Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Featured camp of the month: Popular Dance Intensive

Many people recognize the Patel Conservatory for our exceptional ballet program. They may not know, however, that the Conservatory recently expanded our dance program by adding more classes and more flexibility for students wanting to study additional dance styles.

Led by Kelly King, a former Radio City Rockette for 12 years, the new Patel Conservatory Popular Dance program allows dancers to explore popular dance styles for opportunities such as Broadway, television, theme parks and more.

The growth of the program in the past year inspired a new camp this summer, the Popular Dance Intensive, which will be Aug. 10 through Aug. 14, 2015.

Parker Espada, 13, who joined the Conservatory’s ballet program last summer to work on her technique, also participated in the Popular Dance program.

“I liked it because it was different from what we were doing in my other classes [jazz and ballet]. It allowed me to work on contemporary and get the challenge that I needed to improve as a dancer,” she said.

The week-long intensive, led by King and Patel Conservatory dance faulty Susan Downey, will immerse dancers in multiple forms of commercial dance including tap, Broadway, contemporary and musical theater.

“I’m looking forward to taking different styles of dance, like tap. I normally don’t take tap,” said Parker.

Students will work with teaching artists who have years of professional experience on Broadway, on tour, and in television and film. The week will culminate in a ticketed performance in the Straz Center’s Ferguson Hall on Sat., Aug. 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Students will also be given the opportunity to audition a contemporary or jazz solo that may be included in the show.

Parker looks forward to the week-long intensive as part of her training. She hopes to one day be a professional dancer and feels the Conservatory has helped push her to the next level.

Being at the Conservatory, “has been a very, very good experience. As a dancer, it’s allowed me to grow.”

The Popular Dance Intensive is open to dancers in grades six through 12. For more information or to register, call 813.222.1040 or visit strazcenter.org.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Music auditions for Fall 2015

The Patel Conservatory Music Department will hold auditions for their 2015/2016 school year music ensembles.



Tues., Aug. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.




Auditions will be held for the following ensembles:

  • Chamber Ensembles (Instrumental), Grade 7-College
  • Adult Chamber Ensembles (Instrumental), Adult
  • Vocal Arts Choirs and Ensembles, Grade 5-College
  • Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo and Advanced Jazz Improvisation, Grade 7-College; Adult
  • Rock School, Grade 4-Adult

Audition requirements:

  • Chamber Ensembles - prepare two short, contrasting pieces and scales. Students may be asked to sight-read.
  • Vocal Arts - prepare 16 bars of an art song, folk song, or musical theater song and provide sheet music. An accompanist will be provided. Students may be asked to sight-read.
  • Jazz - prepare one short piece that best represents you, and scales. Students may be asked to improvise and/or sight-read.
  • Rock School - prepare a piece that showcases your ability and aptitude to function in a Rock Band setting. Drums, keyboard and amps are provided, but student must bring a guitar or bass if auditioning on those instruments.
For more information, or to schedule an audition:

For chamber ensembles, jazz or Rock School, contact Allison Novak at allison.novak@strazcenter.org.

For vocal arts choirs and ensembles, contact Kavanaugh Gillespie at kavanaugh.gillespie@strazcenter.org.


Free audition prep workshop Sept. 3

The Patel Conservatory, at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa, offers acting classes for students from preschool through adult.

Auditions are right around the corner for the Conservatory's 2015/2016 theater productions School House Rock Live! Jr.. (Grades 2 - 8) and Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids (Grades 2 - 4).

To help students get ready, the Conservatory is offering a free audition prep workshop.


Audition Prep Workshop
Grades 2 to 12
Thurs., Sept. 3, 2015
5 to 7 p.m.
Parent workshop from 5 to 6 p.m.
Cost: FREE

Whether you're a beginning or experienced actor, auditions can be intimidating. But if you’re prepared, it’s a lot easier and can be a lot of fun. Every audition offers a chance to perform, learn, gain experience and connect with other actors.

For young actors who'd like to sharpen their audition skills, this free audition prep workshop will help students in grades two through 12 learn how to prepare for an audition and what to expect.

Participants will work through the audition process, requirements and expectations, and discover how to exit the audition with their head held high.

Topics will include selecting material, memorization, creating resumes, slating, headshots and much more. Students will participate in lecture as well as coaching to gain knowledge and understanding of how to be successful and confident in auditions.

The workshops includes a separate seminar for parents to learn how to support and aid their student through the process.

The workshop is free, but RSVP is required. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Audrey at audrey.siegler@strazcenter.org.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Who keeps track of all those props in Shrek?

From a spraying skunk to a buck with horns that are torn off by Fiona, the prop masters for the Patel Conservatory’s production of Shrek the Musical have certainly had their work cut out for them. The many little details that went into this show have helped make it such a huge success.

Avery Coonts, a summer theater intern, shares his experience working on the show…

"As I pass the half-way mark in my internship here at the Patel Conservatory, I am amazed at the amount of work that has been done in such a short amount of time. It has been an awesome experience with all the challenges one might expect from the theater.

During this summer’s production of Shrek the Musical, fellow intern Collin and I took on the challenge of prop mastering the show. Although some of the props were rented from a local theater, most had to be built.

