Vacation theater camps offered at Bay Street and PAC


This year, for the first time, proponents of theater education for young people fall into two camps—but there is no disagreement about the value of learning about the performing arts, or the life lessons that can be derived from participation.

Rather the two camps are different sides of the same coin, five-day school vacation workshops in theater arts offered at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor during the upcoming Presidents Week break from February 16 to 20, and again during the spring recess from April 6 to April 10.

The school vacation theater camps are based on different models at the two venues, but the goals are essentially the same: to provide young people an opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of theater while learning about the creative process and the spirit of collaboration and developing more self-awareness in the process.

First Time for Bay Street

The first week-long vacation theater camp at Bay Street will be taught by professional Broadway performers and educators. Bay Street Artistic Director Murphy Davis will be overseeing the camps, with Debra Barsha at the helm as director. A professional teacher as well as Broadway performer and musician, Ms. Barsha counts among her talents piano, voice and conducting, and she is currently appearing on Broadway in “Jersey Boys.”

As both playwright and songwriter, Ms. Barsha has developed or created from scratch children’s musicals such as “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “The Emperor’s New Condo,” that have been performed in schools throughout the country. Ms. Barsha, who organized the Bay Street cabaret schedule when the theater was founded in 1992, also taught theater arts for 12 years at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, where she developed her innovative approach to children’s theater.

Assisting her will be Eric Jacobson, who has appeared both on Broadway and off, and whose concentration in jazz, tap, ballet, and Fosse style dance will round out the week of classes.

According to Ms. Barsha, each day of the Bay Street camp will be filled with classes and games incorporating every aspect of theater—from acting to singing, from performance to dance. Fun breaks for snacks and lunch (from home) will be incorporated, allowing time for teachers and pupils to get to know one another as well as for groups to perform for each other. Campers will be divided into different groups based on scene requirements, age levels, and experience.

Ms. Barsha said that the activities at the camp will be determined by assessing the different skills and interests of the participants through theater games and improv. Noting that the process typically “gravitates toward what the group wants to do,” she said that the camp will probably conclude with some informal skits that include scene work, singing and dance.

Children in kindergarten through 12th grade (age 5-18) are eligible to take part, with parental approval. No experience is required, although those with experience are encouraged to join. Groups will be divided to best suit the needs of each child and the class size will be limited to 20 per class.

The fee for the first camp, from Monday, February 16, through Friday, February 20, is $300 per person. Parents must sign up their children and pre-pay for the entire week no later than February 6. Drop-off is at 9 a.m. each morning and pick-up each day at 3 p.m.

A week-long camp in April will also be offered, and those attending in February will have first dibs on spots for April. Every child should be dressed comfortably in casual clothes—good for dance and movement. Sneakers or comfortable shoes preferred. Each child must bring a snack and lunch each day. Water and juice will be provided.

To sign up, parents can print out enrollment forms from either the Bay Street website at (go to “Camps”) or Ms. Barsha’s website at Forms can also be obtained from Bay Street Theatre Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or requested by calling (631-725-0818) or e-mailing ( Tracy Mitchell at Bay Street. All forms must be submitted with full payment.

Latest in a Series at PAC

The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is now accepting enrollment for its School Vacation Theatre Camp productions of “Hansel and Gretel” during the February break, and “Robin Hood” during the April school recess. Both one-week performing arts camps, offered under the guidance of Missoula Children’s Theatre professionals, meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, culminating in a full-scale performance on Friday.

According to Education Coordinator Julienne Penza, the Arts Center saw tremendous success among families and children with its 2008 School Vacation Theatre Camps.

“Missoula has been a vital part of our educational initiatives at the PAC,” Ms. Penza said, “because their programs develop life skills through the performing arts, and that’s first and foremost what we are committed to. Even though there is a performance at the end, it’s not about creating stars—although that can be a side benefit.

“It’s about working together as a team and developing life skills through the arts.”

Children will arrive on Monday to be cast in their roles through what Ms. Penza called “a non-competitive process involving theater games” that ensures no child will have to stand alone on the stage and perform. By Friday night the campers are performance ready.

The camps offer “a fun new way to turn school breaks into an exciting and educational experience,” Ms. Penza said.

In February, camp participants will find themselves in the wondrous Wildwood world of “Hansel and Gretel,” the Brothers Grimm age-old tale of a journey, a secret, and a grand adventure. Retold as a rollicking musical, this original adaptation was crafted to charm and delight a whole new generation of children.

Come April, camp participants will embark on an adventure with the legendary “Robin Hood” and his friends in the magical, mythical Sherwood Forest. With wacky humor and an original score, this adaptation takes a new look at a legendary outlaw.

During the week-long programs, when campers are not rehearsing they’ll be enjoying other activities with teaching artists, including daily classes in acting, improvisation, singing, movement, theater games, the perennially popular “Talent Show” and more. There are still spaces available in both the “Hansel and Gretel” and “Robin Hood” vacation theater camp.

School Vacation Adventure Theatre Camps have roles for children age 5 to 16. Space is limited to 60 students; the fee is $325 per person. Registration forms and information can be found online at, or call Cheryl Wheeler at 631-288-2350, ext 102, for details.

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