Lessons from the Stage

Students in the WildCat Theatre Conservatory "freeze" during an exercise.

Students in the WildCat Theatre Conservatory “freeze” during an exercise.

Ezra Colon clapped his hands, and a dozen fifth graders scurried to “freeze” in random positions—some on the floor, others on one foot, and a few even paused in the middle of a dance move.

“What are you doing, Leo?” he asked a boy.

“I’m crouching on the floor.”

Colon would not let that answer suffice. “What are you crouching on, or where are you?” he said. “Imagine the world around you. It can be something different.”

“I’m balancing on the highest mountain in the world,” the boy answered.

“Sam, what are you looking at?” he asked a girl who was down on one knee, her arms outstretched.

“I’m praising the sun!” she said.

This was just one scene from WildCat Theatre Conservatory, a summer theatre camp held by Randolph for the past two years. The program invited local students to Randolph’s campus to learn theatre from nationally recognized professional actors and educators. The conservatory was designed to use theatre to teach life skills and provide a strong theatre foundation for those with a serious interest, while also helping Randolph students gain experience in theatre education.

“The impact that these kinds of programs have on the community can be profound,” said Mace Archer, the program’s founder. “The goal is to develop confidence, creativity, and communication.”

The conservatory featured two weeks of classes culminating in a student showcase. Courtney Mitchell, who sent her twin teenage daughters to WildCat Theatre Conservatory both years, was impressed at the way their acting techniques and their eye contact improved.

“You could tell how much they have grown in a year’s time with the help of the conservatory,” she said. “They were being instructed by top-notch faculty from all over.”

“The improvement in all of the students was amazing to watch,” added Matt Cornpropst ’14, who interned as a teacher assistant. “It was impressive to see some of the students rise up and act as leaders.”

Archer said Randolph students like Cornpropst are vital to the program. Fifteen students completed internships with the conservatory. Some were teaching assistants, while others focused more on handling the business aspects of the program. The opportunity helped them develop their own talents while gaining valuable experience working with children.

“It improved my outlook on life and gave me a stronger sense of purpose concerning future career paths,” said Hannah Cohen ’15. “Spending time with such imaginative, optimistic children and teens reminded me why I love the arts, and it’s why I want to continue being involved in the field.”