet for the first time. Working with professional playwright Chris Lysik, students will help craft the world of the play, and begin to understand how an actor’s choices can influence the creation of a new story. The program culminates in a showcase to family members.
“Students can watch a professional playwright workshop his piece, and learn how to mine their own interests and experiences to find stories they would like to tell,” said O’Grady. “This is something that distinguishes us. We have a fair amount of original work, and we pair up and coming students with alumni with professional credentials.”
Also from August 18 to August 20, students aged 7 to 11 have the opportunity to take part in the Fractured Fairy Tales program. Here, they’ll collage together characters and events from well-known fairy tales in brand new adaptations.
“There will be villains and dragons,” said O’Grady. “They’ll learn the basics of storytelling through characters they know and learn how to create drama, write a beginning, middle, and end, and incorporate music and dance.”
The program will culminate in a showcase for family on Aug. 20.
O’Grady said the playwriting courses held in the past have all been “very popular,” and is looking forward to seeing what students create.
The Fractured Fairy Tales program is limited to 14 students.
“We don’t have auditions so no students are cut out. We embrace every one of all talent levels and all economic levels. Everyone can come do theater,” said O’Grady, pointing out scholarship opportunities for youth that want to participate, and emphasizing that there are “both full and partial scholarships are available to anyone who needs them. We have fabulous, fabulous patrons that support us so every students can some to our program.”
Scholarships are available for all summer programs. For more information about scholarship requests, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A former resident of Warwick and teacher at Aldrich Junior High School, O’Grady is excited to stage the summer programs at Warwick Veterans Middle School.
“We looked at a lot of parks and football fields,” she said, but ultimately decided to utilize Vets. With the courtyard and the auditorium, plus the updated HVAC systems and air conditioning, O’Grady said Vets was a great location.
Masks will be required for participants, but O’Grady hopes to practice and perform outdoors as much as possible.
When the pandemic first hit last March, O’Grady and students were in the middle of a production. She didn’t reveal what production was in the works, as it never made it to the stage, and she would one day like to showcase it to an audience.
While Rhode Island Youth Theater remained open during the pandemic, all programs took place virtually.
Students took part in the RIYT Virtual Choir to produce and perform an original cong composed and arranged specially for the company by Helena Widmann and Nikita Zabinski along with RIYT teens Molly Wren, Thomas Fitzgerald, and Sadie Swanson. The project, called the Ghost Light Project, was supported in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts.
Performers were inspired to title their work the Ghost Light Project in tribute to theaters that were forced to close over the last year. In empty theaters, a single spotlight, called a ghost light, illuminates the stage in an otherwise dark and unoccupied space.
The performance can be viewed on the RIYT website.