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Musical Theatre Workshop 2011

The cast showed up on the first morning with some nervous energy, slightly hesitant to jump into activities, but it did not take long for their personalities to unfold.  “Everybody Yes” an activity designed to promote improvisation  caught them by surprise and soon enough we were uncontrollably dancing, shaking, laughing, and jumping around the room.  The oldest was 19, the youngest just 9, but together they discovered the magic of Columbia Park Cottage and left the rest of the world behind.

And this was all before our hero, Charlie Brown, captured their collective imagination and the title track pushed them to spontaneous outbursts of singing.

Cristina, Audrey, and I had set two goals for the 1st day of the workshop:

1. Create an environment conducive to self-expression.

2. Learn basic melodic structures and introduce lyrics for two ensemble numbers, the first and last numbers of the musical.

  • “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”
  • “Happiness”

It’s always difficult to forecast how long it will take to prepare a child to perform in front of an audience, but there was a common thread with this group, they all wanted to be at the Cottage and, by the end of the day, they realized they liked being together.

Cristina and I were intent on meeting each cast member at their current level of ability and performance, that was most important to us.  We assured them the Cottage would be a safe place.  All did not go smoothly, of course, with small hints of crankiness and complaints, but in the end the cast worked hard to keep the peace and move closer to our goal, Friday’s performance.  To coin a phrase used by Charlie Brown, “We had a very positive feeling about things!”

This video was taken after spending only an hour and a half together, getting to know each other through some fun and thoughtful activities.  Being such a new song, most of them weren’t singing every word, just going where the melody wanted them to go, often allowing their musical intuition to take over.  They just could not stop themselves from singing out the chorus of the title song.

Our cast members embraced concepts not often linked to musicianship, but have as much to do with growth and progress as any technical music skill.  They acted with a sense of compassion, they bonded over the risks they were taking to speak, dance, act, and sing in front of strangers.

But then again, Cristina and I have always envisioned this as much a life-skills workshop as a musical theatre workshop.  We want participants to gain a deeper respect for the self and others, first and foremost, the music will follow, as natural a progression as a river flowing into the ocean.  We believe in creating a solid foundation for our musicians.

Below is a sneak peak into Day 2 and we hope you will check in again to find out what our cast is up to.  I am hoping to provide frequent updates for the duration of the two-week workshop and, as Max alluded to, honor the ever-present “Circle of Life”.

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