By C. Julia Nelson
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”
In this quote from his play “As You Like It,” Shakespeare is clearly exemplifying his acute awareness of the art and life of theater – an awareness shared by the Metropolitan Theatre Conservatory (MTC) in North Fulton and its Artistic Director Kendrick Phillips.
As a seasoned veteran of Shakespearian works, an actress and vocalist with international experience and an Atlanta native with a passion for instilling theatrical talent into children, Phillips is currently directing MTC’s publicly offered Broadway Bound summer theater camp through July 31.
Offering one-week sessions to hundreds of youth ages 4 to 17 each summer, Broadway Bound boasts a wide range of theatrical education, from beginners to veterans. It strives to carry on MTC’s mission: ‘Educating, Empowering, Performing.’
“We teach our students to be completely confident and empowered in who they are as human beings, not only as theater artists,” Phillips said. “As performers, (we want themto) be confident in handling what’s thrown their way, that they can perform to the best of their ability.”
Pre-kindergarten and pre-first-graders take the Little Stars class where creative movement and expression are the primary concepts taught through song and dance. Using fairytale characters as a basis for first lessons, youth learn to focus and listen as crucial functions of being successful performers.
Little Stars lead teacher Zachary Bromberg said the class provides a live theater experience in a low-pressure setting.
“We teach basic rules of theater: show your face, don’t upstage yourself, speak clearly, using a microphone and projecting voice without a microphone,” he said.
Playfest™ offers pre-second-graders through pre-sixth-graders an overview of theater including set design, microphones, make-up, costumes, creative movement, voice, improvisations and team building.
Teen Scene caters to youth going into grades seven to 12. Taking advanced approach to the theatrical overview, it adds elements of acting techniques and Shakespearian theater history. Heavy emphasis is placed on prop building, set design, make-up design and improvisation.
The Broadway Bound Audition Camp offers youth entering sixth through 12th grades an opportunity to perfect their auditioning techniques.
Before participating in the audition camp, Matthew Greene, 12, didn’t know what variety of audition materials were necessary for a musical audition.
“I didn’t know that if you’re going to try out for a musical that it would be a good idea to do a monologue,” Greene said.
Rachel Whiteman, 13, said the class prepared her to maintain composure during an audition, even if she makes a mistake.
“One slight mistake could be really big to you and if you make it big, it will be even bigger to the judges,” she said.
Audition camp also covers how to create a personal portfolio with resume and portrait.
Having participated in Broadway Bound has allowed Allison Schwartz, 14, to broaden her expertise as an overall performer.
“This camp has allowed me to become more confident in myself,” Schwartz said. “It’s helped me prepare a lot of monologues. Being primarily a singer and dancer, it’s nice to break out into acting also.”
For aspiring film producers, MTC offers a movie/film making camp. Teen filmmakers are paired with teen actors to create original short feature films from conception to final production. Class topics include story boarding, comparing film to digital formatting, budgeting, marketing, acting on camera and film festivals.
Each class produces a play (or film) to present at the end of each week.
Youth work with credentialed and experienced lead teachers on a 20:1 ratio and have access to several youth mentors throughout the sessions.
“Everybody who works for MTC has to have a professional performance background coupled with an educational experience where they are actual educators,” Phillips said. MTC youth mentors are teen volunteers, who have participated in MTC programming previously and want to advance their theatrical careers. Only after an extensive interview process and evaluation of theatrical goals are youth permitted to mentor camp participants.
Summer sessions are held at the Davis Academy, Hopewell Middle School and Centennial High School. Camp prices range from $265 to $495 per week and the sessions typically are held between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
As a not-for-profit organization, the MTC has been molding young performers since 1999. At that time, Phillips began In Love With Shakespeare™ to serve at-risk and culturally under-served elementary students.
That same year initiated the Academic Arts Education program to expose children to the arts and to a professional training track for television and film auditions as well as a year-round, audition-based teen touring company called the North Fulton Professional Teen Company. Broadway Bound commenced later that summer.
During the academic year, MTC offers programming at local schools.
MTC students have an advantage when it comes to casting. As a part owner of a film production company called Wildcat Pictures LLC, Phillips often has roles to fill that require youth talent. If a child proves him or herself worthy in a professional sense, there is opportunity through MTC to transition seamlessly into professional work. Additionally, MTC is a resource for multiple casting agencies.
Beyond providing a cultural outlet for youth, MTC offers a Showbiz Kids seminar for parents as a tutorial about survival in the showbiz industry. It sheds light on dealing with agencies, casting opportunities and headshots.
Honing her performing arts skills at institutes such as the Atlanta Ballet Youth Company, Westminster High School, Vanderbilt University and the Royal Shakespeare Company of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Phillips knew at an early age her place was in theater. Studying under prodigies such as Bob Hope, Sir Peter Hall and Alan Rickman, Phillips eventually opened Kendrick & Company’s Metropolitan Theatre Conservatory to introduce theatrical culture to young people in her hometown.
“There’s true passion in thinking you can change a generation of how children look at the arts,” said the MTC artistic director. “To educate a child and get them passionate about Shakespeare or just being on a stage provides hope that maybe they’ll start to train that next generation and help keep this beautiful ritual of theater alive in the world.”
Further information about the Metropolitan Theatre Conservatory and Broadway Bound is available at www.metropolitanconservatory.com or (770) 394-1461.