Some people may think the job of the prop master is generally easy, but it can become difficult when you have to match the design styles of the props that were rented. Every prop should have some cohesive sense. They must all look and feel as if they come from the same place and time.

Many hours were spent in the workshop creating rats, a stuffed goose, a fire, a big head and much more. Collin and I were also tasked with prepping dragon and creating the special effects for the puppet. A healthy amount of dry ice and CO2 were used to bring the big girl to life.

The big joke that has circulated around theater has been that prop masters put hours of work into a prop that is seen for maybe five seconds on stage. However, we do all this work for the audience and the performers involved in the production.

Overall this experience as one of the prop masters for Shrek has been amazing. I would really like to thank Suzanne Livesay, Brian Frey, Scott Daniel and Josh Young for their constant support of our work.”

Shrek the Musical continues through this weekend. For tickets, click here.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Get fit with our new Ballet Barre class

When a ballerina leaps and pirouettes across the stage, the audience is taken by her grace and elegance.
Nestor Garcia

Yet, what the audience doesn’t see is the hard work in the studio that goes into gaining the strength, balance and fortitude to perfect those leaps and turns.

Want to know what it takes to get a ballet body? Learn how to improve your strength and flexibility, and get fit with the Patel Conservatory’s new Ballet Barre class, led by Conservatory ballet instructor Nestor Garcia.

Using ballet techniques and exercises, students will work on building and elongating their muscles in this low-impact, high-results class. Mold your body by engaging your core, which also helps improve your posture and balance.

Quickly and effectively get in shape in this fun 45-minute class.

Never taken a dance class before? No worries! There is no dance experience necessary.

Ballet Barre will be Thursdays from 11 to 11:45 a.m., starting on Aug. 27, 2015.

The cost is $145 for a 10-class card, or $270 for a 20-class card, or $20 for a drop in rate.

This is the perfect class for moms with students enrolled in the Thursday morning homeschool classes!

For registration information, click here, or call 813.222.1002.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spotlight on Christian Meany as Shrek

For Christian Meany, the best part about being an actor is the opportunity to become someone new and different with every show.

“I get to completely change who I am every time, to be someone else and do something new,” said Christian.

That’s more true than ever with the current character he’s playing.

Christian takes on the larger than life and ever so green role of Shrek in Patel Conservatory Theater’s production of Shrek the Musical.

“When I was a kid, I saw Shrek, and now I’m getting to be Shrek,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite shows that I’ve ever done. It’s really high energy. You can do whatever you want with  your character.”

Christian, 15, of Valrico, played Donkey in Shrek the Musical with Music Showcase in Brandon. A student at Tampa Catholic High School, he’s performed with Music Showcase since he was eight years old, including as Horton in Seussical the Musical Jr., Aladdin in Aladdin Jr., Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jr. and as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof Jr. He also sings with his church choir.
Christian in Fiddler on the Roof

This will be his first show with the Patel Conservatory. He had seen a couple of shows here in the past and enjoyed them. So when looking for new opportunities this summer, he decided to audition for Shrek. He was surprised when he found out he’d been cast as the lead.

“There’s a lot of talented kids here."

Certainly a script like Shrek helps cast members bond pretty quickly. From have a burping contest with Fiona to sharing jokes with Donkey, "I've really gotten to know everyone," he said.

In addition to the light-hearted humor, Christian said director Suzanne Livesay has helped the cast delve deeper into their characters for the more tender moments.

"I definitely think it’s going to be a really good show. It has a lot of emotion, unlike the movie, but it’s still really funny.”

Don’t miss Christian as everyone’s favorite ogre in Shrek The Musical, July 16-26, 2015 at the Patel Conservatory’s TECO Theater.

Mamma Mia cast visits Shrek students

The cast of Mamma Mia!, front row, with students in PCT's Shrek the Musical
Special thanks to the cast of Mamma Mia! for visiting our students this week.

The cast of our Patel Conservatory Theater production of Shrek the Musical got to participate in a Q & A with members of the cast of Mamma Mia!, running this week at the Straz Center in Carol Morsani Hall.

Cast members chatted about everything from the business of acting (getting an agent vs. not getting an agent) to bloopers from the show (sneezing at inappropriate moments, and a high heel breaking on stage).

While their stories and backgrounds varied, they all agreed that training is important to becoming a successful performer.

“Focus on your weaknesses,” said Danny Lopez. “If you’re a singer, take some acting classes. If you’re a dancer, take some voice lessons. You have to try to balance them equally.”

In addition to musical theater training, many in the cast have had classical theater training.

“Classics like Ibsen, Shaw or Shakespeare are more challenging and will help you build a different set of skills,” said Beth Ann Wipprecht.

Regardless of your training or background, hard work is the key to success, they said.
Going on lots of auditions, making connections and being nice to others helps lead to jobs, which lead to more jobs.

Eric Presnall shared his story of how, for three years, he flew to New York again and again and kept auditioning for his favorite musical American Idiot. He finally got cast in the tour in the ensemble and as the understudy for his favorite character Tunny.


A fond memory for him, he said, was when he finally got the chance to go on as Tunny. There was a moment in the show when he saw his own reflection in his sunglasses with the audience behind him, and he thought, “Dreams do come true.”