AUBURN - The doors to the Civic Arts Center started to swing open well before the noon arrival time. Gradually over a period of 15 minutes or so, the first two rows of seats were filled with enthusiastic Oswego Players’ Theater Arts Youth Academy (TAYA) students.

You could feel the anticipation in the Frances Marion Brown Theater and see the excitement on the faces of this special group of 17 young thespians. The was the long awaited day they would be traveling by bus to Auburn, N.Y. to participate in the Merry Go Round Theatre’s All Access Program. And what a day it was.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Richard R. Shineman Foundation, each student received tuition and travel expenses to be able to spend the day with the professional cast, crew and production team of “South Pacific”.

Upon arrival in Auburn, the group entered the main offices and studio complex in downtown Auburn and were introduced to Josh Katzker, artistic assistant for the program and his staff. Here the TAYA kids met other students from around CNY who were attending. Our TAYA group was the largest contingency and stood out among the group in their TAYA T-shirts.

Moving to the costume department, the students found themselves making sailor hats like the ones worn in the show. And, as always, their creativity kicked in as they added their personal touches to each of their own designs.

The dance studio experience was a highlight for the group. Working with the show’s choreographer and musical director in front of a full wall dance mirror gave the kids an opportunity to see themselves in action as they learned one of the numbers from South Pacific. And as one of the TAYA parent chaperon’s remarked, “They worked so hard, it even exhausted me just watching.”

As the afternoon unfolded, the group traveled to the Merry Go Round Theatre complex which sits on the edge of beautiful Owasco Lake. You could hear the gasps as the group walked into the main stage area and saw the unique South Pacific set design in front of them. The entire stage had been turned into a sandy beach with a water mote constructed around the perimeter. The best part was being able to walk onto the set, behind the set, and all around the stage area to view first hand how this production operated.

Having dinner with the cast and crew of the show early that evening allowed the group to fire question after question to the cast. The questions were smart, on point, and very sophisticated. Matt Fleming, Artistic Director of TAYA said that he was never more proud of the group as they interacted with these professional theater people.

That night, when the lights dimmed and the music began, 17 pairs of eyes were riveted for two hours on the magic of this classic production of South Pacific. Excitingly for some in the group, this was the first time they had ever been to a professional stage production.

One would have expected the bus ride home to Oswego to be a super quiet one. But not this group. The conversations continued non stop all the way back to the Civic Arts Center and we are sure with their families in the car rides home as well.

The students, chaperones and Matt send a huge shout out to Josh and his staff at the Merry Go Round Theatre for an unbelievable day of total immersion into the magic of musical theater. And most importantly a special thank you to the Richard S. Shineman Foundation for making this all possible.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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