All The World’s a Stage – Including the Classroom!

Youth Theater Programs at the 14th Street Y

We sat down with Ashley Renee Thaxton, Assistant Director of the Teen Theater Summer Camp here at the 14th Street Y to talk about her love for theater, for camp, and theater camp here at the Y!

Tell us a little bit about you!Ash2

I will be graduating from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study this May, with a concentration in Double-Conscious Performance: Intersections in Acting, Dance, and Critical Race Theory. I have an incredible love for performance that facilitates dialogue about issues of race and representation, as well as Golden Age musical theater and Black American theater history. As a teaching artist, I have worked with young performers of all ages and taught in California, New York City, and Accra, Ghana. I’ve been here at the Y since my freshman year, first as an intern with LABA, but I’ve also worked the Service Desk, different Y special events and I’m now incredibly excited to be the Assistant Director of the Teen Theater Summer Camp!

What’s so great about theater camp?

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Ashley is the furthest to the right, from a performance of “One” from A Chorus Line in 2007. Next to her is one of her best friends who also moved to NYC to puruse a career in theater!

I spent nearly every summer of middle and high school with the Pasadena Musical Theatre Program in my hometown of Pasadena, California and I can honestly say that it was one of the most formative experiences of my childhood. Through PMTP, I grew not only in my love for theater and my technical skills as a performer, but I came to truly understand what it meant to be an effective communicator, and not just because there was no money in the budget for microphones some years! I was told that everyone had a unique voice and talent to share and that encouraged me to approach everything I did with confidence, not just performance. I was able to transition to leadership positions within PMTP in my last years of high school and first years of college, and this shaped my love of the theater to include teaching artistry, directing, and stage management: jobs I have come to love and have shaped my professional career. Also, most of the childhood friendships that I have maintained since coming to college 3,000 miles from home are with the friends I have from PMTP, and I only spent summers with them!

What makes camp here at the Y special?

Ashley in rehearsal for an all-female production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."
Ashley facilitates a workshop of themes for an all-female production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Those of us spearheading the teen theater programming here at the Y place an incredible importance on creating a sense of community and support for our students. We have all spent time in different theater camps over the years, and have brought with us best practices, teaching styles, and unique special interests. So many training programs for young artists create competitive and high stakes environments that can break you down more than they lift you up. We believe that the most growth — artistic, emotional, or personal — is possible when a young person feels supported and valued. We also give our teens the opportunity to explore all different facets of the theater, from musical theater to Shakespeare to playwriting to directing to clowning, which contributes to their development as multi-disciplinary artists. If you’ve never set foot on a stage before, if you’re counting down the days until you win your Tony Award, or if you’re somewhere in the middle we want to work with you! Our Counselor-In-Training program for the Teen Theater Summer Camp allows for highschoolers to take their involvement in theater to the next level: gaining expereince in directing and peer leadership while still growing artistically themselves.

So how do I get my child involved?

We have two amazing camps coming up for young artists of every age!

SPRING BREAK THEATER CAMP
(grades K – 8th) Weekdays: Wednesday, April 16th – Tuesday, APril 22nd

Join the 14th Street Y and the exciting, innovative MCC Theater Company in a one-of-a-kind spring break experience! Students will learn acting, improv, public speaking, and more, and get to experience being in our professional black box theater. *Separate tracks for elementary and middle school age students.* Flexible scheduling for families. Register for up to a full five days of programming.
 

TEEN THEATER SUMMER CAMP
(entering 6th grade – HS graduates) Monday, July 7th – Friday, July 25th

Our programming partners: Amas Musical Theatre, MCC Theater, and Red Fern Theatre Company will provide discipline-specific instruction in the areas of musical theater, acting, playwriting, Shakespeare, and more!
The 14th Street Y will teach various master classes, including training for high school and college theater program auditions. Those who have completed grades 9-12 participate as Counselors-In-Training, which includes advanced acting classes, and leadership training.
Amas Musical Theatre Intensive Add on Week! July 21-25th

In addition to working with young people, Amas (which means “you love” in Latin) has cultivated new and diverse voices in American musical theatre, including over 60 professional productions. In this week-long program, teens gain expertise in acting, dancing, and singing techniques, with emphasis on how these skills all come together to create a musical theatre performance. The week will conclude in a showcase of skills learned for family and friends.

