Musical Theatre Camp 2019 Welcomed Some Very Special Visitors!

The New Century School is special for a great number of reasons, and several of those reasons come together in this week’s Immersed. To start with, TNCS offers hands-down the city’s most varied and exciting lineup of summer camps, and Musical Theatre camp led by the always marvelous Martellies Warren is a perennial favorite. Then there’s all that goes into what makes such a camp so effective and so wonderful for young learners—the arts, the music-making, the mixed ages collaborating so beautifully! Not to mention skills relating to the camp  theme! But there’s one extra-special aspect to this year’s Musical Theatre camp that elevated it even further: four attendees from China joined the fun!

Meet Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex!

“Mike” (Zimo Han), age 11, is from Hunan. “Jane” (Xinyi Ma), age 11, and “Coco” (Jiarui Sunn), age 9, both live in Beijing. “Alex” (Qinghua Shang), age 6, is from Tianjin. The group was in Baltimore for 1 week, after which they headed to New York, NY for 4 days of sightseeing (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, etc.). It was everybody’s first visit to the United States. Mike and Jane were accompanied by their mothers (Aili Mao and Jing Li), and Alex was accompanied by both his mother and grandmother (Yu Zhang and Aixian Zhang). The group also had a “handler” of sorts from the Harvest Company of China to help facilitate activities and make sure everyone was comfortable. They stayed in two furnished Baltimore row houses in the Bolton Hill neighborhood and enjoyed having three spacious floors of living space to run around in. Their evenings after camp were mostly spent relaxing at home, playing chess and other boardgames and watching tv—they even learned the idiom, “to click around” when referring to not watching anything in particular but channel surfing. The adults in their party cooked breakfast for them each day, but they had plenty of opportunity to eat their favorite food—pizza! Lunches and dinners were often enjoyed out at restaurants.

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The kids spoke wonderful English as a result of lessons in school, but they also appreciated the chance to speak Mandarin Chinese with TNCS students. They reported having a great time and made lots of friends at camp. Back at home in China, their hobbies included playing basketball (Mike), drawing (Alex), reading (Jane), and figure skating (Coco). See some of their other talents below! While the kids were in camp, the adults did some sightseeing around town, taking in Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Library, for example, as well as visiting the Naval Academy in Annapolis and getting some shopping in at Arundel Mills Mall. A Target run was also de rigueur!

Behind the Scenes

Because Peter and the Wolf only has a handful of roles, the 25 total campers took on roles as a group, so, for example, the character of “Duck” was actually four campers. Campers ranged in age from rising 1st-graders to rising 7th-graders, and they hailed not from just China and TNCS but from schools all over the city like Patterson Park Public Charter School, Hampstead Hill Academy, St. Casimir’s, and the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Helping Mr. Warren lead camp was intern Carrie, who came to TNCS from China in early July and will stay for 1 year.

They learned important technical skills like stage blocking related to being part of a musical theatre production. Mr. Warren reported that they had the whole performance mapped out on the first day and so were able to devote their remaining days to rehearsing. After each rehearsal, Mr. Warren provided some debriefing notes for each group.

Comments like, “Wolves, wonderful job today! You were in time with the music, and you have amazing music to play off of!” and “Remember AIC? Always in character!” were common. The performers themselves likewise offered suggestions for how to improve a certain scene, like “Grandpa(s) should hang their heads and look disappointed in Peter.”

As per usual, campers made art to decorate the stage front. These are stunning!

They also crafted props and costumes and made great use of the Imagination Playground for set pieces.

The Play Is the Thing!

Mr. Warren introduced the performance and vowed not to interfere but to let his pros handle anything that came up. “They did an amazing job acting and putting up with my silliness,” he said. “It was wonderful!”

And now, we present Peter and the  Wolf, in its entirety!

Farewell, Friends!

On the last day of camp, after the performance of Peter and the Wolf, Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex treated the audience to some performances of their own.

They were also presented with Certificates of Participation in their English language immersion camp.

The adults who accompanied them were thrilled by the whole experience and were kind enough to share some of their impressions of the program. Alex’s mother is an English translation teacher at a college in Tianjin. Mike’s mother both promotes literacy and runs an Adidas store in Hunan. She also takes her job as mother very seriously and was very happy to be able to spend mornings with her son, here in Baltimore, cooking special meals. Jane’s mother is also in education.

