Monday, December 19, 2011

Mark Your Calendar

The 2012 EYT Summer Show will be Beauty and the Beast Jr., and we anticipate a huge interest in participation.  Mark your calendars now and plan your summer schedule to include our incredible youth theatre workshop program!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In Review

The Utah Theater Bloggers critics attended on opening night and had GREAT things to say!

MAGNA — Willy Wonka Jr., directed by Glen Carpenter, is based on Roald Dahl’s classic tale.  Charlie Bucket (Travis Hymas) lives a humble life in poverty until he finds one of five golden tickets that grants him an exclusive tour through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  Willy Wonka (Luke Johnson) and his servants, the Oompa Loompas, teach us a moral as each of the children give in to delicious temptations.

I admit that I had low expectations as I sat in my seat.  Maybe that’s because children’s theater is meant to entertain children – not adults.  Thankfully, the first five minutes of the show were enough to change my mind.  The large chorus of children sang beautifully throughout the whole show, and danced much better than expected.  Actually, they were stronger dancers and more in sync than I’ve seen from several older casts.  I can’t help but thank music director/choreographer Andrea Fife for an impressive job.

In the opening song, Willy Wonka invites the audience to enter a world of imagination.  I can’t think of a more appropriate way to engage kids in theater.  The production kept that theme strong throughout the show.  It was very fun to see kids acting as adults – especially the kids playing Charlie’s grandparents.  They brought hilarious personality to their roles that made me think twice about how adults act.

The set was bright, colorful, and fun, with a couple ladders leading up to the platform up above.  My favorite set piece was the pink candy boat, which looked fantastic.  The magic of the show really happened when I found myself imagining exactly what the performers intended.  The actors engaged the audience’s imagination so well that to me, Charlie and Grandpa Joe (Zachary Linnet) really flew, and Violet (Samantha Arsuffi) actually turned into a blueberry!

I don’t mean to give a sugar-coated review.  There were a few things that really bothered me.  My number one complaint has to do with the sound.  I’m not sure what system limitations the theater has concerning sound, but it was the most distracting part of the show.  I was close to the stage and still found myself straining to hear most of the show.  Also, the show’s energy level seemed to drop early on, and it unfortunately didn’t recover.  There were only a few characters who didn’t seem to be on auto-pilot at one point or another – hopefully the performers improve on this before the end of the run.

The principle actors each did a good job at portraying their characters’ personalities.  Travis Hymans fit the part of Charlie beautifully.  I wished Willy Wonka’s voice was a little less tenor and a little more bass.  It was hard to hear his great voice when he was reaching for the lower notes.  Some of the best acting came from Mike Teavee (Warren Tharp) and the Beauregardes (Arsuffi, K’Lynn Keddington). They told their characters’ stories well, and were consistent throughout the show. Also, their energy was both refreshing and appropriate.  My favorite performance, though, was from Reeve Sikalis as Veruca Salt. She projected her voice and could be heard clearly, despite my earlier complaints about sound. She also pulled off the emotional dynamic of her character very well.

Call me nostalgic, but I’m glad the production showcased all the familiar songs from one of my favorite childhood movies.  This is definitely a great show to bring your children to, especially if they are familiar with the 1971 movie version of this story.  The production quality wasn’t the best, but it was certainly better than I ever would have expected from a group of kids.  Who knows?  You may find the same world of pure imagination I did.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 14 and 15

The hardest part of the rehearsal process is undeniably tech rehearsals, but these EYT kids couldn't have been more professional.  During our cue-to-cue rehearsal (a typically frustrating venture) the kids were silent backstage and allowed Lee to set the lighting cues to make the show look fantastic.

We finished our workshop series with some advice on auditioning.  Glen and I hope we've prepared each student to go out into the wide world of theatre with a few more tools in their tool belt and the confidence to succeed.  We also announced next year's EYT production: Beauty and the Beast Junior.  Stay tuned for more details!

And if you think I took any pictures at the final rehearsal, you must not have seen me in my sweats and tennis shoes running around the theatre as if it was a track!

Thanks for a great experience, and BREAK A LEG!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 12 and 13

We've hit the last leg of this crazy race, and I'm getting reluctant to cross the finish line.  I can tell it is almost time, though, because I am running out of nit-picky notes to give as the cast just keeps getting better and better!

Yesterday's workshop was taught by Shawn Maxfield, the Artistic Director at the Empress Theatre.  Technically, the workshop was about theatre etiquette and about superstitions.  But I think both of those boil down to simple respect.  We talked about "The Scottish Play" and "break a leg," two of the most important superstitions in theatre but also touched on the more bizarre, like always leaving the dressing room with the left foot.

Today, our technical director, Lee, came in and showed us the inner workings of the technical aspects of a show.  We learned how to care for the microphones as well as the importance of the sound and lighting cues in a show.  My favorite quote of the day: "It was only a minor stabbing..."

Tomorrow is a whole new ballgame, though, as we add props, costumes, and tech into this crazy mix.  I can't wait!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 11

To get our tired Thursday selves up and going, we started off by getting the half-day kids in on some "Parlez Vous Francias."  Congrats to Jared and Kierstin for making the top 15!

