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Program Gives Thespians a Place to Play in Summer

It all started with "Annie." Back in 2001, right after Westfield High School opened, Westfield Theatre Boosters decided to provide a musical theatre workshop opportunity for students, which would also raise needed funds for the school’s theatre department. And so, Westfield Summer Stage was born, producing "Annie," "Snoopy" and "Peter Pan" during successive summers. Westfield Summer Stage gives middle and high school students a place to hone their theatre skills during the summer break, at a time when they can just concentrate on theatre instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic and all the activities that compete for time during the school year. Students from the Westfield community and beyond make new friends and memories during the four-week rehearsal process.

Westfield’s theatre director Scott D. Pafumi likes Summer Stage because it gives younger students a taste of the Westfield theatre community, and makes them more aware of the theatre program that he leads during the school year. “Middle school students are more likely to take theatre if they’ve had a positive Summer Stage experience,” Pafumi says. This year, Pafumi will direct a Young Actor’s Workshop for boys and girls in third to sixth grades as part of the Summer Stage umbrella, which is now reaching students from third grade on up.

Directed by Lori Knickerbocker, Westfield Summer Stage Mainstage typically involves more than 75 students during a four-week program who work as actors, technicians, and musicians. Knickerbocker has an extensive background producing and directing in community and school theatre programs, and especially likes to work with young people who are excited about “putting on a show.” The production team puts the show together quickly, requiring commitment and focus from the actors and technicians. “We become a family really fast and a lasting friendships form,” Knickerbocker says. She says it’s especially gratifying when students return after their first summer, and move from chorus to leading roles.

Local dance teacher and choreographer Yvonne Henry has been created the dance steps for Summer Stage since its beginning. “Summer Stage is a great chance for kids to sing and dance and have fun while putting on a full-length show,” Henry says. Both her daughters have participated in the program, which gives her a chance to share her love of theatre with her family. There are several siblings who perform together, and many parents volunteer their time to make the production run smoothly.

This year’s production of "Grease" will be the biggest and best yet, says Barbara McDermott, producer. Each year, Summer Stage involves more students and produces classier productions that play to larger houses than the year before. Admission for actors to Westfield Summer Stage is by audition, with approximately 50 roles open to rising 8th to 12th grade students and recent high school graduates. Prospective actors for "Grease" should plan to attend an interest meeting on Monday, May 10, at 7 p.m. in the Westfield High School Black Box Theatre to learn audition music and choreography. Auditions will be held on Saturday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Westfield’s Lecture Hall. Actors will perform a one-minute monologue of their choice, and also dance and sing. Rehearsals for "Grease" begin June 28 and continue until July 22. Performances will be July 22, 23 and 24. The workshop fee for actors is $200. For more information about the Summer Stage Mainstage and Young Actors Workshop programs, contact the Westfield Theatre office at 703-488-6430 or check out the Westfield Theatre Boosters website at www.westfieldtheatreboosters.com.