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Summertime is special for students at the 5th

Whether dissecting a Gershwin classic (complete with pizza feed) or polishing up their theatrical skills, the under-18 set can find plenty to do this summer at the 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle.

Rudnik loves to talk theater with local students.
Anya Rudnick. Photo by Mark Kitaoka

The Director of Education and Outreach Anya Rudnick oversees multiple youth programs at The 5th Avenue Theatre including Fridays at The 5th and the Summer Musical Theater School.

“Since 2004, we’ve offered Friday at The 5th to give a richer and more meaningful theater going experience for students (ages 14 to 18),” said Rudnick, who is preparing for June 13 session for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” The winner of the 2012 Tony Award for best revival of a musical, this touring production will introduce students to such American classics as "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "I Got Plenty of Nothing."

The students come for a Friday at The 5th workshop in the afternoon, have pizza dinner, then have a pre-show talk before they see the show,” she explained. “They’ll complete the evening with a talk-back with cast and crew. The whole thing costs just $25 per student.”

Unlike similar programs at other theaters, this activity does not have to be organized through a school. Individual students can buy this Friday at the 5th ticket. “Students can sign up for themselves, and we often have young participants who come to every workshop throughout the season,” she said. “Sometimes a drama club will come as a group activity. The nice thing is this all takes place at the theater and it is more about what it means to be a theatergoer rather than a performance workshop. We try to reach out to students who are not the drama students and show how this ties into what they are studying in history or English.”

For Seattle’s many rising stars, the theater offers training through the Summer Musical Theater School.

“The students here are incredibly talented. We have fantastic theater programs in several of local public and private high schools,” said Rudnik, who taught elementary school theater for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Arts Program. “In Los Angeles, you saw kids much more film focused, but here, because of all our amazing theaters, you see many more interested in musical theater.”

The 5th’s summer program provides training at various levels, depending on the students’ age and experience. “Our high school program is a full day. They take classes in voice, classes in acting, song interpretation, and dance. The students also work on production numbers with professionals. We also have a half day program for middle school students. It’s much the same classes but more condensed and a shorter day,” she said.

For older students who have completed the high school workshop, there’s also a “a professional intensive that does require them to audition. Students in that workshop work on full length musical which they will perform for parents and invited audience,” she said.

The next Friday at The 5th will be June 13 for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” Students will learn how theater artists use song and movement to express emotion, introduce character, further the plot, and under the guidance of a company member, perform a short sequence from the show. This session will include a pizza dinner at the theater and runs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more information on this and other youth programs available through the 5th Avenue Theatre, see their website.