THE SUMMER SCOOP: Senior spends weeks dancing, singing at musical theater programs

This is the ninth installment of a series on internships, jobs and classes that students are taking this summer.

Senior Monique Lonergan attended the Acting and Musical Theater summer program at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, from June 30 to July 20 and the ArtsBridge Summer Musical Theater program from July 28 to Aug. 12 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Q: What did you do at Syracuse University?

A: At Syracuse (University) we took dancing, acting and singing classes for three weeks, and while taking classes, (we were) also rehearsing for a show that we put on at the end of the three weeks. It was a showcase of what we’ve been doing.

I did a dance from “West Side Story” and a dance from “Follies”. I liked getting to do some classical musical theatre dancing. I normally do ballet or contemporary dancing so classical musical theater dancing is slightly more presentational.

Mostly parents attended the showcase. My parents came. My program was part of the summer college program at Syracuse, so there were a bunch of kids taking a bunch of different classes, and some of them came too. It was nice that we had some other students support us.

Q: What did you do at ArtsBridge?

A: ArtsBridge is basically the same thing as Syracuse, except we didn’t have a showcase at the end, and it was only two weeks, so we just took classes. We got to work with faculty from a bunch of different universities. My core acting teacher was from University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and our main vocal class was with the musical theater director at Carnegie Mellon.

Q: What were the environments like?

A: Syracuse’s camp was a really supportive group of people. It really helped that we were a super small group; there weren’t that many of us, so we were super supportive of everyone and their process. It was very challenging, (though).  

ArtsBridge was also a very supportive environment. I was really intimidated at first because ArtsBridge does this thing called “initial assessments” on the second day after Orientation, where you go up in front of everybody and sing and perform monologues. We had two initial assessments, one for dance and one acting and singing, and we had two final assessments. There were 56 of us, so that was a big change. That was a little scary.

After that we were broken down into groups of 14 – there were the purple, red, green and blue, groups – and I was in the green group, and we bonded so much. It was really fun; everyone wanted each other to do their best.

I think it’s a waste of time to view each other as competition at this stage because we’re all just trying to do the same thing.

I also had a few friends from my acting program back home come, I think there were five of us together in the musical theater program and three of us in the dramatic acting program. I didn’t see (those in the other program) very often because we were on different schedules.

Q: How did you learn about these camps and decide you wanted to attend them?

A: I decided to go to Syracuse because it is one of the top schools that I want to attend, and I saw that they had a program and applied. ArtsBridge (which is only open to rising seniors) I’ve been wanting to apply to for a very long time because I thought it was a great opportunity to get acquainted with the faculty of many different universities at the same time while also training. My theater college counselor recommended that I apply for ArtsBridge.

Q: Did you need to audition to attend?

A: Yeah, I auditioned for both programs. For Syracuse, I sent in (a recording of) me singing two pieces (“Wonderful, Wonderful Day” from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Spring Cleaning” from “Fugitive Songs”), a video of me doing a monologue, and a video of myself dancing. I also wrote two essays, and I got a letter of recommendation.

It was kind of similar for ArtsBridge: we had to send in two songs and a monologue. We didn’t have to send in a video for dancing, but we had to describe our dance training. We wrote a short (essay), and then we had a letter of recommendation.  

Q: Can you walk me through your daily schedule for each camp?

A: Syracuse Acting and Musical Theater program is partnered with Syracuse Stage, so the theater is not on campus. So we have to take a bus (for 20 minutes) every morning. We dance for like an hour and a half, and then we go to a class either in stage combat or production. I really loved stage combat; I thought that was super fun because I had never really taken a formal stage combat class, so I learned a lot of new skills.

Then we’d take a lunch break and then go to an acting class for two hours. Then we’d do this thing called Musical Theater Performance, which is basically a singing class, for two hours. We went back and had the rest of the night off.

(In our free time) we went to a flea market, some art museums, and a lot of coffee shops. Our favorite place to go was this place called Funk ‘n Waffles (at 307-313 S Clinton St.). I highly recommend it if you happen to be in Syracuse.

We’d also rehearse (for the showcase) sometimes in place of classes toward the end of the day, and more so when we got closer to the performance.

In ArtsBridge we’d get up (each morning) and dance. The dance was more intense in ArtsBridge; we did about two-and-a-half hours of dance every morning, so I really loved that. Then we took an acting class for about an hour, and then go eat. We’d come back and take another acting class. There wasn’t really enough time afterward to go out and hang out. The days were a lot longer at ArtsBridge than they were at Syracuse.

Q: Which were your favorite classes?

A: My favorite class I took at Syracuse was Musical Theatre Performance, and my favorite class at ArtsBridge was Acting Techniques.

In Musical Theatre Performance we would get up and sing a song, but we’d break it down into small sections to really work on each acting beat. I liked Musical Theatre Performance because I’ve struggled with connecting to the lyrics of songs, and that class really helped (with that).

In Acting Techniques we would do a lot of different exercises. With a partner you’d pretend to be two strangers in an elevator, then another day we pretended to be going on date and then realize we’ve been stood up, and the last exercise was where we would open a letter and react to it. We each had a different letter, mine was a really bad love letter from a friend. I liked it because I really enjoyed the realism acting exercises we did.

Q: What made each camp different?

A: Syracuse, out of all the camps I’ve been to, gave me a really good idea of what it would be like to go to a university as opposed to a conservatory for college. The difference between a conservatory and a university is that you take more general education classes at a university. At Syracuse there were so many people from different programs, and everyone was doing their own thing. So I got a really good feel for the culture of that school. And the faculty was really personal because there were only like 20 kids at Syracuse, so they got to know us on a very personal level.

ArtsBridge gave me a good idea of what a conservatory program would be like. It was also nice to get to know all of the people that I’m going to be auditioning for later in the year (when I apply for college) and to see what their style is and get some background on them before I have to audition for real.

Q: Have you been to similar camps in the past?

A: Yeah, I went to one called Broadway Dreams, where you take some classes, but there is no showcase. It was just a week. And last summer I spent three weeks at the Boston Conservatory, and that was a musical theater dance intensive, so we were dancing all day every day with one or two acting classes in between.

Q: What was the hardest aspect?A: The hardest part of these programs were the days where you felt like you weren’t good enough to be there, but through these days I learned how to unapologetically be myself.

Q: What surprised you?

A: It surprised me how small the community is because I went to Syracuse, and my friends from (the) Boston (Conservatory) were there doing the same thing. So that was just wild, and we had no idea any of us were coming. In ArtsBridge everyone knew each other distantly as friends of a friend’s friend. It was surprising to me how everyone kind of knows each other when there’s so many of us.

Q: What were the most important things you learned?

A: To be true to myself and my voice as an artist. Also, even though the days are long and intense, and sometimes you feel really frustrated, you should always remind yourself why you love to do it. That makes me feel slightly better.

Q: Do you think you will go to a program similar to these camps next year?A: I might go to a program like Syracuse’s, but it’ll be at the university I choose to go to. I want to take the opportunity to get acquainted with my college faculty.

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