Shining the Spotlight on Theater

By Stephanie Wang – 11th Grade, Peters Township High School

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Julia as Annie. Photo courtesy of Archie Carpenter, Pittsburgh CLO Academy

The amount of work to produce a theater production is monumental. Who will play the different roles? What the costumes look like? Who will design the set?  The process of answering these questions can take months.

However, Pittsburgh CLO summer camps are able to answer all those questions and put together an impressive show in just one, two, or three weeks. Offering camps such as Seussical Jr., Aladdin, Annie Jr., and Promising Preschoolers, the Pittsburgh CLO provides acting opportunities for a variety of ages. At the conclusion of the camp, families and friends are invited to see the finished production at the CLO Theater.

But the short time frame doesn’t mean that the kids don’t have a little fun in between learning how to walk on stage, choosing their costumes, and learning the music and dances for the show. Participants often play theater games like Freeze and Zip-Zap-Zop, which help them work together, focus, and be creative, while also having a great time. On Fridays, if there is extra time, a talent show is held, and kids can show off their special abilities, whether it’s dancing or speaking a few words of a foreign language.

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Annie Jr. from Session 1. Photo courtesy of Archie Carpenter, Pittsburgh CLO Academy

Kids of all backgrounds, abilities, and motivations are drawn to the camp, yet the CLO summer camps are able provide an individualized experience to all of them. Every participant is given a role, and moreover, the show allows students with specific talents to showcase them. Catherine Kolos, the Admissions Coordinator for the Pittsburgh CLO Academy, tells me about how during the last Annie session, they had a group of dancers who were able to incorporate their highly skilled dancing into the show. The participants, whether interested in a career in theater or just a fun thing to do over the summer, are fully immersed in a theatrical experience, complete with an audition process and mentoring from professional directors, music directors, and choreographers. As Catherine describes, “It’s a taste of the magic and the process behind production.” Participants are able to experience a professional environment without the stress that can come with it. While it can take years to learn proper stage etiquette, Alex Manalo, an intern at Pittsburgh CLO and former participant in CLO Summer Camps and classes, tells me that these kids are learning them from the get-go.

As art continues to be cut from school budgets, the importance of CLO summer camps in Pittsburgh is only increasing.  As Dr. Seuss once said, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!” The arts are crucial to education. Several studies, including one from Mississippi State University, have found that the arts can improve test scores and learning in a classroom. Not only do the arts improve test scores, but their effects can be seen on a deeper level. They develop creative, well-rounded individuals that can apply their skills to almost everything. We incorporate the arts into our lives in all sorts of different ways, whether it’s as an engineer designing a part or as a fashion designer coming up with the next big fashion trend. Says Catherine, “I think the beautiful thing about theater, or in any type of creative arts, is the fact that you learn humanity, the fact that you learn compassion and empathy, and you really get to hold a mirror to the human condition. You really learn how to be a better person.” Alex also tells me about the three basic traits participants can excel in through a theater experience: courage, discipline, and responsibility.

Like the character Punjab in the film adaptation of the musical Annie once said, “A child without courage is like a night without stars.” The development in character that each participant goes through, whether it’s learning to speak up or becoming a more responsible individual, is what makes theater a truly special learning experience.


Stephanie Wang 2Stephanie Wang, a rising junior at Peters Township High School, is an avid writer and food enthusiast. Her past writing has been featured on The Almanac’s Youth Page, and she is currently the editor of Business Funnel.

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