My favorite part of the Tony Awards last night was Audra McDonald’s acceptance speech for her historic win of Best Leading Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. As a theatre educator myself, I was so excited when she thanked her parents for sending her into the theatre and supporting her as a performer from a very early age, as a way of dealing with her hyperactive behavior. Every time I work with young theatre artists I am blown away by their excitement and most importantly by their deep understanding and empathy that can translate so beautifully to adulthood and a life long love of performance, something to which Audra’s now six (!!!) Tony Awards are an incredible testament.
Just hours before the Tony’s yesterday, I was here at the Y for our Preview Day of the Teen Theater Summer Camp. In a workshop with Y teaching artists Ashley Griffin and Michael Sypa and Red Fern Theatre Company teaching artists Melanie Moyer-Williams and Elizabeth Flax, our students, ranging in age from 4th to 10th grade, created short scenes about issues that they face in school: gross and unhealthy school lunches to playground bullying. In these short scenes created over the span of an hour, these students came together in a new group and were empowered to make use of their unique voices and opinions. To me, this is what the theatre should be about, and over and over again, Tony award winners thanked the teachers and family members who supported, taught, and loved them from the very beginning. There was even an announcement of a new Tony that will be presented, beginning next year to Theatre Educators! I am so excited to be a small part of the same this summer here at the Y!
-Ashley Renee Thaxton, Assistant Director of the Teen Theater Summer Camp at the 14th Street Y.
Questions about camp? Email Ashley at Ashley_Thaxton@14streety.org or call the Theater Office at (646) 395-4322.
PS. The 14th Street Y’s Annual Gala helps support great programs like our Teen theater Summer Camp. Please join us for the After Party on June 10th, or feel free to Bid on our Gala Auction by visiting www.14StreetY.org/Gala
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!
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?
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?
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
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 IntensiveAdd 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.