Summerfame to propel high school students' musical theatre talents

Students practice acting.With high school musicals in season, SUNY Oswego will look to keep the beat going when it trains students in many musical theatre skills with its inaugural two-week Summerfame institute July 18 to 30.

Mark Cole, chair of the college’s theatre department, looks forward to welcoming high school students for an intense residential experience well beyond just acting. “It’s going to focus on all levels of performance, including the fundamentals of acting, movement, voice and speech,” Cole said. “And one of the all-embracing components will be musical theatre performance, and technical skills and design, too.”

The Summerfame spotlight will shine on improvisation, movement, music, dance, technical theatre (set design, special effects and more), auditioning, choosing a college and career options.

Todd Graber, associate professor of music at Oswego, is in charge of the vocal components of Summerfame. He and institute director Kevin Kennison, a theatre department alumnus and former Broadway casting supervisor, expect students from around the state to attend.

Graber acknowledged the popularity of Disney’s “High School Musical” movies, the Fox network’s “Glee” and an earlier generation’s TV hit “Fame” help to feed a new wave of interest in musicals among high school students.

“They get hooked young, and there definitely are more musicals geared to a younger generation,” he said. “I do think Disney has helped out the level of interest.”

Kennison, who has done casting for Disney Theatrical and worked with high school students at SUNY Oswego’s past theatre institutes, brings a variety of theatre experience to Summerfame.

“We are thrilled to have Kevin Kennison as the program director for Summerfame at Oswego,” said Cole. “He helped us create the college’s former Summer Theatre Institute, which focused largely on acting skills. Recently he redesigned the curriculum for a summer musical theatre program in Birmingham, Ala. He created and directed a similar summer program at New York University. “

Fritz Messere, interim dean of Oswego’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts, wanted to build on the success of the New York State Summer School for the Arts program in the media arts of video, film and photography, which began at SUNY Oswego last year and continues this summer.

“I believe the Oswego campus is an ideal place for summer institutes,” Messere said. “So I hope that Summerfame is just going to be the start of more programs we institute next year and in the future.”

Cole emphasized that while the college’s former Summer Theatre Institute focused largely on acting skills, he expects students in all aspects of theatre to attend the new incarnation. On the last day of Summerfame, parents, family and friends of the students will have the opportunity to view a series of class sessions in which the students will share their work.

“We feel that the insight and appreciation that family members gain about the process of performance is invaluable as they watch the students warm up and continue to develop their connection to songs, scenes, monologues and dances that they have explored and practiced in their classes,” Cole said. “Design students will also display their work on the last day.”

Students also will visit the nearby Sterling Renaissance Festival, view regional theatre performances at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn and help manage stages and acts at Oswego’s Harborfest.

Tuition for the institute is $1,675, which includes master classes, supplies, room, meals and field trips. Acceptance to Summerfame is on a rolling basis, usually within two weeks of receipt of an application. Space is limited.

For a link to the application form, visit

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PHOTO CAPTION: Role playing—SUNY Oswego will start its Summerfame institute, including a full spectrum of musical theatre, performance and technical skills in a July 18 to 30 residential experience for students entering grades 9 through 12. The college previously hosted a Summer Theatre Institute, shown here with students rehearsing dramatic acting techniques.

(Posted: Mar 24, 2010)

Tags: none, happenings @ oswego