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.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Featured Camps of the Month: Showstoppers and Showstoppers, Jr.

This month, we highlight our Patel Conservatory Theater intensive, Showstoppers and, new this year, Showstoppers, Jr.

Showstoppers is a musical revue of popular Broadway favorites performed by advanced level theater students in our summer theater intensive of the same name. It’s been so well received the past couple of years that we’ve added even more fun to this summer’s line-up.

Due to the popularity of Showstoppers, we added Showstoppers, Jr. This two week camp for students in grades five through eight allows younger students to work on their vocal and musical theater skills. There is no audition required for this level.

Directed by Matt Belopavlovich, Showstoppers Jr. gives students the opportunity to hone their solo and ensemble skills through rehearsal and performance of songs from popular musicals including 42nd Street, High School Musical and Fame.

In addition, this year’s Showstoppers revue promises to be just as exciting as ever!

“We’re going even bigger this year with the show, including an eight-piece orchestra,” said Showstoppers director Scott Daniel.

“A major difference this year is that we’ve gone from a two-week intensive to three weeks to expand the show. That extra week gives us more time to put together a full 90-minute production.”

Daniel, in his second year of directing this production, brings a wealth of musical theater experience to the show. He has performed in national tours of Cirque Dreams and Footloose, and regional credits include The Wiz, Spring Awakening, Bright Lights Big City and many more. He's also performed with Royal Caribbean International and Holland America cruise lines.

In the intensive, advanced level students in grades seven through college will spend three weeks in rehearsals, which culminate in multiple performances which have traditionally sold out.

This year’s performance, Showstoppers: Words and Music, pays tribute to great American composers such as Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stephen Sondheim and Kander and Ebb. With selections from Chicago, Cabaret, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera, and many more, it’s sure to be truly showstopping!

Registration is still available to participate in the Showstoppers, Jr. camp. To register, click here or call 813.222.1002.

For tickets to Showstoppers: Words and Music, click here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Welcome to our summer theater interns

From left: Virginia, Avery, Collin and Chelsea
Welcome to our summer theater interns, who have come from far and wide to work with us on our theater camps and productions!

Patel Conservatory theater faculty recently attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Chattanooga , Tenn. and interviewed more than 40 candidates for our summer internship program. Candidates had extensive experience in their schools and community theaters in various aspects of theater, from technical theater to costuming.

Four were chosen to work with us on our summer camps and productions including Aladdin Jr., Shrek the Musical and Showstoppers.

Check out their perspectives of their first week at the Patel Conservatory...

Avery Coonts, Arkansas Tech University
Teaching and Directing Intern
“Making the jump into an organization the size of Patel Conservatory was a bit daunting for me as I come from a much smaller program. But when I approached the beautiful campus, my mind was immediately put at ease knowing that I would be working in paradise.
The true beauty, though, lies with the staff of the Conservatory. They welcomed us immediately with warm greetings and gracious accommodations. It has made me really look forward to this summer.
Orientation has been amazing thus far and I have already learned so much. Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure to work with a variety of talented young artists and I cannot wait to continue that here at the Conservatory.
I strive to make every production I have worked on special for all involved. I’m excited to be here and get to work and share my creativity with the students!”

Collin Cagle, Louisiana Tech University
Stage Management and Arts Administration Intern
“The first thing I noticed when I got here was the beauty of the Patel Conservatory campus and the state-of-the-art facilities.
The week started with preparation for this summer’s fun activities. This included our participation in the new Apprentice Boot Camp. It was a weekend program that introduced the apprentices to the basics of all of aspects of theater. It was a great experience, even for someone who is in college.
I’ve worked with the American Shakespeare Center and The Russian National Ballet, and I already know that the knowledge gained from this summer will be equal or greater. I hope to offer students new insight into character development and stage management.
Fun fact about me: I am a huge fan of Superheroes and Science Fiction.”

Chelsea Walton, Emory University
Teaching and Directing Intern
“Week one at the Patel Conservatory was a flashback to my childhood summer theater camp days. We've met lots of exciting and talented people, played games and explored the city. The Conservatory staff are fun, generous and caring, and the students are thriving. Watching auditions and callbacks as well as attending the Apprentice Boot Camp was an exciting glimpse into the influence of this conservatory.
The interns have varied theater backgrounds and aspirations, all of which we’re excited to explore here. We instantly loved each other and our new jobs - and our clown boss.”

Virginia Hirsch, Arkansas State University
Arts Administration and Teaching Intern
“The Patel Conservatory summer internship program has already been an eye-opening experience. Though I have only been here for a short time, I feel totally immersed in the program, which stems from the rare balance of excellence and caring. The directors and staff are so knowledgeable that you automatically feel challenged and ready to try new things.
A sort of Jack-of-all-trades, I've had extensive experience in directing, acting, singing, stage management and design. I’m ready to bring and hone these skills during my very first internship.

It's been such a fun transition from fairly rural Arkansas to the hot metropolis of Tampa (aside from the traffic). We are staying in a house in historic Ybor City, which has been delightful to explore. The first full day I was here, we were sent on a scavenger hunt through Ybor City to help us learn the history of the city and become familiar with local treasures. I'm so excited to continue my exploration of Tampa as well as theater during my stay at the Patel Conservatory.”

