West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts Theatre Camp: My Daughter’s Summer Experience

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Little-Bird-SingingThroughout the summer, I will be reporting back to you on my 10-year-old’s experience at the West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts Summer Camp. Most entries will be written by me to give you the parent perspective, but some weeks, you will have the lovely treat of hearing directly from my rising theatre star.

To begin, I would like to tell you a bit about my “Little Bird”, as I call her. She earned the title by singing and dancing incessantly throughout the house from the age of two. I am always impressed by the fact that she is continually searching for an audience with no remnants of fear. If I invite friends or family over, Little Bird cannot contain her excitement and immediately begins producing her next show. The hearth for our wood-burning stove now doubles as a stage and our karaoke machine is basically on its last legs, spewing and sputtering like a 1950’s Chevy truck, from overuse.

I knew I had to enroll her into a theatre camp to help this passion flourish after we took her to a Philly’s game in May. A friend of ours works in the sound booth and invited us in for a tour. Little Bird immediately asked if she could sing a song for the people in the stadium. Do you ever remember being that fearless? I certainly do not. After a bit of research, I found the West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts and met with owner, Therese Walden-Murphy. My overall reaction? A resounding “Wow!”

Therese is a professional actress who has performed in New York City, Los Angeles as well as regional theatres across the country. She holds an MFA in Classical Theatre from the Old Globe Theater Professional Actor Training Program and has been seen and heard in Commercials, Voice-overs, TV, Soap Operas, Industrials, Film, and on Stage. In addition to performing, Therese has taught Musical Theatre, Shakespeare, Acting and Speech for over 20 years at many theaters and schools: The Old Globe Theatre, LA Repertory Company, Flat Rock Playhouse, Performers Theatre Workshop in NJ, The Hedgerow Theatre, The Media Theatre as well as private coaching in New York City. (Click here to see her full bio.) Thank goodness she decided to open up her shop in West Chester because now I feel like super mom!

Week 1: Glee Week

Indy was jumping out of her tap shoes when she saw Glee Week at the top of the brochure. Yes, “First Time in Forever” from Frozen was on the list to appease the girls, but Therese also included an assortment of songs from classic musicals like Pippin, Oklahoma and Little Women. Therese and musical director, Christine Fisher, evaluated each child’s natural signing voice on the first day and matched the student’s range to the appropriate song. This process helped to ensure the kids experienced success in their solo performance that would occur at the end of the week.

Because this was Little Bird’s first experience, not only at the West Chester Studio’s theatre camp, but her first experience at any theatre camp, I was incredibly nervous to ask the simple question, “How’d it go?” after her first day. If she said she hated the camp, I would have no idea what to do because I basically signed her up for the whole summer. Monday afternoon she bounded through the door and before I could blurt out the full question, my Little Bird did what she does best….she started singing. Mama a Rainbow from Mame filled the kitchen with a sweet, beautiful tone and I did what moms do best….started tearing up with pride.

We quickly settled into our daily, post-camp routine: Little Bird would sing, I would grab a few tissues, wipe my eyes, squeeze her tight with a hug, she would eventually wriggle free, and then I would finally get the specifics of the day. A few highlights from the week include, “We get to perform on a real stage! It’s really, really big. The instructors are awesome.com! They really know what they’re doing. The older girls are nice. They have really great singing voices.”

The week culminated in a performance that, yes, you guessed it, made me cry with tears of joy. I could not believe the professional quality of the show when Therese only had one week to whip the girls into shape. The performance included snippets of acting, dancing, duets, solos and group performances. Little Bird was positively glowing after her time on stage. I thought she might actually twirl out the door and to the car.

Next week is Theatrical Production Jr. Two Professional Actor/Directors will lead 16 performers through the rehearsals and performance of a One Act children’s play.

The kids will learn blocking, lines and motivation. All roles will be of comparable size, giving every performer their time to shine in the spot light. Little Bird will be journaling her experience each day and snapping a couple of pictures to comprise next week’s article.

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West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts is a community-wide acting and musical theater school based in West Chester, PA and located at the Chester County Historical Society. Our teachers are experienced professional actors and provide a high-caliber performing arts education to students of all ages and abilities from Chester County, Delaware County, Wilmington and Philadelphia.

Students gain confidence and are encouraged to take risks in a fun, nurturing and safe environment. At the Studio self-discovery through the Meisner Technique is a critical component in the development of quality acting skills. Each student develops and recognizes the importance of his or her own voice.

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Meghan Kelly

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