Summer program gives students taste of theater as a career

August 04, 2016

LIVONIA, Mich. – Soon the curtain will rise on the annual production of Madonna University’s Summer Music Theater program; an intense, two-week workshop during which high school students refine their dancing, acting and singing skills.

The long days of personal and group instruction will culminate in two performances of “Book It to Broadway,” a collection of songs from musicals adapted from novels and plays, at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Aug. 12 and 13, in Madonna University’s Kresge Hall. The show is open to the public and admission is $5. Proceeds will fund future Summer Music Theater scholarships.

The program is led by Barbara Wiltsie, associate professor of voice at Madonna, and Patti Davidson-Gorbea, guest drama instructor. The intensity of the program is geared to students who are thinking seriously about pursuing musical theater in college, and/or as a career, and who have the talent but could still use a bit of refinement. Several past participants have gone on to study musical theater, music or drama at their college or university, and some came back to help with the camp.

After a morning of choreography and voice rehearsals, students break for lunch, although they dance around the room and spontaneously burst into song several times while they make sandwiches. The students referred to the camp as “amazing.” They said they were learning a lot about musical theater and all the work that goes into a production, including researching a character and building a performance résumé. Off stage, they’re developing life skills, such as time management and working with others.

All of the students have participated in theater at their high schools and want to continue working on productions, if not as a career, then as a hobby. They agreed that while instructors have high expectations, it helps them prepare for potential real-world auditions and criticism. “I think it gives you a true taste of what doing this as a career is like,” said Ann Stein, a student at Plymouth Christian Academy.

Dakota Firestone, a student at Farmington High School and one of two participating in the program for the second time, said the experience makes for life-long friends. “It’s hard work and intense, and we’re having a great time doing it,” he said.

More information about the program can be found at