While much of the Cal State Northridge campus quietly recharges this summer in anticipation of the coming fall semester, Nordhoff Hall is virtually vibrating with energy. Its classrooms and hallways are filled with the singing, dancing, hammering, sawing and laughter of more than 90 teenagers taking part in CSUN’s acclaimed Teenage Drama Workshop.
TADW, celebrating its 54th year, is presenting “The Music Man,” directed by Ray Saar, and Disney’s “The Jungle Book,” directed by Ronnie Sperling and Corky Dominguez. The season runs from July 22 to Aug. 5, with “The Music Man” and “The Jungle Book” running in parallel schedules, and concludes with two performances of the “10-Minute Play Festival,” a showcase of student writing and directing.
“Teenage Drama Workshop plays an important role in the area,” said executive director Doug Kaback, a CSUN theater professor. “Not only does it give young people an opportunity to work with theater professionals and perform in some top-notch shows, but it also provides cultural opportunities for members of the community. Many of the people in our audiences are children. For some of them, this will be their first time experiencing professional theater, or visiting a college campus and being exposed to all the opportunities a university has to offer.”
Every morning for the past few weeks, more than 90 teenagers have been immersed in the day-to-day reality of a professional theatrical troupe—from designing lighting, costumes and sets to learning lines and choreography. The teenagers spend their afternoons preparing for their performances. There will be 10 each of “The Music Man,” from July 27 to Aug. 5 in CSUN’s Campus Theatre, and “The Jungle Book,” from July 22 to Aug. 6 in the university’s Little Theatre.
TADW started out as an activity for teens to call attention to the cultural resources available at what was then San Fernando Valley State College. Over the years, the workshop has grown into a nationally acclaimed drama program for teens and one of the nation’s oldest.
The workshop is open to students entering grades 7-12. In the morning, the teenagers attend classes that focus on acting, voice and dance and can choose electives in improvisation, musical theater, playwriting or the technical aspect of theater production. The afternoons are spent in rehearsal.
The “10-Minute Play Festival,” scheduled for Aug. 4 and 5 in the Little Theatre, exemplifies the integrated nature of the program, where students in the playwriting and
improvisation electives collaborate to bring an idea from “page to stage” in six short weeks.
Many former workshop participants remember their summers in TADW as some of the most gratifying in their lives, and have enrolled their own children in the program over the years. Among them, Marylata E. Jacob, who was part of the workshop from 1973 to 1975. Jacob’s son Aaron is in his third year with TADW and has a key role in this summer’s production of “The Music Man.”
“A long-lasting benefit of theatrical training in the adolescent years are the life skills and work ethic the teens learn that will last into their adult years,” said Jacob, who has enjoyed a multi-faceted career in music that includes work on award-winning feature films, collaborations with a number of legendary musical artists and a Grammy nomination.
As a “thank you” for the skills she learned while with TADW, Jacob and her husband Danny Jacob, composer and song producer for Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb,” have made a generous gift to establish an endowment to support the workshop. In addition to Jacob, other Teenage Drama Workshop alumni include Oscar nominees Mare Winningham and Elizabeth McGovern.
“For 54 years, this inspiring program continues to harness high-voltage teen energy into joyful productivity. I want to be sure teens keep getting this opportunity,” Jacob said. “The Valley’s cornfields may be gone, its orange groves may now be relegated to a corner of the CSUN campus, but TADW is still a powerful, vibrant presence. It is most worthy of the entertainment industry’s financial resources to keep it up and running.”
Kaback said he was “thrilled” by Jacob’s gesture.
“The arts are so important to students’ academic and social development,” he said. “This gift from the Jacobs helps us make sure we can keep offering TADW for years to come.”
For more information about TADW or performances of “The Music Man,” “Jungle Book” or the “10-Minute Play Festival,” call (818) 677-5811, email email@example.com or visit the website www.csun.edu/tadw. For a backstage peek at the Teenage Drama Workshop, visit the blog at http://tadwbackstage.blogspot.com/.