WBTT's Stage of Discovery Student Show

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Stage of Discovery student Hadara Porter learns a dance number. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

“One of the things I’ve emphasized to the kids is that you never know who’s watching you from the audience,” says Jim Weaver, the Education Director/Artistic Associate at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. “If in some moment you decide that you’re going to separate from what’s happening on the stage and not pay attention to the scene, you’re going to take that audience member out of the story.”

Weaver is speaking on one of the lessons that he and fellow staff members at WBTT have been working to instill on the participants of this summer’s “Stage of Discovery” camp, an intensive, five-week summer musical program offered by WBTT to students ages 13-18. “Stage of Discovery”, now in its eighth year, is an audition-only program that provides five weeks of lessons in acting, dance, singing and improvisation free of charge to its participants. This summer, the program will culminate in two public performances of FAME The Musical in WBTT’s The Donnelly Theatre on July 15 and 16. The show is based on the 1980 musical film FAME, which chronicles the life and challenges of students at New York's High School for the Performing Arts.

“In terms of picking FAME, I couldn’t think of anything more apropos to what the program is about,” says Weaver, who is also set to direct the show. “Everything that they’re studying in the show is exactly what we’re doing at this camp. For me, it’s very important that everyone feels that they are contributing to the show as well – this is our first time doing a “book” show, or something that has been published and produced before as opposed to the musical revue shows that we’ve done in the past. Part of the program is realizing that everybody is essential to telling the story, no matter how big or small a role they may have.”

In keeping with the sentiment of the camp, Weaver didn’t cast FAME through a traditional audition process. “Because we have participants from ages 13-18, we have a wide range of experience and skill levels. So what I’ll do, since I don’t want them feeling as if they’re competing with one another, is I’ll go and just observe the classes as they’re happening for the first few weeks and cast the show that way,” says Weaver. “It’s kind of like my own secret audition process where I can figure out which character suits each camper without having them feel that pressure to perform on the spot.”

Saturday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 16 at 2 p.m., The Donelly Theatre at WBTT, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota.

Pictured: Stage of Discovery student Hadara Porter learns a dance number. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

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