After a complete run through and a lot of "cleaning," we're ready to enter our last week of rehearsals where we'll start adding props, costumes, and more technical aspects each day.  If you're just dying for a preview, you can check out this rehearsal of "In This Room Here."

We concluded week 3 with a vocal workshop on harmony, taught by Jackie Casdorph.  She taught the kids about the different forms of harmony including rounds, partner songs, ostinatoes, countermelodies, chords, as well as your everyday, garden-variety harmony.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 10

Two-thirds done.  Crazy! 

Our first run-through of Act II was a bit scary, but after spending some time fixing and cleaning, we ran it again, and I couldn't believe the improvement.  We have a show, folks, and it is going to be great! 

Jeremy Heaps, a standard fixture at the Empress Theatre, came to teach a workshop on partner dancing.  I got to stick around as his partner, and it was fun to be in a half-day workshop!  Those kids are definitely not lacking when it comes to energy.  In addition to talking about trust and the importance of working as a team on the dance floor, Jeremy taught about listening and about matching the time, space, and energy of the other dancers.  He also helped the kids get over the "ew, yuck!" factor of sometimes needing to dance with a partner.

One of my favorite moments, though, may have been watching the full-day kids cheer each other on as they tried to master new skills.

The afternoon was full of new choreography, and we got to use many of the skills from the workshop including trust, since the choreography was... well, you'll see!  Again I just felt lucky to get to work with these talented kids.  Everything I asked for, they did, and did well. 

Tomorrow will be our first full run through, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 9

I can't believe how hard everyone worked today!  I feel lucky to get to work with such a focused, dedicated, talented group of kids.  Our Act I run-through proved that our show is going to be phenomenal, and we also fit in some serious detail cleaning on a few group numbers. 

Kim was back today for more on acting and improvisation.  It was fun to see the growth just between last week and this week!

The full-day kids also enjoyed a team-building exercise where they had to get their team from one end of the stage to the other without touching the floor.  Thanks to Luke and Skyler, one team got a bit creative (ahem... cheated), but I had to commend them for their teamwork.

And then we played the right way. :)

We also finished up the "Squirrel Song," (Veruca only thinks it's her solo...) and it is going to be a really entertaining moment in the show!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 8

I am sad to say that this first EYT session is officially half way done with 8 days down and only 7 to go.  I personally am looking forward to next week when we won't have a single cast member missing and I can just sit and enjoy the show.  We're definitely missing our castmates who are gone for camps and vacations!

We were able to do a complete run through of Act I today, and tomorrow afternoon we'll get to do our first run-through of the whole show.  I am constantly amazed by the talented actors, singings, and dancers I get to work with, and it is so great to see the characters come alive on the stage.

At today's workshop, April Tritchler took the kids through the steps of set design, from thinking about the story line and functionality of the pieces to how to set an overall mood.  After sketching their own set pieces, they each got to create a small piece of what will be our set. 

We worked on teamwork and rhythm (and honed our competitive skills) with a game.  Congrats to Travis for winning the first round!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 6 and 7

Now that most of the group numbers are taught, we've been spending time learning the smaller numbers like "I Eat More!" and "Think Positive."  On Day 7, the Oompa Loompas finally got to start dancing their numbers, and they're learning their Oompa Loompa places very well.  They are pretty excited to audition for Oompa Loompa solos and small groups on Monday.

Oompa Loompa 3

The entire show is blocked, so as we complete sections of choreography, we'll start running the show in chunks.  In fact, the kids are already off book for the first chunk and can run from the opening through half of the first act.

Looking like a Family
We also had two great workshops.  Wendy Brown came in and taught how to count the beat in music, an essential skill for learning choreography. 

Erik Mortgous came to teach the Vocal Techniques workshop, and the kids had a lot of fun learning music from The Lion King as they learned.  Here's a clip of the half day kids singing "Are You Sleeping" in the Vocal Techniques workshop.

And, as always, we played plenty of games.  It's summer after all!

Down by the Banks

Partner Tag

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 5

Today was a huge day, since we BLOCKED ACT I!!  We also created plenty of memories, walking around the stage making animal noises.  We talked a lot about how and when to help your castmates in a way that allows them to make their own mistakes and learn from them, and also to help save each other if a mistake has already been made.

The workshop was on projection, inflection, and memorization, and the kids had a great time learning from Kim Topham.  They played a version of human minesweeper, having to carefully learn and memorize the correct path to a secret destination.  They also had the chance to practice their improvisation skills through a hilarious version of the dating game.  My favorite character was a split personality cop/Disney Princess, portrayed by K'Lynn.

The show is starting to feel like a show, which is good since we open after only 10 more rehearsals!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 4

We started out the day today as melting candle wax, a skill the half-day kids got to put to use in the choreography for "Candy Man."  Most of the bigger group numbers are taught, and tomorrow, we'll hopefully get into some Oompa Loompa fun.

Today's workshop was on Costume Design, and the kids got to choose a theme and design a costume using toilet paper and masking tape.  Since we were without our fearless assistant, Sklyer, today, I forgot to get any half day pictures.  Sorry, guys!  The full day kids created some interesting ensembles including gladiator, flight attendant, and a suit and dress for a wedding.

