Child’s Play

Live Theatre Workshop spends the summer making your kids stage ready

Is your child shy? Does your child seek out the least visible spot when in a group? Does your child seem fearful of venturing out alone? Well, you may just have a kid in the early stage of becoming an actor.

That was the case with Lucille Petty and Sophia Duclo when they arrived at Live Theatre Workshop's education workshops, and their lives totally changed.

Classes are offered year round, but the summer classes offer intensive day-in and day-out opportunities for kids to get a workout almost guaranteed to give their shyness the boot, all while having a wonderfully fun time learning a thing or two about, not only how theater works, but about what they can do together in a week or two.

Petty was 13 when she was urged to join. "Lucy has her own style and flair," Amanda Gremel, the director of LTW's program, says. "When she came here she felt safe to be who she was."

She was introduced to theater in middle school. "It was the thing that felt right. So I found out about the summer camps at LTW, but couldn't afford them. But the LTW people worked something out, like an internship," Petty says. "I had never experienced anything quite so fulfilling. Everybody there was kind and receptive, and the more I worked there, it just became my second home...I wouldn't be where I am without the incredible team they have there."

Now, nine years after finding her way to LTW, this talented young woman has appeared in major and leading roles in various theaters around town. If that isn't its own reward, she has been nominated for and has actually won citywide awards for performing, winning out over some of the much older and experienced actors in town.

Duclo, however was much younger when her parents registered her for class. "She was this little five year old girl who did not want to talk," Gremel says. "She whispered her lines on stage during rehearsal, but eventually she got more comfortable. Now theater is her love. She lost her fear...As an instructor, it's been phenomenal to watch their journey."

This summer, there are half-day classes for the very young thespians. Other classes are geared for a small spread of ages, but some bring together older and younger students.

"It may seem weird to have such younger kids with older kids, but my instructors fight to teach those camps," Gremel says. "Do not underestimate the little third graders. They keep our high schoolers on their toes, acting wise...The older kids are like mentors to our younger kids so they feel good about themselves.

Overall, that exchange is exactly why Gremel seeks to offer these experiences in Tucson.

"That's what it's about: Helping each other," she says. "We like to think we are helping grow good people."

To do this, LTW looks to a number of teachers and pros to help with instruction. Along with the regulars that teach year round, summer brings access to theater teachers in schools on summer break. "There's access to a big range of knowledge about theater."

That knowledge, in part, comes from Gremel and the former head of education and now LTW executive director Michael Martinez.

"All of the students there refer to them as their 'second parents,' and they really are. The amount of love and time they, and all of the teachers at LTW, put into our classes and shows is truly incredible."

Classes, which can be in one-week sessions even, are a mixture of intense play practice, an hour of choreography and an hour of music each day.

"It's pretty intense but the kids love it," she says.

To keep the rigorous schedule light but still informative, Gremel offers alternatives to standard learning protocol.

"We play games, and that's how they learn to connect on stage, how to approach character work," Gremel says.

This year, LTW has added classes and expanded the programming to Sky Island High School for an intensive musical theater camp that will run for two weeks, as well as sessions centered around, what Gremel dubs, Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and Fame, Jr.

Gremel explains that Music Theatre International has had these musicals reworked to be suitable for younger folks, though what they're able to do in these short intensives still surprises Gremel.

"These kids are sponges. It's amazing what these kids can accomplish in only two weeks," she says.

You can learn more about LTW's Summer Camps at

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