As Westport teens and tweens settle down to life in a pandemic, they’re learning how to learn online.
Academics and extracurriculars are all done virtually now. But it’s one thing to learn math or history that way, or do your judo or piano lessons.
What about all those theater kids? When Mickey Rooney said “let’s put on a show!” he wasn’t talking to himself.
Cynthia Gibb rides to the rescue.
The 1981 Staples High School graduate sure has the credentials. She’s starred in “Search for Tomorrow” and “Fame”; played Karen Carpenter in her biopic; starred with Shirley Jones, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze and Burt Reynolds, and been on “Law and Order/SVU” and “Criminal Minds” too.
Cynthia worked with Oliver Stone, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. Her credits include 13 features, 3 network series, 24 TV movies, countless TV pilots, commercials, voiceovers and print work.
A decade ago she returned to Westport, and opened Triple Threat Academy. It’s nurtured and inspired hundreds of young and adult actors, singers and dancers. Many have gone on to schools like Tisch and Carnegie Mellon, and careers on Broadway and in Hollywood.
When the coronavirus pandemic turned “Contagion” into reality, acting teacher Nick Sadler (“True Grit,” “Scent of a Woman”) brainstormed how to keep youngsters — so many of whose shows were canceled just days before opening night — engaged. It had to be more than a watching-and-waiting scene study class.
Cynthia had an idea: a pandemic monologue play.
Students could journal about their experiences during this crazy time, and craft a monologue. At the end of 6 weeks, it will be performed via Zoom. With Triple Threat’s help, actors might take the resulting play to a real stage or screen — even on tour — once people can congregate again.
Cynthia’s “Monologue and Play Development Class” meets for 6 weeks, starting next week (high schoolers on Wednesdays, middle schoolers on Tuesdays, from 5 to 6 p.m.).
Monologues will be good, bad, fearful funny. (Remember, “A Chorus Line” started out as monologues too.) Enrollment already includes teenagers with extensive — even professional — experience.
“Art always reflects what is going on in life,” Cynthia says. “Just think about ‘Rent’ and the AIDS crisis. We now have an opportunity to find the light in dark times, the humanity behind the grim news, and the positivity to push forward — all through the powers of creativity, collaboration and storytelling.”
Meanwhile, Nick has organized a hybrid of traditional radio theater and today’s podcasts. (Remember when Americans huddled around the radio, listening to plays? Hey — we’re back huddling together.)
His “Virtual Play Series” will teach students how to stage a fast-paced play (or two). Each week the cast will meet via Zoom to read, rehearse and ultimately “release” the play to an online audience.
Students will take on multiple roles, challenging them to invent a variety of characters. It’s a collaborative effort — just like all great theater. (An adult version is in the works too.)
It runs for 7 Sundays, from 3 to 4 p.m. for high schoolers, and 5 to 6 p.m. for middle schoolers. The first session is this Sunday (March 29).
Meanwhile, the third part of Triple Threat — dance — heads online too. Kim Porio offers a class this Sunday (10:45 to 11:45 a.m.) for young actors and singers. It’s “Bring a Friend Day,” so even those not enrolled can try it out.
It all should be quite a show.
(For more information about Triple Threat Academy’s offerings, including registration, click here, email TripleThreatAcademyCT@gmail.com, search on Facebook, or follow @TripleThreatAcademy on Instagram.)