Our set builders started their work today to transform the stage to our own little candy land, and tomorrow, we'll start blocking some scenes, adding a whole new element to our rehearsal schedule. 

And (full day kids, you'll know what I'm talking about here...) "This is a watch..."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3

The first 2 songs are completely learned!!  I can't believe how hard we've all worked this week, and I hope everyone has a fun and relaxing weekend coming up. 

Kate Day came and taught some music theory basics, and I don't think music theory has ever been so fun.  Students learned about rhythms, intervals, vocabulary, notation, and even learned how to sight sing.

And the "best shirt of the day" award (which I completely just made up) goes to Sam: Bad spellers untie.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 2

I'm fairly certain that Day 2 resulted in 30+ exhausted kids and one exhausted choreographer.  Everyone worked hard - both physically and mentally - all day.  And with today's Dance Basics workshop, there was really no break. 

Susan DeMill came and gave the students 8 tools for their dancing tool belt: walk, sutenu, chase', chaine, pivot, kick-ball-change, grapevine, and jazz square. 

During an afternoon break from dancing, we played the question game, a game where quick thinking and a bit of humor are key.

We also pretty much finished the choreography for "Pure Imagination" and got through some of the most confusing parts of "The Golden Age of Chocolate."

I can't wait for tomorrow!

Cast List

Augustus Gloop - Samuel Birge
Charlie Bucket - Travis Hymas
Grandma Josephina - Taylor Blake
Grandma Georgina - Nina Aston
Grandpa George - Trisin Tharp
Grandpa Joe - Zachary Linnet
James - Ravin Johnson
Matilda - Anna Wrigley
Mike Teavee - Warren Tharp
Mr. Bucket - Christopher Richardson
Mrs. Bucket - Sasha Nugter
Mr. Salt - Trevor Tharp
Mrs. Beauregard - K'Lynn Keddington
Mrs. Gloop - Sara Marler
Ms. Teavee - Megan Brown
Phineous Trout - Perry Whitehair
Candy Man Kids - TBA
Veruca Salt - Reeve Sikalis
Violet Beauregarde - Samantha Arsuffi
Willy Wonka/Candy Man - Luke Johnson

Oompa Loompa Chorus / Squirrels / Townskids and Other
Alexandria Tharp
Klyee Eldredge
Aleea Brunson
Andrew Webb
Destin Kunz
Eddie Arsuffi
Jacob Aston
Jakob Nugter
Jared Wood
Kiersten Whatcott
Kylie Rich
McKayla Watkins
Skyler Richardson
Sylvia Evans
Trevor Tharp
Charly Searcy
Kandace Kennington
Taylor Blake
Nina Aston
Tristen Tharp
Ravin Johnson
Anna Wrigley

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 1

Thanks to all those who auditioned today!  The cast list will be posted tomorrow.

Our first workshop on Character Development was a huge success and gave everyone a chance to get to know eachother. 

The choreography for "The Golden Age of Chocolate" is well on its way, and I can't wait to finish it up tomorrow.

A few of our favorite moments from today:

  • "Toenail polish." -- Travis
  • "But my favorite kind of liver is poached." -- Warren
  • "There might even be like an alley." -- Kylee
  • All the Half Day Kids (but especially Candice) in their Annie cleaning characters
Thanks, Jamie Victor, for a great first day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Still Accepting Registrations

Technically, registration closed on June 17th, but we are still processing registration forms.

If you want to be a part of EYT but haven't turned your form in, DO IT TODAY!

Mail it to the PO box listed on the form, or just drop it off at The Empress.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Instructors Needed

We are still filling a few positions for workshop instructors.  If you have professional training and experience in the areas of dance or vocal performance are interested in being involved in the inaugural EYT workshop series, please send a resume to Andrea Fife at

Selected instructors will teach a total of 2 hours 15 minutes on a specified workshop day and will be compensated $50.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Registration forms are available for download here.  Forms are due by June 17th.

Also, check out the new workshop information under the "Workshop Series" tab!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One Month Away!

Mark your calendars for EYT's first summer workshop, WILLY WONKA!

There's only one month left until registration begins on May 2nd.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Announcing: Empress Youth Theatre

The Empress Theatre, which has been producing live community theater productions since 2006, is proud to announce its newest venture, Empress Youth Theatre (EYT).  Under the direction of Andrea Fife, EYT will provide a training grounds for the youth of the theater community, helping them develop talents in the areas of acting, singing, dancing, and performance.

Instruction will happen in a workshop format with participants enrolling for a specific duration.  Summer workshops will be an intense four weeks of rehearsal while fall and spring workshops will be spread out over a two month period.  Most of the workshop time will be spent rehearsing scenes, songs, and choreography for the culminating performances.  But sometimes, the performers will get to relax a bit as they learn from some of the talented and prominent members of Utah's theater community.

The Empress expects the effects of EYT to be far-reaching as these youth take the skills they've learned to their high school and community stages.  They'll also earn a confidence and pride which will benefit them in all aspects of their lives.