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.”