City Springs Theater Company launched its educational program shortly after its first production in 2018, and its growth has exceeded expectations.
Today, it offers many educational programs, including a pre-professional company, the college process, a children’s theater festival, summer programs, weekly classes, student matinees and scholarships.
Executive Director Natalie Delancey said they knew education would be one component, but they weren’t sure how big it would be.
After the production of “42nd Street”, students and parents were interested in art education programs. It started with the launch in December 2018 of student matinees featuring local school children. Students had their first opportunity to take the stage with Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” on stage at the Byers Theater in June 2019.
This Disney production was dedicated to children who were interested in musical theater production. But it included a technical theater track where students built sets, helped with costume and lighting design, and staged the show.
“Since then, the conservatory has taken off, frankly, in a way that I didn’t expect at our young age,” Delancey said.
One success was Central High School senior Gwinnett Tsumari Patterson, who started performing in high school. He enrolled in City Springs Theater Company’s educational programs after attending one of those “Frozen Juniors.” performances. He said he sat in the audience and thought this was what he needed to do in his life. He joined the City Springs Theater Conservatory in the spring of 2020.
By then, the programs had shifted almost exclusively to live classes and pandemic performances. The kids were stuck at home and couldn’t participate in school musicals and dances, Delancey said. The free dance and acting series was streamed on Zoom. Classes were held on Instagram Live, in which more than 1000 children participated.
The conservatory became more ambitious with its next program, titled Practically Broadway. Students worked with various teachers on songs, monologues and dances. The students were filmed separately and edited by marketing director Mason Wood to make it look like they were performing together.
Those virtual productions the conservatory created were brought to schools across the state, and “Schoolhouse Rock” was performed live as teachers broadcast it to more than 40,000 students, DeLancey said. The original student matinee, Beautiful Hair, was filmed at North Springs High School and was seen by over 45,000 students.
With the end of pandemic restrictions, students have returned to the City Springs Theater Company studios on Dunwoody Place in Sandy Springs and the Studio and Byers Theater at the City Springs Performing Arts Center.
City Springs Theater Company strives to provide students with professional experience in its educational programs by using experienced musical directors and vocal coaches, she said.
Patterson auditioned and was accepted into the Pre-Professional Program, which provides intensive weekly instruction to middle and high school students to prepare them for careers in the arts. Classes are taught by industry professionals with years of teaching and performance experience. Students participate in six hours of dancing, singing and acting each Sunday in the program.
Patterson went from a performer with minimal dance training to one of the strongest dancers in the conservatory’s programs, Delancey said.
Last summer, Patterson began using another conservatory program, the College Process. She goes through the process of auditioning at the musical theater college, as well as their parents, step by step. Instructors and coaches from some of these colleges help students learn what college auditions require and how to put them together.
With that help, Patterson said he had been accepted to six colleges by early February. Practice and study had prepared him so well that when he attended the only audition in Chicago, which brought together representatives of 100 college programs, he felt no fear and could boast about what he had learned.
A conservatory can take a person who loves theater and turn them into an artist who creates theater with an understanding of the world of the industry, Patterson said.
Patterson started in the audience and won an audition for the lead role in “Godspell Jr.” after studying at the conservatory.
“My place in it is much stronger because of all that experience. He provided every opportunity that was just a blessing that was just thrown at me. And all I had to do was just be hot and do my best,” he said.