CH@T: PYT’s summer camps give kids a stage

Posted 5/31/19

Summer is officially a few weeks away, but Pittsboro Youth Theater’s summer program is moving into full swing. This week, we speak with PYT’s Tammy Matthews, who has more than 25 years of …

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CH@T: PYT’s summer camps give kids a stage

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Summer is officially a few weeks away, but Pittsboro Youth Theater’s summer program is moving into full swing. This week, we speak with PYT’s Tammy Matthews, who has more than 25 years of experience in both education and theater. She attended the prestigious Goodman School of Drama and holds a bachelor or arts degrees in theater and elementary education. She also has a master’s degree in education. Matthews has won many teaching awards, including a 2013 Kenan Fellowship, and was appointed to The Governor’s Teacher Network to develop North Carolina elementary curricula. She worked in theater in Chicago in various capacities before becoming a teacher. Since then, she has staged many performances in schools, camps, community theaters and after-school programs across the country.

Can you give us an overview of Pittsboro Youth Theater, and talk about how it fits within the Center for the Arts, Pittsboro Campus?

The Center for the Arts, Pittsboro, and the theater within the Center, Sweet Bee Theater, are physical locations or spaces in which arts are performed, learned and displayed. Pittsboro Youth Theater and several other performing arts organizations are based in Sweet Bee Theater.

Craig Witter and I started Pittsboro Youth Theater in 2012, four years before we opened the Center for the Arts, Pittsboro and Sweet Bee Theater. We were originally based out of the Community House and performed in various locations around town. When searching for a space for a PYT performance, we found our current location downtown behind SunTrust bank. The space was larger than PYT required, so we’ve added a music school, art gallery and Sweet Bee Caffe coffee shop to help pay for the large space.


What types of programs are held in Sweet Bee Theater?

Sweet Bee Theater is the only independent live performance theater in Chatham County. Currently 80 people from the area ranging from 6 to 80 years old are in casts of four different theater organizations which rehearse and perform plays in Sweet Bee Theater. This includes four casts of Pittsboro Youth Theater, the Chatham Community Players (which is a community theater organization for adult actors), Social Justice Theater of the Carolinas, and a professional cast which tours to performs mostly in Triangle area elementary, middle and high schools. Other activities in Sweet Bee theater include PYT summer camps, private parties, symposiums, movies, conferences and outside touring professional stage productions.


PYT’s 2019 Summer Camps are moving into full swing. Talk about the two types of summer camps you’re offering…

We have five summer camps this year: four one-week camps and the Little Mermaid musical camp, which is a three-week, intensive, by-audition camp for more advanced actors for actors in high school or younger.

One-week camps are primarily for younger and/or newer actors. Each has a different theme including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Cinderella and Robin Hood. It is a fun, low-key way for kids to find out if they enjoy theater or practice their performance skills. We teach theater basics, improv games, characterization and techniques for memorizing lines. Campers perform a play at the end of every camp; one-week camp performances are generally just for campers’ parents, relatives and friends.

We also have a three-week intensive summer camp for youths aged 10 through high school. This is a faster-paced, rigorous camp experience. Little Mermaid musical will be a premiere PYT production with six ticketed, public performances on the weekend following the camp. Campers will move from rehearsal, to private voice lessons and dance classes throughout the day.


What’s the camp experience like?

One-week campers start every day with professional theater warm ups and games designed to teach live performance skills. Next, we have of couple hours of rehearsal script-in-hand. We usually walk to a nearby park to have lunch. Afternoons usually have a couple of hours of rehearsals and line memorization broken up by fun time playing board, card and improv games.

The three-week intensive camp is quite different. Actors have different schedules based on their part in the play. Small groups are led by multiple directors and assistants; some actors will be in rehearsal on stage as others are working on their lines, choreography or taking private voice lessons with Brenda Linton, our music director.


Why is the theater experience so good for these youngsters, and what valuable lessons or tools will they walk away from the camp with?

Of course they will learn theater skills but campers learn so much more than that. Theater is the ultimate team “sport.” Actors must work together just like the players on a sports team. When on stage, they must depend on each other to remember blocking, know their lines and portray their character in a way that everyone can do their best. Theater also increases reading skill. Actors learn to read more fluently, understand themes, main ideas and story flow, and characterization as they practice a play.


Can you share a camp story involving a specific youth camper that illustrates the value of the experience?

Last summer, a young man came to PYT for the first time. He had never been in a play and had a very small part. At first, he was kind of quiet, but the other actors welcomed him to the group and he slowly came out of his shell. It quickly became obvious that he had a lot of talent. He performed his part beautifully and came back in the fall. He just recently played the lead role in one of our spring shows and was superb!

Speaking, listening and acting with intention are life-skills. See the improvement in children as they grow, learn and work together is incredibly rewarding.


What’s the show schedule for this summer, and how can people find out more information about the program?

Our summer schedule is as follows:

• June 1st and 2nd: Little Women

• July 19-21: Little Mermaid.

We also have our Adult group, The Chatham Community Players, performing The Miss Firecracker Contest on July 5-7 and 12-14.


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