And check out a video about camp, featuring Director Becky Skoff and our students from last summer!

14th Street Y Theater Camp Video from Case Aiken on Vimeo.

Composting at Camp!

With the launch of our successful composting drop off program last March, the 14th Street Y has discovered how willing people are to participate in composting when given the opportunity to do so. Composting is a great eco educational tool for kids, and it’s never had more room to shine than right now, at our New Country Day Camp. Today we’re sharing a blog written by Aneta, New Country’s very own Greening Coordinator! .

Kids learn about composting at New Country Day Camp!
Kids learn about composting at New Country Day Camp!

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We are very excited to introduce to you our Composting and Gardening program at New Country Day Camp in summer 2013 where campers and staff have been busy playing, smiling, and composting!

Our environmental program exposed 600+ children, from ages 4-12, and 100+ staff to the environmental advantages of composting and Jewish values that are associated with environmental advocacy. The program consisted of a diverse exposure not only to composting, but to gardening, environmental interconnectedness and our responsibility as members and leaders in this world. Campers were introduced to our worm bins, our metal can compost bins, our sensory/Havdalah garden and lead through activities on the "what, how and why" of compost. Our sensory garden featured plants that stimulated different senses: basil and stevia for taste, spearmint, peppermint and English lavender for smell, sunflowers for sight, dusty miller and lemongrass for touch and echinacea for sound because of its attraction to songbirds. It was also entitled a Havdalah garden because it reminds children of the ceremony we have after Shabbat, in which we use our senses to taste the wine, smell the herbs and see the candle.

At lunch, and after every Sustainable snack, children were reminded to throw their food scraps into our green composting bins filled with our compostable bio-bags. A "Yay or Nay" sign supplemented the reminder by showing children what could be (hence the yay!) and what could not be (nay) composted.

Every Wednesday and Friday, the bio-bags were collected and brought onto the Manhattan buses to be brought back to the Y, where it was compiled with the Y's compost. This acted as a zero-carbon footprint method because our children were already traveling on the buses back and forth from camp and the net worth of our compost collection was greater because of the variety of items the Y accepted for composting. On average, NCDC diverted about 130 pounds of food scraps away from landfills and into nutritious soil a week. At the end of Week 5, NCDC has composted 685 pounds of compost and is expected to produce over a thousand pounds in one camp season! That's a whole lot of soil that then is used for local farms upstate.

As for programming, campers how to create seed globes, which are small balls of organic compost, water, red art clay and seeds that act as micro-environments for plants to grow almost anywhere, and exposed campers to Jewish values such as Bal Taschit (avoiding waste), L'avdah u'leshamrah (protecting the environment), Manhigut (leadership) and Arevut (mutual responsibility).

We illustrated the values of composting by creating educational and experiential opportunities for the campers to engage in throughout the day in their age and subject based units. As Greening Coordinator, I designed programming that intertwined environmental education along with each unit. For example, we set up our compost bins, built our sensory/Havdalah garden and made mint lemonade from our garden with CCP, our Cooking, Camping and Pioneering Unit. With Gymnastics, we discussed the importance of a closed cycle and brainstormed other cycles that exist in our lives, such as the cycles of the moon and sun, the planets, and the life cycles of plants and animals. We manifested these ideas through body movements in a show during Shabbat. For Arts and Crafts, we built recycled scarecrows for our garden made out of toilet paper rolls, milk jugs and old clothing. With Science and Technology, we did soil testing, used this information to decide upon the location for next year's planter box and planted sunflowers as an activity for teaching phytoremediation. For Performing Arts, we created stop-motion films that both promoted and educated composting and environmental work to campers and you! the parents.

