Children's Theatre STARS learn life lessons on and off stage

The 83 students involved in Cincinnati Children’s Theatre’s intensive summer camp program may have their eyes, voices and feet aimed for Broadway, but Angela Powell Walker knows the training program educates them for much more than a life on the stage.

Powell Walker, the theater’s artistic director, says the students who auditioned for the annual theatrical boot camp, known as the STAR program, learn skills that will help build confidence, find their charisma and poise and will “give them a leg up in whatever they choose to do.”

And this year, students will also get a history lesson as they prepare to stage a full-length performance of The Legend of Pocahontas, written by Jon Lorenz. The two-hour show is a joint production with the Commonwealth Theatre Company and is part of its summer season. This is the first year that students will perform a full-length production, she says.

The show is a contemporary pop musical that follows the story of Pocahontas and sticks close to the historic reality of her life and her Algonquin Indian tribe which was invaded by Europeans.  The music, however, is not historic.

Powell Walker, a Cincinnati Public School School for the Creative and Performing Arts graduate and former professional opera singer who has traveled the world, returned to Cincinnati last year to become the Children Theatre’s artistic director.

Her first role was working with the summer education program, which previously culminated in a music revue. This year the students, who are between the ages of nine and 18, will perform the revue in additional Pocahontas, she says.

“I wanted them to do a real show. I wanted everyone to see how incredible these kids are,’’ she says.

The camp runs from 10 am to 4 pm daily for four weeks. Students are taught all aspects of voice, drama and dance. The students, who are from throughout the region, also are required to learn the technical aspects of the theater. Each has an onstage role and an off-stage role – which could be set design, makeup, costume design or working on props.

In addition, the kids will work together to create a dramaturgy related to the history of Pocahontas that will be on display at the front of Northern Kentucky University’s Corbett Theater, which is where the production is being staged.

“This really is a boot camp,” Powell Walker says. “This is serious business. But the kids love it; they are just riveted.”

Powell Walker says that many of the younger children who don’t make the cut to participate in the STAR program – which included her 9-year-old son - do participate in the theatre’s stART program. That two-week program is geared toward students who have little or no experience in theater.

The educational program was launched 13 years ago by former artistic director Jack Louiso. For the past several years, the theater has collaborated with NKU’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Students are taught by national performers. Powell Walker is the music director of the performance, while the theater’s associate director, Roderick Justice, directs.

In addition to corporate sponsorship, the proceeds of the six public performances of Pocahontas as well as the $525 fee fund the entire program.

Powell Walker says she hopes community centers, library groups and families attend one of the performances, which will be from Aug. 2-5.

“It’s really going to be great,’’ she says.

Do Good:

•    Mark your calendar for one of six performances that begin Thurs., Aug. 2 and run through Sun., Aug. 5 at NKU’s Corbett Theater. General admission tickets are $15.

•    Go online for tickets.

•    Like the Cincinnati Children’s Theatre on Facebook to get the latest news .

•    Support Cincinnati Children’s Theatre.

By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of Digital and Social Media at the Powers Agency.

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