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Featured Camp of the Month: Pint-Sized Percussion

This month, we feature a new music camp: Pint-Sized Percussion.

New to the Patel Conservatory's schedule this summer, Pint-Sized Percussion is a great way for first through fifth graders to make some noise while learning about the percussion family of instruments.

Due to popular demand, we've recently added another week of the Pint-Sized Percussion camp! (The first week is sold out.)

Pint-Sized Percussion
Jul 27 - Jul 31, 2015
Grades 1-5
1 to 4 p.m.
Cost: $150

The second week of Pint Sized Percussion will feature more music styles.

In this one-week, half-day camp taught by Heather DeRigo, students will learn about and play traditional Orff instruments. They'll also explore world music through various cultural drumming styles including African Djembe, Indian Tabla and Latin Conga Drums.

Students registered for the first week of the camp can add the second week to continue their music journey and build on what they learn.

Make it a full day and save!

Students who register for both Instrument Petting Zoo camp in the morning and Pint Size Percussion in the afternoon will save $50. Our popular Instrument Petting Zoo allows students to explore band and orchestra instruments and helps them discover their musical interests.

Instrument Petting Zoo
July 27-31, 2015
Grades 1-5
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cost: $150

Register for both and save $50.

For more information, or to register, call 813.222.1002.

For more music camps and classes, visit

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spotlight on Kayda and Thia Sandefur

Kayda and Thia Sandefur could certainly pass for twins. With similar short, bob haircuts and only a year and a half age difference, the two sisters from St. Petersburg are often seen together on Patel Conservatory stages in our theater productions.

In their first Conservatory show, they were even double cast in the same role as Alice in Alice and Wonderland, Jr. Since then, they each have played a variety of roles in our theater productions year after year, including Once Upon a Mattress, A Little Princess and Oklahoma!

“It’s good being close in age, we’re supportive of each other,” said Kayda, 14. “If someone gets a bigger role, we don’t get mad...whether you’re ensemble, or a lead, you should be honored just to be in the cast.”

“We’ve both had leads, and we’ve both been in ensemble, we’re just supportive of each other,” agreed Thia, 15.

Kayda, left, and This in Alice in Wonderland, Jr.
in 2011. Photo by Soho Images.
Although they look alike and perform in the same shows, and share inside jokes and sometimes finish each other’s sentences, the girls are each finding their own path at the Conservatory.

In Alice and Wonderland, Jr., the director worked with the girls to bring out each of their strengths,” said mom Kelli Sandefur.

Working with different directors, choreographers and instructors over the past five years has inspired them to branch out beyond theater classes and into vocal and dance classes and private voice lessons.

This summer, Kayda will focus on voice, participating in the Conservatory’s Voice Intensive, and Thia will focus on dance in the Junior Intensive.

Kayda is looking forward to working with vocal instructor Kavan Gillespie. “He pushes you to go outside of your comfort area. You never feel nervous when it comes time for the performance because he gives you so much to prepare. You feel like you have everything you need to give your best performance.”

Thia took an interest in dance last summer when she got a chance to work with dance instructor Kelly King in Hairspray.

On the Edge,  April 2015. Photo by Soho Images.
“She made sure I did everything very sharp. It was the most intense dancing I’ve ever done,” said Thia.

That sold Thia and her sister on taking hip hop during the school year with Miss Kelly. Though they’ve picked up some dance along the way through theater experiences, neither had ever taken formal dance classes.

“At the beginning of the year, we were nervous. But by the end of year, your confidence is so built up,” said Thia.

Last year, she didn’t even know the Conservatory had a third floor. This year, she’ll spend two weeks in our third floor dance studios as she works on dance skills in the Junior Intensive.

"I want to improve in jazz so I can take Just for Kicks next year."

Ultimately, the two girls are striving for those triple threat skills that will land them professional jobs.

“From auditions to callbacks, the Patel Conservatory has prepared them for what it’s really like in the professional world. When they go to other auditions, they don’t have the unknown fear factor,” said Kelli.

The girls recently had roles as extras in the films Five Doctors and Dolphin Tale 2.

“Improv, dance, singing, drama, you don’t have to go to different places to meet all those needs,” said Thia.

“There are so many different avenues all within one building,” said Kayda. “Patel has really given us everything we need.”

For more information about dance, music and theater camps and classes, call 813.222.1002 or visit

Monday, May 11, 2015

Patel Conservatory's Summer Open House

The Patel Conservatory will have an open house for all new and prospective parents and students interested in our summer camps and classes.

Located at the David A. Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the Conservatory offers performing arts camps and classes in dance, theater and music. Whether you want to sing, dance, act or play an instrument, we have classes for all ages and skill levels. From Tots and Tunes to Adult Improv, there's something for everyone!

Come learn more at our upcoming open house. It’s your opportunity to tour the Conservatory, meet staff and ask questions. Our summer camp lunch provider, EVOS, will also be available to answer questions.

For your convenience, there are two dates to choose from:

Patel Conservatory Open House
Tues., Jun. 2, 2015
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Orientation at 6:30 p.m.

Sat., June 6, 2015
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Orientation at 10:30 a.m. and noon

Light refreshments will be offered.

Tours are offered before and after each informative orientation session.

To RSVP, click here.

For more information, call 813.222.1002.