They had various reasons for wanting their children to attend camp at TNCS. They wanted the authentic experience of a customized trip and did not want to be stuck on tours such as what a typical travel agency would offer. They wanted the flexibility to be able to have their possibly changing needs met, as Mike’s mom described it. They also wanted the chance to practice their English. Furthermore, their children tended to be shy, they reported, and they were hoping that an immersion summer camp might bring them out a bit. An ancillary reason is that they were very curious about immersion-style learning itself, which is quite rare in China. “The way you teach students and the way you live so freely is totally different from China. It really impressed me,” said Alex’s mother.

At TNCS Musical Theatre camp, Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex were doubly immersed, in a sense, because they also had to get comfortable being on stage and making new friends. For this, the adults were beyond grateful. They saw their children bravely trying new things and quickly becoming comfortable doing so. “I still remember the first day Alex went to school,” said his mom, “and when he came back home he told me he didn’t want to go again because he was too nervous. The next day he came back and something had changed. He tried his best to join the class, and he was so happy from then on.”

Jane had a lovely time, too. She wrote a letter to her friends back home completely in English, which made her mother very proud. She was having so much fun with them that she stayed up late to make gifts for them. “She really cherishes the friendships she has made,” said her mom.

Normally very independent Coco experienced some homesickness at first but quickly adapted and returned to her gregarious, social self.

Jane’s mom mentioned that she noticed a big change in all four of the children after their week at camp. At first they were reticent, but they very quickly embraced the experience and were livelier than she had ever seen.

Mike’s mom’s nicest surprise was the Orient Express restaurant owned by a TNCS family. She said the Chinese food there was better than what she can get in China!

Alex’s grandmother was most taken with the arrangement itself. She appreciated being able to learn from the trip on their jaunts, while the children were having such a rich immersion experience. She also enjoyed feeling so welcome and commented on how friendly and thoughtful everyone has been. Monica Li got an especially warm compliment for all she did to make their time comfortable and smooth. Monica is indispensable to TNCS!

On their last evening in Baltimore, they were going to Tokyo Seafood Buffet, where they would be trying their first taste of Maryland blue crab. We miss them all already and hope they remember TNCS and Charm City fondly, as we will hold them dear as well!

 

TNCS Debuts New Summer Camp: Musical Theatre!

For summer 2018, The New Century School expanded its already spectacular lineup of fun and exciting summer camps to include some new offerings. One of these was Musical Theatre camp, taught by TNCS’s amazing music director, Martellies Warren.

This camp focused on allowing campers free self-expression through exploration in set design, pairing dialogue with music and movement, and exploring the technical aspects of the performance stage.

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical—humor, pathos, love, and anger—are communicated through the words, music, movement, and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.

Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it is distinguished by the equal importance given to the dialogue, movement, music, and other elements.

Exit Stage Left!

After first learning the all-important jargon–what upstage versus downstage means, for example—campers spent the week practicing a scripted humor piece as well as breaking out into groups to write, direct, stage, act (and even sing!) in their own short plays. They also designed their own playbills, which graced the front of the stage.

Here are two of the younger campers performing the humorous piece, to thunderous applause.

(Stars in the making?) All campers performed this piece. To see more examples of this funny little clip and maybe catch a glimpse of your rising star, visit TNCS’s YouTube Channel and look for “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Without Further Ado!

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campAnd now for the four plays, which, to put it simply, brought down the house. They are brought to you here, scene by scene. Scene changes in between were handled by the set team of each group, and they did a wonderful job. Mr. Warren emphasized that he intervened as little as possible to let each play troupe own the production from beginning to end. He was called on to help out with some sound effects, however, and played both a very convincing doorbell as well as a rotary phone. Other props were contributed by the players themselves.

The Perfect Slice

First up was “The Perfect Slice”—a compelling food metaphor for what we all seek, deep down. (Or deep dish?)

Murder Mansion

Next up was “Murder Mansion.” tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campWatch out, Agatha—the horror genre apparently has crowned a new queen!

Warning, “Murder Mansion” may not be suitable for all audiences. Use your discretion. (Just kidding.)

One by one . . .

Finding a Pet

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campThird on the roster was “Finding a Pet,” a delightful romp through the process of welcoming four-legged friends into the family.

It’s one that nearly everyone in the audience found relatable, and kudos to the way the actors really inhabited their roles as animals.

Watch Out for the Witch

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campThe final performance of the day featured a solo sung by one of the actors.

“Watch Out for the Witch” starts out as a suspenseful nail biter, but, in the end, all is well. This heartwarming tale about witchcraft mixed with sisterly love is sure to have you spellbound!

(Psst—the solo is in Scene 2!)

 

Curtain!

What a wonderful week of musical theatricality and general hijinks upon the stage. Although Friday was the final act, let’s hope that summer 2019 will include an encore of this amazing camp!

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