By Laura KreiderJuly 27, 2018
CASERMA EDERLE, Vicenza Italy -Soldiers' Theatre hosted the West End Stage workshop here on post for the second year in a row.
Approximately 30 children ranging from 7 to 15 years old had the chance to attend a weeklong workshop in the facility June 18-23 with a West End Stage team from London.
"This year the planning phase was much easier since we already ran the camp last year and already had a system in place," said Jodi Giesbrecht, Child & Youth Services instructional program specialist for SKIESUnlimited, who coordinated the event.
"We received positive feedback from all families, so we reserved the theater for this year's camp as soon as last year's camp was over. We had many new children, but some did attend the theater camp last year.
This is a very intense camp that has the youth singing, dancing, and acting all day, every day, for one week. Our staff loved observing the amount of energy that goes on between the instructors and the students. It's beautiful to watch the bond that occurs especially since there is such an age gap between the students," she added.
The West End Stage team is made up of performers and technical staff from West End shows.
"We had such a fabulous week. Jodi [Giesbrecht] was a fantastic host. The children are extremely lucky to have someone like her providing them with opportunities like this," said Hollie Taylor, acting teacher whose West End credits include "Matilda the Musical" and "Oliver!"
"We are used to working with children of all ages and abilities, but the children on this base are very special. They all have such beautiful, individual talents and personalities and a great love of theater. The facilities at the Soldiers' Theatre are brilliant, and Jerry [Brees] who runs the building provided us with everything we needed," she said.
Other tutors included Chrissy Cuttell (dance) who has performed in "Dirty Dancing" and "Les Miserables"; Matthew Johnston (singing), "Titanic The Musical"; and Jon Kindon (stage management) who worked on technical teams for the National Theatre and "Young Frankenstein."
"I think the biggest challenge for the children is the amount of material we give them," said Taylor.
In fact, each student had to learn three group songs, all fully staged, a complex dance routine and a shortened version of a musical, all with their individual part to play.
"All the material is really fun and there is a huge amount of play involved in creating the shows.
We all were extremely proud of the students, for their development throughout the week and the strength of their performance on the day," Taylor said.
One participant, nine-year-old Erica Logan, liked what she experienced last year and chose to attend again. She was impressed, she said, by how the instructors taught "how to sing and talk loudly without hurting our throats. They were nice, encouraging and pushed us to our best."
Brees, director of Soldiers' Theatre, started planning children's musical productions at the theater in 2014 with "The Little Mermaid." Since then, interest for theater within the Vicenza Military Community has continued to grow; about 55 children participated in the most recent musical, "Honk! Jr.," directed by Brees.
Arianna Rockel, 10, who was in that production, attended this workshop for the first time.
"My first experience in theatre was Scrooge," she said. "Since then, I have been in some musicals, "Shrek Jr." and "Honk! Jr."
I learned dancing, singing and drama, and I loved the instructors; they were excellent," Rockel said.
William Briggs, 15, another workshop's novice, echoed Rockel's words.
"The instructors are the most kindhearted and flamboyant people I have ever met, who can be strict, but in a good way," he said.
After participants were introduced to a mix of classes, the workshop culminated June 23 in a one-hour long performance with a full house.
"This was the first time I had the opportunity to see it," said Angelica Jordan, one of the parents in the audience.
"It is incredible what they [children] were able to do in just one week. I was impressed by the quality of the instructors, how they separated the participants into groups for acting, dancing and singing and then brought it all together with one amazing performance. I would totally recommend this experience to any student in the Vicenza community," said Jordan.
If children are interested in theater, Soldiers' Theatre offers other opportunities for youth throughout the season.
"If you missed the opportunity to participate in the summer theatre camp this year, there are great ways for the talented youth of our community to get involved with theatre with our annual holiday show in December and our annual youth musical in May," Brees said.
Anyone interested should call the theater at DSN 634-7281, comm. 0444-71-7281; for information about next year camp SKIESUnlimited at DSN 634-8051, comm. 0444-71-8051.