Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Theater guest blog: Home away from home

Guest blog by Jessica Riddle, Patel Conservatory Theater Apprentice
Jess Riddle, right, with Lucy Gutierrez in the
Summer 2012 PCYT production of NOR*MAL, The Musical
Hello, everyone! Jessica here commentating on musical theater at its finest during fall and summer classes at the Patel Conservatory.
About Me
I am a theater apprentice at the Patel Conservatory who not only dreams of becoming an actor on Broadway but also a fabulous journalist. The Patel Conservatory is giving me both opportunities, for I am here with you lovely readers telling you all about Patel’s classes from a student’s perspective.
I have attended the Patel for the past year and a half, and I can’t even begin to describe how much it has given me or how much I’ve grown. Plays at the Conservatory are just amazing, superb, and enthralling. You feel as though you are working on a professional level.
Summer Theater at the Conservatory
Since I’ve been at Patel through the school year and into the summer on two separate occasions, I thought I might describe how different the two experiences have been. Summer theater and school year theater each have a different pace.  For example, two summers ago, Patel Conservatory Youth Theater (PCYT) did their first ever “write your own musical” – fully composed and written by the students - called LOL: The Musical. It was a very demanding process. We not only had very limited time on our hands to mesh with fellow cast members we were not acquainted with, but we also had to work with these cast members and a student orchestra to create a full fledged one-act musical with music, script, characters, etc. We met a couple hours a day, four times a week. Even with those circumstances, it felt a little relaxed compared to other performances I’ve experienced. Throughout the process all 9 of us grew close as a cast. This was the first experience I had where it felt like my second family and home. Now to compare this experience with this past summer’s course would be quite impossible, for they were completely different.
NOR*MAL: the Musical was this past summer’s production where the cast had three weeks of intensive training and rehearsals to put on an intricate and “taboo subject” play.  NOR*MAL was about eating disorders and how they affect not only the person struggling with them, but how the family deals with it as well. It is overwhelming how much this cast and the performances meant to me, and how it changed me. The cast who had never worked together on a project, were able to put aside differences, become a cast family, and work on this subject together. With this play being on topic with on-going events in today’s time, our director set aside time to have open discussions each week, letting everyone talk and add a piece of their life to the process. For me personally, this was the key to becoming a family. We learned about each other’s past and how this play really touched each and everyone of us in different ways. I would have to say that the fast pace of this production was just like any other professional performance.
School year classes
Now for the school year classes. They aren’t entirely different because the schedules are similar in timing. Our Town, which PCYT produced last fall, was unlike any other play or musical I’ve experienced. Our Town was from another time period which gave all the cast members a chance to learn historical aspects of the theater and how the language differed in prior years. Our Town is a straight play with no music, definitely a different setting for me; I’ve never experienced just a play. It allowed me to grow as a performer and also as a human being. This play dealt with loss, humor and many issues going on at once through multiple story lines. The pace of this play was definitely quick. It felt like an “energizer battery” was placed on the cast once we walked in the door at the Conservatory. Much like all the performances I’ve done at Patel, I felt that the cast I worked with, became long term friends. The majority of all cast members from all productions I keep in touch with on an on-going basis. 
This school year, I’m not in the PCYT musical, but I’m currently enrolled in the Triple Theatre program and taking the (advanced) Musical Theatre 2b classes. It is very different compared with being in a play; for example you don’t have to study lines, memorize choreography, or learn blocking, but instead you are going in depth on acting itself and all that surrounds the performing arts. It is intense but manageable, knowing that I’ve only committed myself for two nights a week compared to four nights a week during a rehearsal process. This schedule allows more time to be placed on homework and other school obligations. These classes stretch me not only as an actor but as a singer and a dancer.
Friends for life
Patel Conservatory has taught me so much about the arts, time management, commitments, and making and keeping friends. The experiences I mentioned have many things in common, but one stands out to me the most, and that is family. Patel Conservatory is my home away from home, a sanctuary to study my passion. In all of the performances I’ve experienced at Patel, I’ve made a family with my fellow cast members, and that means so very much to me knowing that I’ve made friends for life here.

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