Olney Theatre Center believes that arts education plays an essential role in our nation’s cultural health. That’s why in addition to our arts integration program, we offer apprenticeships. Meet Calista Ragland, our Summer 2019 Education Administration Apprentice, who is able to give insight to OTC’s expansive educational values, beliefs, and opportunities.
What is OTC's Summer STOCK? What do the campers experience/ what activities are available?
OTC’s Summer STOCK is Olney’s summer camp program consisting of three 2 week long theatre programs: 2 sessions of a program for rising 4th-6th graders and a Musical Theatre Intensive for rising 7th-9th graders. These camps teach acting, playwriting, improv, singing and musicality, and fundamentals of movement/dance, and dance for musical theatre. In Sessions 1 and 2 of Summer STOCK, the campers have acting, dance, music, and writing classes each day in which they learn fundamental skills of theatre and then use those skills when learning choreographed dances, musical numbers, and creating and writing their own plays. The Musical Theatre Intensive has a similar structure in terms of classes, but the students will be working on honing their individual abilities. At the end of their two weeks, the campers have a showcase performance on their final day to get to show what they’ve learned.
Daily, we play games and do various exercises to teach aspects of acting including voicework, telling stories physically, storytelling through dialogue rather than description, and the process of giving and receiving feedback, and reflecting on performance and written work.
How have you prepared for the start of camp? What is your daily role with the camp?
When I arrived this summer, all of the teachers had been hired and the schedules for each camp had been mostly decided. For Summer STOCK’s 4th year, we’ve had a solid precedent of teachers and activities from which to go off. To prepare for camp, I contacted teachers, confirmed and solidified camp schedules, emailed information out to parents, organized information (health forms, before and after care responses) received from parents, and prepared the Actors’ Hall (where Session 1 of camp is held) by transitioning it from its use as a rehearsal space for OTC’s production of Tiger Style! to a clean/clear space for camp each day.
Daily, I assist camp teachers with activities and games by being an energetic example and walking around and advising students when they’re writing or working in groups. I also help to make sure that camp runs smoothly logistically. This includes communicating with parents and teachers on information such as where they should pick their children up, where performances for camp will be, preparing the spaces we are using for camp to be used for camp, etc.
What are you most excited about in terms of this summer and being at Olney?
I’m most excited about getting to just work in a professional theatre environment and learn as much as possible. Being the education apprentice at Olney puts me in a unique and exciting position where I get the opportunity to be in the middle of a lot of exciting things happening at Olney. I get to work with students and learn how to be a better educator by learning from our Summer STOCK teachers and everyone who works in the education office as well as by working directly with Summer STOCK students. I also get to help assist the education office in their organizational work with the National Players (like updating their log of all of the venues the Players visit on the road for example). Getting to help out with these opportunities is exciting because it makes me feel like I am a part of Olney’s mission, emphasis on education, and spreading arts education across the country. It’s really exciting that Olney values education so muc
It’s also really exciting to just live and learn with and from my peers in the other apprentices and National Players. Being here only for the summer while the other apprentices are finishing up their year at Olney and the National Players are preparing for their year on the road has allowed me to learn from the apprentices and learn with the Players. They have all been able to give me insight into their work which has been able to better guide me as I begin my own path within professional theatre.
What makes Olney Theatre Center special? Why should people sign up for camp?
I think Olney’s commitment to education and inclusivity really makes it special from any other theatre. In addition to having three summer camps, Olney’s mission to spread arts education is a mission that spreads across the nation and the local community. The National Players travel across the country specifically to bring theatre and arts education across the nation to areas which would otherwise not have it (our current lead teacher for Summer STOCK is a former National Player!). While this big mission is amazing, the local effects of Olney’s mission are also deeply felt.
Olney just started a new playwriting/performance camp this year called New Voices with high school students at the helm who pretty much did all of the work they needed to write one act plays and then produce them. Just this past weekend, I spoke with one of the New Voices students at a reading for a new play one of my colleagues in the education department wrote, and this student was the assistant director for the reading! She spoke to me about how grateful she is that Olney is so committed to education and has given her so many opportunities to grow within theatre.
I think people should want to sign up for Summer STOCK camp not only because it’s super fun (this is what all of our students say) but also because you get to learn in an environment that really values you and values arts education.
Olney’s trust in students, belief in the importance of education, and making sure all students have access to art makes Olney a theatre like no other.