We couldn't have done it without your campers! To continue your camper's composting efforts and help bring the habit home, below are a few links on how to deal with the food waste that your home produces:

1. A worm bin is a great way to do indoor composting. Worm bins can be purchased through the Lower East Side Ecology Center: http://www.lesecologycenter.org/index.php/composting.html. They even have a compost hotline!

2. Outdoor compost bins are also an option for any outdoor space.

3. GreenMarkets accept compost collections, and other forms of recycling such as textile recycling, from homes at varying times and locations in NYC: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourmarkets. An excellent way to keep food scraps in your home in between visits is to freeze your compost!

4. Last but not least, the Y is happy to accept any and all of your compost. Click here to learn about the Y’s Composting Program!

Join our campers in our composting efforts and keep on composting!

Aneta Bujno, our Greening Coordinator, has worked at NCDC for five summers. Aneta learned how to teach environmental education by volunteering at Bushwick City Farm, a grassroots community organization in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Building Ensemble

Last month, the Teen Theater Summer Institute here at the 14th Street Y had it’s first free workshop and camp promo in our three part series this fall, and we had a blast!  Ashley Thaxton, TTSI Assistant Teaching Artist tells us all about it.

TTSI Workshop 2

Our focus for this first workshop was building ensemble. As a performer and educator myself, I know that community building and trust are key components of both successful art and education. Along with Ashley Griffin, our Lead Teaching Artist, and Arielle Sosland, the LABA intern, we lead the students who attended in games and exercises that fostered creativity and honed acting skills.

By the end of the workshop, the students who didn’t know each other an hour and a half before were talking and laughing and creating art collaboratively. There were tableaus of food and colors, movement and soundscapes of New York City, and improv scenes about sun burns and having to clean up your room.

TTSI Workshop 1

Our next workshop, Actor Skills, is coming up on Wednesday April 10th from 5:00-6:30pm here at the Y. If you are or know a current 5th – 8th grader who is interested in acting, theatre, or just looking to have a great time with some new friends, have them call or email us at (646) 395-4322 or Becky_Skoff@14streety.org We’d love to make some art with them!

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For more information about this great summer program,

go to the website by clicking here!

We look forward to seeing you there!

First look at the Teen Theater Summer Institute

The theater at the 14th street Y is excited to be holding their second summer of the Teen Theater Summer Institute. This two week program allows students entering 6th grade to students entering 9th grade a chance to:

  • Design their own program, based on their interests
  • Meet other teens who are passionate about shaping the future of theater
  • Study with experts in the areas of acting, singing, dancing, and more
  • Have access to a state-of-the-art blackbox theater
  • Explore how performance can change the world

Ashley Griffin, the Assistant Camp Director and Lead Teaching Artist at the Teen Theater Summer Institute this summer gave us a little more information about what to look forward to in this upcoming camp!

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A little bit about Ashley Griffin, she is most well known as the creator of “Twilight: The Unauthorized Musical Parody”, for which she also originated the role of Bella. She also recently made her Broadway debut as Elphaba in the For Good, “Wicked” special event concert at the Gershwin Theater. Ashley holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has studied at The Boston Conservatory, and Hamilton Academy of Music.

Ashley, tell us a little bit about the summer program?

The Teen Theater Summer Institute is a theater intensive aimed at middle school students.

It is a really fun opportunity to not only learn more about theater but to make wonderful new friends and to gain life skills for everything from high school to college to public speaking to leadership skills! The camp is a great opportunity to receive theater training, build more confidence and have one-on-one industry professional mentors.

With this being the second summer of the Teen Program and your second summer working with it, what are you looking forward to this upcoming season?

I really loved working with the kids last summer. A really great ensemble was created from the beginning of the session to the end. It was obvious that everyone became great friends. Students came out of their shell, felt more comfortable, let loose, and also really grew as people. It was cool to see the life changes that came out of this summer camp. Not only did students become more passionate about theater but some students found the courage and drive to audition for NYC theater programs after this experience. I am very much looking forward to these same experiences and discoveries this summer.

How can we learn more?

Registration is now open on the 14th street y website.

Click here for more information about the exciting summer program!