By Christina Cheng
Town Crier Editorial Intern
A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Los Altos Stage Company from offering a slew of brand-new, virtual online summer programs.
The local theater company is hosting 24 virtual classes on Zoom, created specifically with an interactive online format, for participants ranging in age from 4 to 22 through July 31.
This year’s summer camp program is “very” different from previous years, LASC education director Jillian Cummings said. In previous years, the company hosted seven weeks of camps at Hillview Community Center. Initially, LASC hoped it would be allowed to continue its normal program, because “teaching acting and dance online is tricky, (as) being able to make physical contact with the student is helpful,” according to Cummings.
However, at the onset of the pandemic, LASC began offering its spring classes on Zoom “as a way to keep the students’ creativity flowing and also trying to find a way to employ so many teaching artists who were abruptly out of work,” Cummings said.
“We had ups and downs learning to work with the system, but have come a very long way and have a good handle on it now,” she said.
With experience hosting online classes heading into the summer, Cummings and LASC are focused on crafting interactive and engaging programs.
“As a mother of two almost-8-year-old children, I understand how isolating learning from a screen can be. I have watched my children walk away from the classroom screens and think no one would notice or care,” Cummings said. “So we researched many different ways of including students and have learned what worked and didn’t from past classes. We are stressing the interactive part of teaching and are having training meetings on how to make sure you include and engage every student.”
As a result, the virtual summer classes have shifted in focus from performance-oriented programs to ones focused on technique for older students, and creativity and physical engagement for younger students, according to Cummings. In addition, an online format has enabled LASC to invite instructors from outside the Bay Area to teach, such as casting agents and Juilliard-trained performers.
“It was a complete rehaul, but I am so excited to offer the camps we have,” she said. “It is of the utmost importance to me that the students get the one-on-one attention they all deserve. We are not about the numbers, but about the quality – and although we keep our cost down so everyone can afford the camp, we want the students to get the learning experience they deserve.”
For children ages 4-6, there’s the Broadway Babies Camps. Each one-week camp runs 9-10:30 a.m. and themes change weekly. Offerings include the Out of This World Outer Space Camp (Monday to July 3) and the Magical Dreams Unicorn Camp (July 20-24). According to Cummings, participants spend the first hour learning songs and a dance, as well as playing theater games that “work well without people around,” followed by 30 minutes of crafts with the help of parents. Each camp costs $95.
For older children (ages 7-12), the Rising Stars Camps focus on a musical franchise – like Troll’s Camp, for example, slated 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. July 6-10. Those who attend the weeklong camps spend each day learning a song and dance from the musical along with time to make crafts, according to the LASC website. Each camp costs $145.
In addition, LASC is slated to host various multiday classes for participants of different ages, including a theater makeup class, private vocal coaching sessions, a Broadway scene study class, a puppetry class and an audition preparation workshop, among others. Costs range from $35 to $150.
For registration and more information, visit losaltosstage.org/virtual-summer-camps.