KINGSTON — For the nearly 40 international musical-theater students enrolled in the 15th season of the Performing Arts Institute at Wyoming Seminary, life will soon be a cabaret.
At least their first performance will be.
The Performing Arts Institute is a six-week international summer festival held at Wyoming Seminary, 201 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston, for high-school students seeking pointed training in music, theater and dance.
“There are students from all over the world — from Asia, from Europe, from Mexico and all points in the United States,” PAI Director Nancy Sanderson said.
Students rehearse from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., studying stage direction, music performance and more.
“It’s a pretty intense experience,” she said. “You see total focus at rehearsal. It’s not kids being kids. It’s kids being professionals. I have so much respect for these young people.”
Todd Christopher, of Charleston, S.C., is the head of the musical theater program at PAI. This year marks his 12th season with the program.
Thirty-eight musical theater students began rehearsing last week for productions of “Les Miserables” on July 31 and Aug. 1 at the F.M. Kirby Center and a student cabaret on July 11 at the Buckingham Performing Arts Center on the campus of Wyoming Seminary.
“We do auditions at the beginning and try to give students the opportunity to sing in the production and the cabaret with solos, duets and group numbers. Students who might not get a leading role in the musical also have the chance to sing solos and get good theater coaching,” he said.
This year, songs in the cabaret follow the theme of personal relationships — from children and their parents to significant others. Musical selections include pieces from “Next to Normal,” “Chess” and “Avenue Q.”
Christopher said his 12th season is a reminder of his very first with PAI.
“The first year that we moved this production from on campus to the Kirby Center was 12 years ago, and we did ‘Les Mis,’ ” he noted.
Over the course of the program, instructors often see students quickly develop the traits they need to succeed in the performing arts.
“It’s fun to see a student in the beginning and see the potential. Six weeks later, you can look at that student and see how far they’ve come. I think that’s the most exciting thing,” Christopher said.
After participating for more than a decade, he also has seen students grow between the end of one PAI performance and the start of another the next summer.
“All of a sudden, they’re just different people. They grow up emotionally and musically. It’s fun to see a young person turn into a young adult,” he added.
Performances ranging from a student chorale and classical music to chamber recitals featuring student and faculty solos continue through Aug. 3, which also marks the season’s-end gala. For some, the shows have become a highlight of the summer.
“All of the concerts, no matter where they are, are so heavily attended. Community members have figured out that they have quality entertainment for free,” Sanderson said.
“Anyone that has not come out to see a PAI performance should come to see how hard these students work and experience the beautiful music that they make. It’s just wonderful to have a Friday or Saturday night to come out and hear really great music made by high school students,” Christopher added.
For more information, visit www.wyomingseminary.org. A full calendar of remaining performances can be found at www.tinyurl.com/PAI2013.