SRU duo conducting feasibility study for summer theater camp


Faculty member and student working on the study

From left, Deanna Brookens, Slippery Rock University assistant professor of theatre, and Naomi Bates, a junior dual dance and theatre major from Slippery Rock, are conducting a feasibility study for SRU to host a summer theater camp for high school students.

July 15, 2019

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Actors portray fictional characters in theater productions, but for a Slippery Rock University student attempting to develop a theater camp for high school students, her role is anything but pretend.

This summer, Naomi Bates, a junior dual dance and theatre major from Slippery Rock, is conducting faculty-student research with Deanna Brookens, assistant professor of theatre, to determine the feasibility and subsequent development of a summer program at SRU to train high school students interested in theater.

"Naomi is not doing this research to contribute to theoretical frameworks," Brookens said. "She's doing it to make something happen and create a new program."

She's conducting her research as part of a $3,075 grant through SRU's Summer Collaborative Research Experience grant program, which covers a faculty stipend, up to 100 hours of paid research for the student and other resources, like membership in the Americans for the Arts, to provide access to vital information.

Brookens and Bates are developing all aspects of a proposed theater camp, everything from a mission statement and strategic plan, to determining a curriculum, pricing, staffing and program evaluation. As part of their research, they are writing and distributing a survey to local high school theater teachers, students who are interested in theater and parents. (To take the survey, click here.)

They are also researching other regional and national summer theater programs currently being offered. All their findings and plans will be presented to SRU's Theatre Department faculty later this year. The faculty will then decide if and when the department would launch and support such a program.

"Our goal is to figure out what we think we can do at SRU that would set us apart, remain true to who we are as a department, equip the students with what they need and serve the students in the region who might not have the opportunity to go to a major urban center like Pittsburgh or New York to study in the summer," Brookens said.

"We're hoping if the camp takes off, we can attract high school students in the region who are interested in going to college for theater and looking for summer enrichment to boost their skills and to work with other like-minded high school students."

The timing is ideal because SRU's new Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting program, approved in 2017, is set to launch this fall and the University's performing arts facilities are currently undergoing renovations.

Brookens and Bates are also an ideal tandem to conduct the research.

When Brookens was an SRU student, she helped staff a summer arts academy for high school students at the University, an experience she said was formative in her development as a theater professor. Bates, whose major concentration is theatre arts management, is considered by Brookens to be a "mover and shaker" in the Theatre Department, serving as a stage manager for productions and leading an interdisciplinary project at SRU's Kaleidoscope Arts Festival. A native of Mercer, Bates also said she would've benefited by a summer theater program as a high school student.

"Being a local person interested me in doing this research because it feels like I'm providing something for other students who are like me," Bates said. "Another reason why I like this research is because I want high school students to get the same opportunity for personal interaction that I've had (as a student) at SRU."

Bates will also benefit from the research experience, as she gets to apply theories she learned in SRU classes like Introduction to Theatre Management and Introduction to Nonprofit Management.

"Student don't often have the opportunity to learn the interworking of a program like this, so it's a great experiential opportunity for her," Brookens said. "Regardless of whether this is implemented or not, Naomi will have the experience of creating this detailed program proposal, which, for a theatre arts management student, is so important."

"My goal in college is to gain a variety of experiences, that's how you make yourself marketable (for employment opportunities), especially in the fields of dance, theater and the arts," Bates said. "I see myself doing something like this after graduation, and if I'm not already working on an established camp, how will I know how to do that?"

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