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by Nathalie Covo


With the beginning of summer just around the corner, the decision on where to send children for summer camp can often be daunting. Luckily, there is a camp for every interest: sports, arts and crafts, and music are just a few. For those who aspire to the performing arts, the stage at the Professional Performing Arts Center of Queensborough Community College (QCC) in Bayside is already set for tapping, singing and much more. On June 30, the Theatre Arts Center will commence its summer residence at QCC for the first time, opening its doors to children and teens, ages 6-18, for an intense four-week workshop. In the past, the workshop has attracted mostly residents of the metropolitan area, namely Queens and Long Island. However, some of this year’s students are coming from Florida, Michigan, and even Arizona. Children who successfully completed the March auditions will have the chance to study dance, theater, voice and plenty more under the guidance of performing arts professionals. The diverse roster even includes a mime class, which actually encourages “clowning around”. Just as diverse is the assembly of professionals overseeing the program. All of the teachers have extensive credits in impressive venues too numerous to mention here. Since its inception in 1985, in Doylestown, Pa., the center has operated with one mission in mind: to provide a unique, professional experience, in a fun atmosphere, for children and teenagers aspiring to careers in the performing arts. Founder Kristine Lewis decided to begin the program when she discovered, during her multifaceted career as performer, director and teacher, that many young actors were not adequately prepared for the professional theater. In the fall of 2000, Lewis added another location, in Queens. However, due to space limitations, the group decided to search for a bigger home for its average of 75 students per workshop. The search was over when members of the QCC agreed to host the Theatre Arts Center for the summer. According to co-artistic director Robert Laconi, “We’re always looking to expand our services to even more children.” He remarked that there are few programs for teens being offered in the summer months, especially in the performing arts arena. In addition to traditional dance, voice and acting training, the center also offers a class to its teenage participants, called the Business of Theater, which covers the fundamentals of resume preparation, photos and unions. According to full-time director, choreographer and teacher Gary John La Rosa, who has been involved with the program for four years, “This class is vital for survival in the business.” Another of La Rosa’s concentrations is in audition technique. “I’ll have the kids do their audition and offer a critique,” he says. “It’s effective because kids don’t really have anything to show them what is expected of them from a professional standpoint.” What La Rosa finds to be the most rewarding aspect of his involvement, he says, is that “sometimes you’ll see the most quiet child blossom, eager to try something he or she may not have considered before the joining the program.” For 8-year-old participant Chloe Mondesir, now entering her second year with the program, this is the summer camp of choice. According to her mother, Carrol, Chloe loves to dance, and the guidance from all of the professionals at the center has been invaluable. “It’s not a traditional summer camp with a pool, but it’s what she wants,” Carrol Mondesir says. “The workshops have opened up a lot of doors for her.” The culmination of the four-week full-day classes will be two performances of a Broadway musical review called “Bound for Broadway” (an appropriate title, according to Laconi, who says, “It’s fitting for young kids aspiring to something bigger and better.”), on Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27.

The program runs June 30-July 25, daily from 9am-4pm (closed on July 4). The cost is $1,150 for the 4-week session. Note that class size is limited, and there is a waiting list. Call ahead for audition information. And for more information, call (718) 595-2905, or visit www.theatreartscenter.com.


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