By Anne Krueger
Some are sewing gowns for the ball. A few are up on catwalks setting up the lighting that will illuminate the stage. Others keep busy building the sets, tools in hand and ladders at the ready.
Welcome to the Grossmont College Theatre Department’s 2015 Summer Conservatory, an eight-week course where high school students work side by side with their college counterparts doing everything from stagecraft to acting in a unique program that culminates with “Cinderella – A New Pop Musical” from July 23 through 31.
All of the students — high school and college, actors and stagehands — earn college credit for the course that began June 8.
“None of the high schools here have a summer program where students can go to work on their craft, whether it be on the stage or behind the stage,” said Beth Duggan, Grossmont College Theatre Arts Department chair. Duggan organized and is directing the production, which is self-funded through contributions to the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges. “This is a great opportunity for both high school and college students.”
“This is giving me an opportunity to learn from college students as well as professors who work in the industry,” said Aimee-Marie Holland, a Grossmont College student serving as stage manager for Cinderella. “This is one of the better community college theatre programs I’ve come across. Everyone here encourages you and supports you, no matter what area you want to explore. They’re training us to be able to get jobs from set design to costuming to acting.”
That’s what attracted Mika Fogacci, a home-schooled high school senior who is working in the costume shop.
“I’ve never had any experience working backstage,” said Fogacci, who has performed in numerous roles with various theatre groups. “It’s a whole different side for me. It’s fascinating.”
The second annual Summer Conservatory (last year’s inaugural edition culminated with a weeklong showing of The Three Musketeers) is but one of several endeavors in which Grossmont College’s Theatre Arts Department is reaching out to local schools. For example, “Inside the Actor’s Process,” a program that aims to teach teens the finer points of stage performance, just wrapped up its ninth year by visiting 15 high school campuses, including Granite Hills and Helix high schools in the East County, San Ysidro and Eastlake high schools in the South County, Point Loma High School to the west and The Preuss School at UC San Diego to the north.
And earlier this year, high school theater students from across the county converged at Grossmont College for the annual DramaFest, a daylong series of acting workshops co-sponsored by the San Diego Educational Theatre Association.
More than 1,000 high school students have taken part in DramaFest since it began more than a decade ago.
“We’re building a relationship not only with the high schools, but with the community,” Duggan said. “We’re keeping the arts alive at a time when funding for the arts at public schools is being threatened.”
—Anne Krueger writes on behalf of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. Reach her by email at email@example.com.