The child or teen who wants to take a tap or acting class can pretty much go anywhere in the Washington metro area. Yet, if they want a comprehensive education focusing on technique in multiple disciplines, they were out of luck–until now.
Adventure Theatre MTC Academy recently announced a new Conservatory Training Program for fourth- through 12th-graders who have a strong love and commitment to musical theatre. Participants will learn about ballet, acting, jazz, music theory, tap and diction along with a rotating master class that will vary with possibilities such as the business of theater, mime, stage combat and specific dialect.
Artistic Director Michael J. Bobbitt has always wanted a more immersive, intensive program that had a trajectory and curriculum at Adventure Theatre. “All the training that I’ve ever had in theater and dance was always via a conservatory where you were put into a track,” he said. “I wanted that (here) because I thought that was going to be a better way for us to finetune and develop talent the way it needs to be developed.”
Musical theater is at an all-time high as far as popularity, Bobbitt said, citing the examples of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” reality show talent competitions and live musicals for television. But, he noted, there is not much in terms of intensive career development classes out there for kids who want to train. The Conservatory, which will run from September to December and then February to May, will have an integrated track for 20 to 30 students to develop over the years they are there.
“We want well rounded, triple threat students,” Bobbitt said. The conservatory will help prepare students to take the next step at Adventure Theatre, which is the pre-professional company. “For so long, we focused on programs–specifically the mainstage productions–and I realize that the environment is changing,” he explained. “We have so much theater in D.C. that the focus should be on training the next generation of artists.”
The conservatory is one of many changes at Adventure Theatre, where the board of directors has appointed several company veterans to new roles. After joining the board in 2013, Leon Seemann will act as managing director, joining Bobbitt as executive team co-leader.
Growing up in Rockville, Seemann became a performer at age 6. “My parents wanted to teach me that pretending won’t get you anywhere in life,” he said. “They took me to an audition and I got cast” as the youngest Von Trapp son, Kurt, in a production of “The Sound of Music.” He would go on to 26 more years of theater, including serving as general manager for Studio Theatre before taking a break to spend more time with his family.
He also worked as deputy director for Cultural Tourism DC, co-youth director at Young Israel Ezras Israel of Potomac, Chief Operating Officer of Yeshiva of Greater Washington and as a nonprofit consultant.
Adventure Theatre has changed so much over the last 10 years and Bobbitt said Seemann’s hiring will help strengthen the group’s infrastructure, organization and administration. “He really knows the business very well,” Bobbitt said. “He’s a great partner. The business side is being taken care of and it is actually growing and improving every day and that was very important for us.”
Seemann said Adventure Theatre is extremely collaborative. “In my work as a consultant, I talk about organizations and the importance of collaboration and trying to convince them the effectiveness of collaboration, but I really walked into an organization that already got that.”
Hired in June, Seemann said the new job has created a unique opportunity for him “where I could still be the father I wanted to be, while coming back to the theater.”
Kathryn Hnatio Vicere, who has served as education director since 2009, is now director of development. Bobbitt said Vicere “is a strong, strong administrator and she has built so many of these programs. Who better to sell that to potential funders than someone who built these programs? …Moving her up into the development role was a natural thing.”
Adventure Theatre first hired Melynda Burdette Wintrol as a teaching artist in 2010. She would go on to serve as summer program manager, registrar and assistant education director. During the summer, she was promoted to director of education.
Wintrol hopes to use her experience as a professional musical theater performer and arts administrator and manager in the position. “I hope to be able to bring all the students and families that real-world, finger-on-the-pulse perspective from this industry because it is ever changing and getting more and more competitive, the more popular it gets. Having that pulse on the real industry is really important to me, and something that is of value.”
As one of Wontrol’s professors at Catholic University of America, Bobbitt choreographed her senior recital to “With Every Breath I Take” from the soundtrack to the movie “City of Angels.” With Wintrol’s move to director of education, “those kids are getting expert musical theater experience, but they are also getting expert administrative experience as well,” he said. “It’s kind of the best of both worlds. …I think Adventure Theatre is a family. We deeply care. Everyone who works for the company is a nurturer and part of a family. Even though they are all in new roles, they all have a long history with the organization. I am really excited about working with them. They are all so passionate about this work.”
For information about Adventure Theatre MTC, visit www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org. Learn more about Adventure Theatre MTC on CultureSpotMC here.