Summer Spotlight intensives give visiting students hands-on experience in all aspects of theater

For the 13th year, Troy University and the Department of Theater and Dance welcomed high school students from across the state and beyond to a series of Summer Spotlight intensives in performance, technology and film.

The week-long, residential camps were held from July 17-23, and participants were immersed in all aspects of theater: dance, film, technology and on stage, on screen and behind-the-scenes work. These camps also provide participants with the opportunity to interact with peers, college faculty members and guest artists from throughout the country.

“Summer Spotlight offers each participant, from the youngest to the oldest, the chance to let loose, have some fun and become versed in all types of creative expression – onstage, backstage and everything else,” said Tori Lee Averett, Director of the Summer Spotlight program and Assistant Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts. “The counselors for the sessions are fine and performing arts majors, so not only do our students get the experience of sharing their knowledge and experience, our participants get to learn from someone who’s been in their shoes and can guide them through it.”

Students in the Tech & Management Intensive had a week full of hands-on learning.

Participants in the Tech and Management Intensive run the shows, and each student has the opportunity to experiment with various technical theater challenges and skillsets, try out designs and manage mini-productions throughout the week. The Spotlight Showcase at the end of the week is completely managed by Tech & Management students.

Julian Tortenson, 14, of Huntsville, Ala. joined a subgroup of the technology intensive dedicated to learning about lighting and design.

“We went more in-depth into how to do any area of ​​a show. How to design it, how to execute it well,” he said. “Thursday was my favorite day—up until then we’d just been designing and thinking about what we’d done, but on Thursday we actually got to get into the theater and set it all up.”

Laila Mackey, 14, of Huntsville studied stage management and sound. She said the biggest lesson she learned from the week was how to be professional.

“It’s a really professional environment, so I’m learning the professional side of things as well. The teachers, James and Justin, were great, too,” she said. “I was very impressed, and I hope I can come back the next few years because it’s been a great experience. I’ve gotten to know so many people and had the opportunity to see things that aren’t offered at my school.”

Jason Owens, 17, of Alabaster, Ala. said he attended to see if he wanted to pursue a career in stage rigging and scenery.

“I came here to help me decide if I wanted to do this as a career, and after this experience I think I will,” he said. “TROY is definitely in my top two colleges for after I graduate.”

In the Performance Intensive, participants sharpened their skills in everything from musical theater to puppetry to hip hop to playwriting. Auditions solidified their place in a company, and the Spotlight Showcase finale let them take the stage.

A print out of the storyboard students created in the Film Intensive.
Students in the Film Intensive took part in every aspect of creating a short film, like designing a story board.

East Rush, 16, of Dothan, Ala. came for the opportunity to improve his playwriting abilities.

“I heard there was a lot of playwriting availability and things I could explore, and other things I’d be interested in doing,” he said. “I’ve been growing in that department, and it’s been really nice sharing my creations with like-minded people who do the same things I do. I made a lot of friends during the week.”

Students who chose the Film Intensive worked together to write a script, create storyboards, plan a shot list, shoot scenes and edit footage. Their horror/murder-mystery short film, “Shortcut,” was also featured during the Showcase on the last night of camp.

Rory Stagner, 15, of Troy, Ala. created the storyboards for the film and acted as both the first murder victim and the mother. Stagner has been part of multiple Summer Spotlight camps, attending the Performance Intensive last year, and said she gained a new appreciation for the work filmmakers put into their craft.

“I had no interest in film whatsoever before coming into this intensive, I just did it because it was something new,” she said. But, I learned a lot about the equipment filmmakers use and just how much work goes into creating, like how sweaty you get carrying it all around. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

To view the short film, click here.

To view a gallery from the Tech & Management Intensive, click here.

To view a gallery from the Spotlight Showcase, click here.

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