They’re off to see the wizard

November 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

From Metropolis' 2011 High School Performance Experience production

From Metropolis’ 2011 High School Performance Experience production

Metropolis School of the Performing Arts is getting a jump start on celebrating the 75th anniversary of the classic film The Wizard of Oz with our own production of the show! While our all-student cast is hard at work in rehearsal, we checked in with director Marlene Flood about her take on the classic show.

“It’s such a wonderful story,” said Flood. “At each rehearsal, we talk about the importance of presenting this show as honestly as possible. If the cast believes every element of the story, they’ll truly transport the audience to the Wonderful Land of Oz.”

So how do you make a classic story exciting for the audience? “The script is so well written,” notes Flood, “that it doesn’t really need anything extra added. We do have some great casting that will add some interest. We have a fantastic girl playing the Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz role, and another girl playing the Scarecrow. They’re both making creative decisions about their characters that make them very special.”

Also watch for some younger actors as the Munchkins and a “surprise demise” for the Wicked Witch.

Finally, Flood noted how she’s enjoyed working with this all-student cast. “Most young performers have a fearless approach to creating, and the results can be an inspiring, enlightening performance of a character. They think of aspects that sometimes I haven’t even mentioned to them, and it is always so rewarding to see them think onstage as their character!”

Don’t miss Metropolis School of the Performing Arts’ production of The Wizard of Oz, November 7-9.

School is back in session!

September 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

092711_1080Our School of the Performing Arts began its fall session this week with the start of private lessons. Our personalized lessons are very popular among our music students. Just how popular, you ask? Check it out!

Just over 200 students are enrolled in private lessons this fall. That’s 49 voice students, 6 flute, 2 clarinet, 63 piano, 3 percussion, 1 french horn, 28 violin and 55 guitar. By the end of the session, that will add up to more than 1,700 hours of private lessons given by 14 music school faculty members. Wow!

Worried that you’re missing out? Then join the fun! Call the Music School Office at 847.577.5982 x240 to learn more about our private lessons.

Group classes are more your thing? We have those too! Check out the info on our music, drama, dance, adult and early childhood group classes – all starting the week of September 16.

Congratulations to SOPA Piano Student Cameron Obrecht

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

On May 19th pianist Cameron Obrecht wonIMG_7596 the first place trophy for his division at the Illinois Music Association Competition.  No small feat as he was up against hundreds of students from throughout northeastern Illinois. With his performance of Grieg’s Nottorno, Op. 54, Cameron took down the competition. Cameron is 11 years old and has been studying at the Metropolis School of the Performing Arts with Bryan Shilander since the fall of 2009. So a big “congratulations” from Metropolis for all the hard work and dedication that got Cameron that top prize!

Acts of Poetry

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Actors perform students' plays during Write to the Spotlight 2012

Actors perform students’ plays during Write to the Spotlight 2012

Our Write to the Spotlight outreach program is coming to a close for this year. For four weeks, our teaching artists were integrated into several second grade classrooms in Arlington Heights School District 25. Our teaching artists worked on adapting poems into original plays through the study of character, story, setting and emotion. Now, to wrap up the program, the students are coming to Metropolis to see their plays performed live on our stage by professional actors.

It’s time for a sneak peek of the brilliant work that comes from Write to the Spotlight’s second graders! Here’s a portion of one play, inspired by Smart by Shel Silverstein.

GRANDMOTHER: Don’t you know that $1 is more than 5 cents?

KID: Well, no I didn’t.

GRANDMOTHER: Aren’t you in second grade?

KID: I forgot about that.

GRANDMOTHER: I thought you were smart.

KID: I was…

GRANDMOTHER: You will have to make up for it.

KID: How am I going to do that?

GRANDMOTHER: You can start with making all the beds, putting the dishes on the counter, watering the plants, dusting, finding everybody’s icky underwear, putting the underwear in the laundry, taking the underwear out of the dryer, folding the underwear and putting the underwear away.

KID: Wish I could trade the underwear for 5 cents.

Adult students take to stage with Almost Maine

May 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s an endearing and humorous view of love set on a cold night in Almost, Maine. And it’s the first production for our adult drama students.

Almost Maine is a unique show with a lot of heart, a lot of comedy and just enough drama,” said Metropolis Performing Arts Education Director Michelle Shaver. “Plus, the flexible cast size really fit our needs and allowed us to cast a really great ensemble of adult students.”

Classes for adult students are old hat at Metropolis, but this is the first time our adult students have tackled a full production. “We’re hoping to make this a regular opportunity for our adults,” added Shaver. Currently, Metropolis’ School of the Performing Arts (SOPA) has annual fall and spring productions for students in grades K-12. “We’ll weigh a lot of factors in moving forward on our adult productions,” said Shaver, “including the response to Almost Maine from the cast, audience, instructors and other students.”

For this first outing, Shaver selected Metropolis Resident Director and SOPA instructor Robin Hughes to direct. “We got very lucky that this fit in between other projects for Robin,” said Shaver. “And I can’t think of anyone better to bring out the sentimentality and charm of this show.”

“I will always teach in everything I do,” said Hughes of working with students on this production. “I don’t like thinking of actors as ‘better’ than one another, but rather on different points of their theatrical journeys. Teaching definitely keeps me interested in directing. Discovery with an ensemble of any level is always a unique experience.”

The challenge for Hughes was in the schedule, rather than the students, as they had just 10 rehearsals to perfect the show.  “That’s difficult for even the most seasoned actor,” said Hughes, “but we have an amazing group of students who have committed themselves so fully to the process and are working countless hours outside of rehearsal as well. I am amazed at their drive and appreciate their hard work so much!”

