Solos and Swashbuckling: Willsboro Festival of Theater Arts Promotes Aria and Action | news

WILLSBORO — North Country students from sixth grade through high school participated in multiple workshops presented by professional actors, singers and musicians during the Willsboro Festival of Theater Arts.

The young actors started the day with re-enacted battles and were encouraged not only to show athletic ability but also to show emotion while engaging with each other. Among the scenarios was the challenge Macduff made to Macbeth: “I have no words: My voice is in my sword: You bloody villain than words can make out!”

Other aspects of the workshop included voice involvement, acting, vocal coaching and theater technique, culminating in a question and answer period.


After the event, Depot Theater Executive Director Kim Rielly commented, “I think the festival was a wonderful success. Jennifer Moore’s vision for the day’s curriculum worked seamlessly and the many professional instructors working together were great. The kids especially enjoyed the stage fighting part of the day.”

Rielly continued: “It was great to see how committed the participants were to experiencing so many facets of the art of theatre. In fact, during the question and answer period at the end of the day, there was a lot of discussion about how to navigate the path to potential careers in the industry; from acting to sound design. The event aligns perfectly with Depot Theater Academy’s plans to expand our education and outreach to regional schools.”

Several students lent their talent in solos and received professional criticism from Kenny Greene and Adam Michael Telford. Some of the most profound suggestions included: find material you really like, which is very important; know what’s going on with the song; Do it if you know it, you can do it; And the power of silence.

Boquet Valley Central School’s Ella Lobdell, who sang “Right Hand Man” from Something Rotten, said she felt “the event went super well and was super informative; especially for people who are just starting out in musical theatre. I think learning how to open your airway and be able to place your voice to create a bigger sound while singing was super helpful and something I’ll use in future performances.”

Mallory Arnold of Willsboro CS said, “It was great to have so many kids from around the area attend. I learned a lot from all the workshops and everyone seemed to have so much fun. It was a great day. I particularly enjoyed the stage fighting techniques that I learned. I haven’t done anything like this for a long time and learned a lot of new moves. My favorite part was definitely the duel at the end of Macbeth. Thank you to Mrs. Moore for bringing this together and to the Depot Theater and all the wonderful people who came to teach.”


“I loved this festival so much,” said Erica Klein of Willsboro. “It was great to see people from so many schools unite under a similar interest and learn more about it, and the teachers there brought an energy that is almost impossible to replicate. I enjoyed trying my hand at stage combat and improving my monologue skills.

Speaking of the impetus for organizing the festival, Jennifer Moore said, “Theater has played such an important part in the lives of many of our students and their families here in Willsboro for decades. For over twenty years, Derrick Hopkins has directed numerous productions while I did the musical preparation and direction, but now he teaches at AVCS and we had to reinvent drama education at WCS without his being the focus Program.

“Although we weren’t able to start full-scale production this year, we didn’t want to interrupt the program entirely. With that in mind, I reached out to Depot Theater Executive Director Kim Rielly and the Depot Theater Academy program to collaborate on this Festival of Theater Arts project. The idea was met with genuine enthusiasm and a commitment to a quality program that could support student and school theater programs across the region and serve as the introductory experience for Depot Theatre’s exceptional Summer School program. Once the decision was made, all the pieces fell into place. We had experienced practitioners from Northway to Broadway offering workshops in singing, classical stage combat, vocal coaching, monologues, and college and career counseling.

These partnerships are particularly important for small rural schools to enrich the educational opportunities for their students. They allow students to look outward and explore viable career opportunities in the arts. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we depend on the arts to get us through tough times. There’s room for all willing to do the work, and it’s a rewarding life when supported along the way. I think that was the big snack of the day. Professional educators and teaching artists are here in our own backyard to help students develop the skills needed to live those dreams.

Students from eight different schools were represented, which amazed me. I felt that both professional communities – our regional music/acting teachers and the professional theater community affiliated with Depot Theater – had confidence in our ability to create something transformative for our students, regardless of their level of experience. I’m honored that people seem to have confidence that when we give students a chance, they can be assured that children of all ages are receiving the best education that we can provide in a safe and fun learning environment.

We had the usual selection of theater kids; those who have “done” theater in school and community productions for most of their lives, those who have been able to take private lessons and really focus on developing their skills (mainly singing lessons), and those who have little experience but are looking for one welcoming community that supports them for who they are. We had all that and more, so all in all the day was a huge success.”

In addition to the organizers Jennifer Moore and Kim Rielly, Gigi Mason, Adam Michael Tilford, Kenney Green, Alisa Endsley, Kathy Recchia, Lindsy Pontius, Paul Schnabel, Scott Gibbs and Sally Urban were recognized for their contribution to the success of the workshop.

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