Workshops and free public performances allow young talent to shine

2014-06-11T23:08:00Z 2014-06-12T07:55:08Z Workshops and free public performances allow young talent to shineBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

It was four years ago when Patty Bird decided to work with Theatre at the Center in Munster to create a summer opportunity to foster young new talent.

"Our first summer, we had about 20 students who participated," said Bird, education coordinator for the Theatre Summer Workshops program housed at the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, which is the anchor for Northwest Indiana's only professional theater.

"This year, we expect more than 100 participants for sensational summer workshops for young theater enthusiasts. The workshops will not only provide professional instruction on acting, singing, choreography and theater, but will help students build their public speaking skills and confidence by using more nontraditional, artistic teaching methods. And by the end of the sessions, we offer free public performances for audiences to enjoy and witness the result of lots of hard work."

The workshops for summer 2014 begin later this month and span through July.

Bird emphasizes the training offers more than just stage and artistic experiences.

"We are teaching what also translates to life skills," she said.

"From learning how to work as a team to writing and communication abilities, these are qualities that are important for everyday expectations."

Bird described this summer's offerings:

CREATIVE DRAMA: Do you have a little performer at home? Actors of all abilities and experience will develop their theatrical skills through participating in movement, imagination and character development while acting out a favorite story in this fun-filled summer workshop with numerous life skills including team building, self-expression, listening, seeing, hearing, feeling, problem-solving, creating, sharing, respecting and discovery - proving that theater skills are skills for life. The workshop will end on the Theatre at the Center mainstage, providing the actors the opportunity to perform on a professional stage in front of an audience. It's intended for students ages 5 - 7 and instructed by Bird. Workshop runs 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, June 16 – June 27. Tuition: $260

SHOWS FROM SCRATCH: This workshop is a must for any young writer and/or performer looking for a creative expression. Students will work with their directors to create an original short play featuring a character of their own imagination. The emphasis of this workshop is on each student's personal character creation and ensemble contribution to the story conception.  Students will develop and enhance many theater skills including writing, casting, costuming and performance. The workshop will end by providing the students the opportunity to see their script brought to life on the Theatre at the Center mainstage. Two options, both instructed by Bird with Peyton Daly, including one for students ages 8 – 12,  running 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and one for students ages 13 – 18, running 3 to 5 p.m. also Monday through Friday, with both sessions June 16 – June 27. Tuition:  $260 for either

SHAKESPEARE SHENANIGANS: Students will embark on a journey of imagination and discovery with this fun-filled Shakespeare workshop. Over the course of two weeks, students will explore the crazy characters and create their own unique spin on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. This workshop is designed for young actors who love to perform and the grand finale will be one magical weekend. Students will not only have performances on the Theatre at the Center stage, but they will also join dozens of actors from throughout Northwest Indiana and take to the stage at the University of Notre Dame, as part of their summer Shakespeare Festival.  For students ages 7 – 18 and instructed by Bird. Runs 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 7 – July 19. Tuition: $260

FROM BOY BANDS TO BROADWAY: Students will create their own musical review of their favorite pop band and Broadway hits. From One Direction to "Once on This Island," students will sing and dance in fully choreographed musical numbers and use improve workshops to write scenes linking them together. This camp additionally teaches various theater fundamentals in a professional theater environment. For students ages 8 – 13, instructed by Kathleen Gibson and Alex McCrary. Runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 7 – July 18. Tuition: $275

There is limited space available for all workshops, so early registration is recommended according to Bird. To register and for more information, visit the workshop website at under the Education through Theatre caption or call (219) 836-3255.

"Something that is new this year are acting scholarships, which are now available for students interested in participating in Theatre at the Center's Education through Theatre program," Bird said.

"Downloadable application forms and scholarship information are available at"

Bird, an accomplished actress, instructor and director, received her B.A. in Theatre/Television Arts, also with a concentration in Elementary Education and English.

"I've been with Theatre at the Center for more than six years and have been teaching, acting and directing for more than 20 years," said Bird, whose favorite directing credits include "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

She's also excited about the distinguished accomplishments of her fellow instructors for this summer's workshops.

Peyton Daly has been a faculty member of The Second City since 2003 and has performed extensively on stage as well as in film and as a voice-over artist. She recently wrote and directed her second one-act play called "Voices of the Past" and has also co-written and mounted sketch reviews while working with a number of improvisational teams around Chicago. She currently performs in the improve duo, The Daley Reome.

Kathleen Gibson has been teaching piano and voice for the past eight years.  She holds a bachelor of music from DePaul University where she studied opera.  An accomplished singer and actress performing in musicals around Chicago, audiences have enjoyed her work in five productions at Theatre at the Center over the years.

Alex McCrary has spent the past six years as a professional actor and choreographer in Chicago. Before that, he attended Columbia College Chicago where he earned his degree in musical theater. He has worked as a director and choreographer with Big Noise Theatre and the Humble Theatre collective in Houston, Texas.

For more details about any of the workshops or programs, email Patty Bird at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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