12 Dec ASPEN DAILY NEWS: Theatre Aspen School Presents 10th Winter Production
One needn’t look far to find a student production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and in this instance Aspen is no exception. But for the Theatre Aspen School — whose Winter Teen Conservatory will stage the production Thursday, Dec. 19 through Sunday, Dec. 22 — it’s about more than just putting on a good show.
“First and foremost, we consider ourselves and education and training program,” says Graham Northrop, Theatre Aspen’s director of education. “Putting on a show is great, but we pride ourselves on training and teaching students how to do it the right way in a professional setting.”
The play — whose full title is “The Importance of Being Earnest, a Trivial Comedy for Serious People — is the 10th show to come out of the Winter Teen Conservatory program. Widely considered the culmination of Oscar Wilde’s artistic career, this farcical comedy pokes fun at the social conventions of late-Victorian London. It mocks serious traditions and customs, like the institution of marriage, the pursuit of love and proper social etiquette, all with a signature Wilde wit.
The ensemble production features several veterans of Theatre Aspen School’s conservatory program, as well as newcomers, including: Ben Belinski, Julia Foran, TJ Kaiser, Emery Major, Tatum Shane, Jaclyn Harris, Lyon Hamill, Luis Martinez and Raam Weinfeld.
Northrup says that most of the students participate in Theatre Aspen School programs “because it’s so fun.” But others have theatrical aspirations beyond the Roaring Fork Valley, which, he says, accounts for a lot of the high-quality talent.
“Some kids do one show and they get hooked,” he says. “We have a large number of kids who have either gone on to music, theater or dance programs in college, or have expressed the desire to attend a performing arts high school. In fact we have a couple of kids moving to Denver to go to performing arts school.”
And, Northrup adds, one of the best things the Theatre Aspen Schools program offers these types of budding thespians is that it is attached to a professional theater company.
“Several students have gone on to audition for Theatre Aspen main stage productions, and one of the things that was the most surprising to them was that the audition process was exactly the same,” Northrup says. “We model ourselves off the professional world, but in a way that is more encouraging and not so dog-eat-dog. I personally try and take the time to explain the ‘whys’ and not just the ‘hows.’”
The students have met three times a week for three hours a day over six weeks — no small feat for over-scheduled students with homework, other theater productions, extracurricular activities and sports. One of the male leads, for example, is also on a football team that recently made it to the playoffs.
The Teen Conservancy program isn’t just for onstage actors, it’s for students interested in any aspect of the theatrical experience. For “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a student is serving as the assistant stage manager. And for the group’s January production, a student will be on the lighting team.
“We want to get into backstage roles more formally,” Northrup says. “But part of the draw is that we get professionals to surround and support the students every step of the process.”
The show takes place at the Aspen District Theatre at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 through Saturday, Dec. 21, with an additional matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22. Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for students 18 and under, and can be purchased at the Wheeler Box Office, at www.aspenshowtix.com, or by calling 970-920-5770.
The next Theatre Aspen School production is “Teen Cabaret,” hitting the Aspen District Theatre stage Jan. 10-14.
Thursday, Dec. 19 through Saturday, Dec. 21, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 22, 2 p.m.
Aspen District Theatre