The Maltz Jupiter Theatre Paul and Sandra Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts was awarded the PBI Award for Best Teaching Tool. PBI.com sat down with Julie Rowe, the director of education at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, to discuss the conservatory and its educational offerings.
|Students perform in the Maltz Jupiter Theatre Paul and Sandra Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts performance of Hairspray. Photo by Jen Vasbinder|
PBI.com: Can you provide an overview of the conservatory’s mission?
Rowe: We provide excellent theatrical education in a safe, supportive environment that educates the whole child. We want to make sure we’re teaching students excellent theatrical skills, but we also feel passionate about making sure that our students self-actualize into positive human beings. Everything you learn in an acting class or a dance class—any kind of theater class—gives you tangible life skills [such as] learning to communicate more effectively, learning to collaborate, problem solving, all of those wonderful life skills that you need happen in class.
What kinds of facilities do you have?
We have a dance studio and an acting studio and a voice studio. Both the acting studio and the dance studio have proper sprung wood floors for healthy dancing, and we have a piano in each room so we can be very flexible with what we want to do with the facility.
How often do kids find themselves on the Maltz stage?
Whenever we produce shows for the conservatory, we are lucky enough to be able to perform on our stage and to hire professional designers and musicians, so the students get a real [idea] of what it feels like to be a professional. The conservatory produces six shows a season, but then also, as part of our First Step to Stardom program, we do cast students in our main-stage productions. For example, this year we will have students in our upcoming productions of The Will Rogers Follies and Billy Elliot the Musical.
The conservatory hosts a number of summer camps between June and August. What classes are offered during the school year?
We’re very busy during the school year. We have our after-school program that begins at 3:15, and we have classes for students in grades K through 12—all levels of acting, all levels of dance, private voice, private piano, private guitar.
We will be launching a new program this year, which will be operating during the daytime hours—it is our professional training program. It’s targeted at students who have graduated from high school or are in their early 20s and want to make theater their career track. … It’s by audition only. It is a two-year training program [and] it is going to be the only professional training program affiliated with a professional, regional theater in the state. … The focus of the program is to train actors to be ready for plays, musicals, theater, TV, film—every actor who’s going into the business needs to have a wide variety of skill sets to pull out whenever necessary.
Can you summarize the Youth Artists’ Chair program and how it came about?
The Youth Artists’ Chair is a mentorship project where every department of the play is headed up by a student who is being mentored by a professional. So, it’s resulting in a project that is fully created by students for students [to include] the marketing engine, the design team, the producer, the director—everything is done by a student under the guidance of a professional. So they’re really getting this hands-on, graduate-level training and they’re getting it for free.
You all also have a Youth Touring Company. How does one become a part of that?
It’s by audition only. We have our auditions every year in June, and then we rehearse over the summer. The touring company is a really unique group of kids. They’re in grades 5 through 12, and there are 35 of them. They perform everywhere, from parking lots to fancy theaters to street festivals—you name it, they go there. It’s a wide variety of show lengths and times and the amount of repertoire they know, it’s truly remarkable. And what’s really cool about it is everybody is understudying each other so that they’re learning how to be a swing.
What do you think a group like that contributes to the community?
They’re so joyful. It just warms your heart to see their passion for performance and their passion for working together and singing and dancing makes them so happy that they’re sharing their love of performance. You just can’t help but feel the same way.
Why do you think it’s important to have such initiatives as the student matinee program and special student previews?
It’s very important because a lot of our students who are coming to the student matinees, some of them have never been to the theater before. So it’s opening their eyes to what it feels like to be at a live performance, which is so unique and impacts you in a new way. Our student matinee programs are also literacy based, so they’ve seen the play, now let’s go read the book. It’s also an investment in our future audience. We’re teaching young people how to come to the theater [and] why it’s important to come to the theater.
Why is arts education and theater education so vital?
Arts education affects everything a young person does: academics, social interactions, literacy, their view of themselves, building their self-confidence. I’m very fortunate because I get to see it every single day; I see our young people come in and I see them work in class and I see them change every single day and I see them grow as human beings and I see them help one another. Those kinds of things emanate throughout the community.