Hughes was hard pressed to choose a favorite moment or scene in this show – “that’s like trying to choose between children” she noted. Instead, she gave us a bit of a tease of the show: “I will just say that I love witnessing a trip around the world in the name of love – a tent pitched in the winter, a mistake turned happy accident for a villain, the drop of the other shoe, two old loves finding each other again, and a snowmobile strip down. You have to come to the show to find out what I mean.”

Almost Maine is playing at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre May 3 & 4. Tickets are free.

Music and Fine Arts Fests bring new opportunities to Metropolis students

April 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

shutterstock_2055551Most Saturdays are busy days within the halls of our School of the Performing Arts (SOPA). And this coming Saturday, April 20, is no exception. In the morning, we’ll welcome music students performing for our 7th Spring Music Fest, and in the afternoon, we’ll host our first Fine Arts Fest.

At the Spring Music Fest, students perform for our adjudicators and receive valuable insight and feedback about their performance. Last year, the Spring Music Fest saw more than 40 student performers, including Metropolis violin student Lindsey Sander, who will be performing again this year.

“I like to get feedback from someone who doesn’t know me and hasn’t seen me play before. The critiques feel a bit more honest and helpful,” Lindsey said of her past experience at Spring Music Fest.

This year, she’s preparing the First Movement of Concert in G Major for the adjudicators. “There’s a lot of room for interpretation, so I have fun with that,” Lindsey noted.

Lindsey is also a regular violin student at Metropolis. “Lindsey showed a strong interest in music from a young age,” said Lindsey’s mom Vickie. “SOPA gave her an avenue to learn from experienced professionals. She’s improved her musical skills and playing techniques, and enhanced her artistic expression. It’s something that will be with her for her entire life.”

“Everyone at SOPA is so friendly and talented,” Lindsey added. “The teachers are great, and so is everyone else I’ve met. SOPA has such a nice, comfy quality to it.”

“We’re certainly proud of Lindsey, and all of our students, and the progress we see them make each day,” said Music School Director Lesley Swanson. “Spring Music Fest is just one more opportunity to show them how they continue to improve. It’s also a great performance opportunity that mirrors audition processes and prepares them for their future in the music world.”

New at this year’s Spring Music Fest is a silent auction. “We have some really great items – from Chicago Symphony Orchestra tickets to an exclusive movie screening in Metropolis’ theatre,” said Swanson. Items will be open for bidding from 9am to 1pm.

Also new this year, Metropolis is offering a sampler of fine arts workshops with the Fine Arts Fest. “We know that the arts extend beyond the performing arts we teach here at Metropolis,” said Metropolis Performing Arts Education Director Michelle Shaver. “This is a great opportunity for our students to try out some other art forms, and also for us to introduce them to some of the great visual artists in the area.”

Workshops include sewing a decorative pillow, creating collages, painting pottery and more. Workshops are 1 hour long and sessions begin at 1pm and 2pm.

For more information on the Spring Music Fest, please call the music school office at 847.577.5982 x240, and for details on the Fine Arts Fest, please call the performing arts school office at 847.577.5982 x221.

Flourish in the Footlights celebrates 10th anniversary

April 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Let’s set the scene… The show: Rumpelstiltskin. The setting: the castle courtyard. The three narrators are trying to help our fair maiden Briana impress the Queen. These seasoned actors are improvising, coming up with different tasks for Briana to act out so she can really show the Queen her stuff. It’s a hilarious moment played out perfectly on Metropolis’ main stage.

The part we didn’t mention? These seasoned actors are young adults with special needs, participating in our Flourish in the Footlights program, now in its 10th season.

“It’s probably my favorite moment in the show,” notes program director Megan Willhite. “The guys have gotten really good at coming up with some interesting things to say and the actress playing Briana is a great sport about acting out whatever they shout out at her.”

“Flourish in the Footlights has always been successful and rather groundbreaking,” says Metropolis performing arts education director Michelle Shaver. “But we made some exciting changes this year that we believe will show in the final performance on April 22 and really let the actors shine.”

One of the more remarkable aspects of Flourish in the Footlights is that the ensemble members collaborate to write their own adaptation of the story. “We didn’t want to change the writing process because it’s integral to the program and ensures the story belongs to the actors,” says Willhite.

Instead, Willhite, Shaver and the program assistants chose the story early on based on criteria such as number of characters, style of the story and number of scenes. “In the past,” says Willhite, “our classes in the fall focused on acting techniques and then we would begin to incorporate our specific story in December. This year, we started working with Rumpelstiltskin in October. We used the characters and the plot points as inspiration for the class activities. By the time we got to the production phase of the program, the students knew the story really well and jumped right into the adaptation process. This allowed us to start the script writing process much sooner, and also made the adaptation process move more quickly because the students knew the story so well.”

They also made changes to the casting process this year. In the past, actors would improvise as different characters while they created the script. This way, everyone got to try their hat at different characters and expand their acting range. “This year we were able to give the actors the chance to try out all the different characters in the techniques class, so for the first time, we cast the show before we wrote the script,” says Willhite. “This has really made a difference for the actors when it comes to memorization, and it improved the fluidity and coherence of the story overall.”

With their performance just a few short weeks away, Rumpelstiltskin is really taking shape. “These changes have given our actors time to become confident in their roles and comfortable with their actions so we can highlight each actor’s strengths and talents,” says Willhite.

Flourish in the Footlights presents their adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin on April 22 at 7pm at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Call 847.577.2121 for tickets.

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