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Rubicon Theatre Company Announces Summer Youth Program Featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell, Stephen Schwartz, and More!

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Rubicon Theatre Company Announces Summer Youth Program Featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell, Stephen Schwartz, and More!

Just like many other theatres from Broadway to Boise, Rubicon's goal has always been to bring people together and build a sense of community. Priority one for Rubicon at this time of year is the Summer Youth Program. For 21 summers, the board and staff of Rubicon has created a tradition of opening the company's doors to the young theatre artists of our area. In that time, more than 2,600 students between the ages of five and twenty-five have crossed the threshold to spend their summers in the worlds of make-believe, musical theatre, technical theatre and classical Shakespeare. This year, due to Coronavirus, that threshold is barred. Yet Rubicon remains committed to making it another memorable summer. With help from friends far and wide, the company is not only keeping the program going this year, but expanding the curriculum to engage students on a more personal level.

For 2020, Rubicon has made the inevitable decision to move the program entirely online. "It's a challenging proposition," says Kirby Ward, director of the program. "Not being able to have a normal rehearsal with the cast all in one place is going to feel unusual for the kids. So much of what makes the summer great for them is that sense of being part of a team - part of something bigger than themselves. When you work successfully on a play or musical you create the feeling of a close-knit family. The bonds that form during these shows can last a lifetime."

In summers past, those bonds were formed during an intensive six-day-a-week schedule, with rehearsals lasting eight hours a day for up to four weeks. The kids put training into action on one of four fully produced plays, including three musicals and a Shakespearean piece.

After weeks of discussion among the staff and board, the Rubicon organization decided that the summer program would move forward in spite of the challenges presented by quarantine. "Even if a final live performance isn't possible, we feel we can still provide valuable training and an effective emotional outlet for young people that working on a show allows," says Ward.

This year's list of shows includes Annie, Journey of the Noble Gnarble and Shakespeare's Macbeth. But there's a wrinkle to the theatre's plan; a bonus, if you will. "Since we'll be on the web," says Ward, anyone from anywhere in the world can log in and be involved. We're taking advantage of that and inviting a roster of amazing special guests to video-conference with the kids and talk about their careers." Rubicon students will be introduced to Tony Award-winners Brian Stokes Mitchell; Casey Nicholaw, director of The Book of Mormon, The Drowsy Chaperone and Something Rotten; composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, whose credits include Wicked, Godspell,

Pippin and Prince of Egypt; and actors Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill and Fun Home) and Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls), along with Broadway composer Andrew Lippa who wrote the scores to Heathers and The Addams Family; and Norm Lewis, Lincoln Center's most recent Porgy in Porgy and Bess. Andrew Samonsky (South Pacific and The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Broadway), who is a Ventura native and grew up in the region, will also participate.

"And that's only part of the list," says Ward. (A full listing of artists and classes may be found at www.rubicontheatre.org.) Students also have personal weekly training sessions with voice teachers Rick Hilsabeck and Sarah Pfisterer, two past stars from the Broadway and National Tours of Hal Prince's Phantom of the Opera." The students will be rehearsing daily via Zoom and filming their scenes and songs in makeshift home studios.

"The important elements of storytelling will still apply," says Ward, "but this year, instead of forging the bond that happens when a cast assembles in one place, I'll be focusing on the individual actor and how their unique skills and personality can enhance the whole. It's not going to be your standard theatre fare, but I'm really excited to see what we come up with!" In addition to the classes for young people, for the first time we have summer programs available for all ages. Adults will be able to audit the "Inside the Actor's Process" for a fee. A class is also offered for aspiring stage manages taught by Rubicon's Director of Production and Operations, Jessie Vacchiano, where students will receive comprehensive training and have a chance to meet online with working professionals from the fields of Broadway, Vegas, regional theatre and 99-seat theatre in L.A. Rubicon casting director Stephanie Coltrin and best-selling author Judy Kerr will be teaching classes in Audition Technique, both for stage and for film and television. Final presentations will be reviewed and feedback will be provided from Rubicon's artistic team.

Full details and registration information for the summer programs is now open at www.rubicontheatre.org. For more information, call Kirby Ward at 805.667.2912, ext. 232, or contact him at kward@rubicontheatre.org.


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