One Magic Summer
The Academy for Musical Theatre’s Safe & Interactive Summer Camp Experience - theHumm May 2021

One Magic Summer
The Academy for Musical Theatre’s Safe & Interactive Summer Camp Experience - theHumm May 2021

Heidi Stepanek is a professional and experienced musician, stage director and drama educator who has built a career out of her love of working with children, and her passion for musical theatre. 24 years ago she founded the Perth Academy of Musical Theatre (PAMT), which has since transitioned into The Academy for Musical Theatre and now operates in both Perth and Ottawa. This summer, The Academy is offering a creative and Covid-safe summer musical theatre experience for young people.

theHumm: I’ve checked out the One Magic Summer programs on your website, and I can’t get over how many activities and features are packed into six weeks. Can you give our readers a quick overview of what participants can expect — from the time the “special delivery package” arrives at their home right through to the final performance?

Absolutely! As it’s been a difficult year for all, but especially for our young people who desperately need music, creativity and connection in their lives right now, our goal is to create not just a camp but a full experience, to ensure that our children know that there is still lots of magic in the world, and to have a chance to experience it firsthand.

So, firstly, a very special package will be hand-delivered to each cast member’s door in early June, which will include the scripts, sheet music, materials for creating costumes and props, as well as some very special surprises (we don’t want to give any spoilers here!) for four different exciting productions. Each student will have the chance to peruse the scripts and scores, and prepare a (fun — not scary!) individual audition to perform in person, at either the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, or at Code’s Mill on the Park in Perth (with Covid protocols in place), or, alternatively, on video if in-person is not possible, in early July. Each student will receive detailed positive feedback on their audition (to boost their confidence and to assist them in preparing for similar audition experiences, should they choose to pursue theatre in the future), and each will be cast as a lead role (one of their three top choices) in the production of their choice! We firmly believe that every child is a star, and so each one of them is considered a valued leader in the cast and will have at least one singing solo and several lines. Each student will also be a chorus member in the other three productions, so that they have a chance to experience how important — and fun — it is to perform powerfully as a team.

Once the shows are cast, the exciting rehearsal process will take place through July and August in a series of professionally recorded videos by our talented staff, teaching the choreography, vocals, scene blocking, and how to make costumes and props at home from the package materials. These videos will be available to our cast members on-demand and can be watched and practiced with whenever is convenient and as often as they wish. Also, each week we will have a live Zoom vocal technique class, as well as a dance technique class, and each Wednesday evening will be live Zoom rehearsals with our casts of each show to have fun performing together! These Zoom “mini performances” will also be recorded and will become a part of the final video later.

The culmination of the summer will be our final performance, which will take place on the stage of the beautiful Gladstone Theatre. As we don’t anticipate being able to have an audience or a full cast gathered together indoors (due to Covid safety regulations), cast members will be scheduled for their final performance in small groups, with full Covid precautions in place. However, it will be truly magical, with cast members in full costumes with lights, sound, makeup, sets and props on the stage of the gorgeous Gladstone! The performance will be filmed by a professional videographer, and then edited together with the Zoom performances to create a beautiful final video that students and their families can have for years to come as a memory of this “magic summer!”

We also hope to have an epic final cast party — outdoors at a park in Ottawa, in accordance with Covid regulations of the time — to celebrate our summer together and the connections we have made.

I’m so excited already — it’s going to be a truly magical time together.

What shows will be featured in this summer’s performance, and how do you go about choosing your shows?

We always try to pick shows that will excite and inspire our cast members, that include positive messages, powerful music and large casts, so that every student has the chance to be a star and play a lead role. We always try to balance a diverse repertoire so that there is something for everyone to get excited about, and also attempt a balance between newer material and classics, though this season is certainly a lot more on the “newer” side of that spectrum!

When choosing shows for this special summer, we knew that we would be condensing and combining four shows together into one “compilation” production for all of our students, rather than our usual format of offering one full-length production per workshop. We had to take into consideration which shows we would be able to secure copyrights to in a condensed form, but also wanted to ensure that they were topical and exciting! We were very lucky this year that we were able to negotiate royalty contracts for four incredible shows — we can’t wait to share them with you! They are (insert drumroll here…)

Hamilton. The Greatest Showman. Wicked. Frozen 2. (mic drop.)

We are so excited to be able to offer such an all-star lineup of shows, and we can’t wait to get started!

Aside from learning to sing and dance, what are some other skills that you and your staff try to foster through your programs?

Our number one mandate at the Academy has always been to build confidence in our students. In this uncertain world, being able to have strength and take pride in your abilities and true self is of utmost importance, and we attempt to foster this in all our young stars. Public speaking and performing in front of a crowd is documented as being the number one fear for most people, and we strive to help our young students learn how to put their best and true self forward in a safe and supportive space. The huge sense of accomplishment that comes with successfully and passionately rehearsing and performing a role is incomparable to any other experience, and we are so full of joy when we see our young stars shine with the knowledge that they are capable, and can excel, at this!

On a related note, we want to ensure that all youth who wish to join us at the Academy are able to do so, and are not impeded by financial constraints, especially during these economically tough times. We have established a sponsorship program supported by local families and businesses who believe in the Academy programs — if you wish to learn more, please do contact us. We also encourage anyone wishing to donate to the sponsorship program to help a child have a magical experience this summer to contact us at .

One Magic Summer runs from July 2 to August 14. The All-Ages Program includes ages 6–16, and the Advanced Teen Program (offering a higher level of instruction for students who have had considerable musical theatre experience, and who would like a greater challenge) is for ages 12–18. Registrations should be submitted by the end of May at the latest, so that each student’s special delivery package arrives in early June. All details can be found at .


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