Finding the right moves at camp

`Lion King' pros help theater students

July 20, 2005|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,SUN STAFF

Yesterday, 13-year-old Tori McDaniel ate a bowl of frosted Cheerios, emptied the family dishwasher and headed off, suitcase in hand, for Camp Lion King.

The budding Baltimore actress, a student at the Young Actors' Theatre summer camp at McDonogh School, joined other local theater students for a series of workshops with cast and crew members of the touring company of The Lion King.

In sessions held at the Hippodrome Theatre complex, McDaniel practiced a dance routine, watched an elaborate makeup application and learned about costumes and puppets from the production's professionals.

Like other theater camp students, she sported a teal-green T-shirt commemorating her camp's recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The musical marked McDaniel's debut on stage.

And yesterday, she wore jazz shoes for the first time. Under the direction of Rachel Tucker, the company's graceful dance supervisor, McDaniel concentrated on remembering a series of plies, swings, twirls and lunges. She moved her slender body - most of it legs - to the rhythms of cast percussionist Michael Faue.

At break time, she listened as 24-year-old dancer Sandy Alvarez talked about dancing a dozen parts every night, transforming quickly from a giraffe to a "grasshead" to a hyena.

By the time the dance group had headed through the theater lobby to the next workshop - a Lion King makeup demonstration - McDaniel was talking about dance lessons. Perhaps she could take a class at church, Huber Memorial on York Road, where she sings with the choir.

"The dance was so much fun," she whispered as makeup supervisor Jaeson Goldsberry talked about the Zulu origins of the show's face-painting.

Sponsored by the Hippodrome Foundation, Camp Lion King was designed as a public education program for roughly 140 children, ages 12 to 17, from local theater camps.

Besides the 41 students from McDonogh, the camp drew children from Arena Players, Baltimore Children's Theatre, Creative Arts Center and Children's Playhouse of Maryland.

Other Hippodrome outreach programs have included Dance Baltimore and Holiday Sing, two free community performances designed to link the elegantly refurbished theater with nontraditional audiences, says Cheryl Goodman, the Hippodrome Foundation's director of education.

In addition, the foundation has sponsored master dance classes for schoolchildren taught by cast members of Oklahoma! and puppetry workshops directed by staff from Little Shop of Horrors.

Cast members from The Lion King also spoke recently to children at the Eubie Blake National Museum and Cultural Center about careers in the performing arts.

McDaniel isn't at that point, at least not yet. The home-schooled eighth-grader has had her hands full this summer exploring the worlds of theater and day camp.

She expected her vacation to reach another watershed last night when she returned to the historic theater to watch the Tony Award-winning musical.

That's why McDaniel had packed a suitcase when she left for camp. When she saw the show for the first time, she planned to be wearing her good black skirt, pale pink blouse and fancy sandals.

And she imagined she would think a lot more about the physical demands on the dancers.

"It takes a lot of breath," she said with fresh insight. "And the lady said that you only have four weeks to learn the choreography. I guess I learned you have to be really, really focused."

Benefits

Lion King cast members will give several benefit evenings of music and dance in Baltimore next month.

Aug. 8 at Center Stage: "The Rising of the Son," a celebration of fatherhood and family, will raise money for the Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development. For information and tickets, call 410-367- 5691.

Aug. 15 and 22 at Coppin State University: "Pride & Praise: A Gospel Musical Celebration" will benefit historic black universities and colleges as well as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For information and tickets, call 410-951-3800.

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