Two-and-a-half hours outside of New York City — the Mecca of professional theatre and stomping ground of legendary performers — children ages 7-17 are training to become the next generation of theatre professionals at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, the 43-year-old camp that ushers arts education to the forefront.
As hundreds of children from around the world shuffle onto the French Woods campus — a large campground comprised of five theatres, a circus pavilion equipped with trapezes and aerial silks, an indoor skate park and, of course, various rehearsal spaces and dance studios — the audition process begins.
"That's almost our favorite day," explained 16-year-old camper Crawford Horton, who comes from Milton, GA, and starred as Anthony in the French Woods production of Sweeney Todd.
"This is the highlight of the year for many people," added Roberto Morean, 18. "The night of casting, I just eat and eat because I'm so nervous. You walk in, and you sing for all the directors, and if you want to do a drama, you audition for a drama… Based on your audition, they give you callbacks, and you have different callbacks for about four hours. It's like 12 hours [after callbacks that the cast list is posted], but it's the longest time you'll ever wait!"
Once the cast list is posted, over a dozen shows go directly into rehearsal for a three-week session, in which students will rehearse for approximately two hours a day for less than three weeks to mount a full production — completely costumed, staged, choreographed and backed by a full orchestra.
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