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BWW Interview: Laura Pietropinto and Rita Pietropinto Kitt Talk About How Marymount Drama Camp is Going Virtual This Year!

Marymount Drama Camp is moving online, with special Broadway guests!

BWW Interview: Laura Pietropinto and Rita Pietropinto Kitt Talk About How Marymount Drama Camp is Going Virtual This Year! Marymount Drama Camp is an annual day camp for students ages 5-15. Campers are able to take part in classes for acting, singing, and dance, with weekly specialty classes in playwriting, composing, and production design. Courses are taught by professional teaching artists, along with guest artists from the Broadway community, who teach master classes to campers every week.

This year, Marymount Drama Camp made the switch to online due to the current global health crisis.

We got to chat with camp co-directors Laura Pietropinto and Rita Pietropinto Kitt about the transition to online and what makes Marymount Summer @ Home such a fun experience for campers!

What sets your program apart from other summer camps?

What sets Marymount Drama Camp apart is our staff of extraordinary teaching artists. Because we are located in the heart of New York City, we are able to recruit the finest professionals from Broadway and the arts community to nurture and educate our campers. Our program is directed by Rita Pietropinto Kitt and Laura Pietropinto, two Broadway artists who run the drama program at Marymount School and have grown the camp over the past 20 years. Most recently, we collaborated with Disney Theatricals on piloting pre-licensed versions of Freaky Friday and Descendants.

Our campers have varied experience and skill levels. Some have been on Broadway and some have never stepped on stage. All of them come together for 5 weeks to participate in the magic of theatre.

What is the process of getting involved with the camp? Do students have to audition to take part? Do they need to be at a certain skill-level before classes begin?

Our philosophy is that every child has a talent that or passion that can be nurtured through arts education. The most rewarding part of our program is watching young artists discover their self-confidence through theatre. We do not require auditions to enter the program. Auditions are held during the first week of camp for various productions. We believe the collaborative process is one of the most important aspects of theatre education, and we encourage our campers to learn about many disciplines from production design to performance.

How are Broadway stars getting involved?

The Broadway community is filled with some of the best, most generous teaching artists in the world. They know how important arts education is because they have trained extensively in their own careers. Our campers have the invaluable opportunity to participate in the living history of musical theatre in NYC. We usually take an annual field trip to see a Broadway show and then invite artists from that production to lead workshops and discussions with our campers. This year, we realized that what our campers needed more than anything was to feel a sense of community and stay connected to Broadway even though they were quarantined at home. We felt it was important to support diversity and inclusion when selecting shows and artists. We reached out to our friends and colleagues and they immediately answered the call. Each week, Broadway artists joined us over ZOOM to teach us about the shows we were studying and to share their personal journeys. From Mean Girls' Taylor Louderman, Erika Henningsen and Nell Benjamin, to Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez, to The Lion King's Jelani Remy, to Into the Woods' playwright/director James Lapine, our campers were able to have intimate discussions and gain insight into the inner workings of several Broadway productions. We were so fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of diverse Broadway artists share their unique stories with our campers.

How did you make the transition to virtual this year?

Many of our campers attend our program for years from the time they are very young. When COVID-19 shut down NYC, we knew we couldn't let them down. Our team immediately began brainstorming ways to transition to virtual learning. Normally, our camp runs daily from 9am-3pm and presents full-scale musical productions over the course of 5 weeks. This summer we decided to do weekly intensives focused on select Broadway musicals for 3hrs per day. Campers were allowed to enroll on a week-to-week basis. Our teaching artists prepared voice, dance, acting, and theatre history lessons around each musical so that each camper would learn choreography, songs, and scenework from each show. Even though they were connecting virtually, we provided our campers with an outlet to sing, dance, and act together from their living rooms.

Why is a drama camp like Marymount's so important to students?

Arts education is often a lifeline through which adolescents can find their voices, develop self-confidence and discover deep social-emotional connections. In an age where individual screens dictate our lives, the human connection and collaboration theatre brings is vital to young artists. Theatre teaches empathy, teamwork, and dedication to personal and group goals. It teaches us to be present in the moment, to listen, to think creatively, to trust our instincts, to keep going, and to value each other's talents. We are facing an unprecedented time for arts education. Our team at Marymount Drama Camp is dedicated to keeping live theatre alive, even if on a virtual platform.

What should students expect to get out of a typical day/week when attending Marymount's camp?

Marymount Drama Camp provides an immersive and multi-disciplinary arts program. We focus on music, dance, acting, and drama exercises. Whether our students are new to the stage or theatrical veterans, we are able to support their life-long relationship to the arts.

Anything else you'd like to add?

This summer, everyone was feeling a sense of loss at not being able to be in the room together. At Marymount Drama Camp, we proved that we can still provide that community in virtual form. In creating an online environment guided by respect, trust and encouragement, our campers were able to share their talents openly and grow as artists and performers. On a virtual platform, we were able to welcome our campers from near and far to come together in our creative space. Likewise, there were no restrictions on our teaching artists' availability, so we were able to draw the best from all over the country. Most importantly, we proved as a community that the creative process can go on, connections can be made, and collaborations continued through our virtual arts platform.

Learn more about Marymount Drama Camp by visiting their site HERE.

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