SOPA Brings Les Miserables “Home” to Proctors

The talented students from The School of the Performing Arts (SOPA) take the MainStage at Proctors for three performances only, August 2nd and 3rd, to present one of Broadway’s most beloved and epic tales – Les Miserables! The student run production of the serious and dark play follows the struggles of rich and poor alike coping with the difficulties of every day life leading up to the French Revolution.

With well-loved pieces, including “Bring Him Home,” “On My Own,” “Beggars at the Feast,” and “One Day More,” Les Miserables is arguably one of the most popular operas. The students are producing an opera of epic proportions that spans years, multiple storylines, and settings. It is an incredibly challenging task, one that is student driven and produced through SOPA.

Rehearsal of the SOPA production of Les Miz at Proctors.
Photo by Jim Gilbert

SOPA runs a summer camp like experience for local students who come to Proctors to work in every aspect of the theatre. From lighting and soundboard to costumes to performance roles, these students spend their summer in an accomplished theatre setting learning from local, seasoned educators with professional experience on Broadway.

Michael Eck, Proctor’s Senior Communications and Public Relations Leader for Proctors, stressed that the program introduces students to every piece of theatre production, including the technology and trades associated with theatre. He pointed out that work in the theatre trade industry is only growing, creating students real life jobs through technical opportunities.

Choreographer Freddy Ramirez demonstrating proper technique.
Photo by Jim Gilbert

Michael Lent, a 10th grader from Cobleskill, was spending his first summer at Proctors learning about lighting. While Lent has years of experience working in setting up and breaking down sets, as well as supporting lighting on productions nearer his home with his father, who works for his school district, he described this summer as “a real game changer” for him.

“I’m definitely going home with a whole different experience, and bringing that experience back to my community,” Lent shared with excitement. He has learned about the light board through Proctor’s summer program, and has been setting up the lighting for the scenes of the play.

“Proctors is so welcoming, and there’s no separation between adults and kids doing the work,” he added, and this seemed to increase both his interest and his confidence in the trade.

Lent is a perfect example of the type of learner Proctors is targeting in its partnership with Fulton County Community College. That new partnership has expanded younger learners’ understanding of the trades associated with the arts world, a place where the job market is exploding with opportunity.

Director Steven Yuhasz helping students get into character.
Photo by Jim Gilbert

While most people think of theatre as being only for vocalists and other musicians, Proctors has truly expanded young students’ understanding that they can be a backstage star, even if they do not have a starring role on stage.

Student Tahya Hurn, who is starring as Madame Thenardier in the production of Les Miserables, just graduated from Schalmont Schools this June. She’s been at Proctors on stage the past four summers performing and is relishing her role this year as the Inn Keeper’s wife.

Hurn enjoys the comedic relief of the role, adding she hopes to be on Saturday Night Live when we look her up in ten years. Hurn plans to attend Hudson Valley Community College to study Forensic Science this fall but enjoys theatre as an outlet.

“Proctors has been a gateway into local theatre for me,” she explained. “The auditions were very professional, and I have so much fun here.”

Rehearsal of the SOPA production of Les Miz at Proctors.
Photo by Jim Gilbert

Hurn’s favorite song in the opera, “Beggars at the Feast,” is a favorite for many, including her colleague Lent. The camaraderie between lighting student and vocalist is unique to this camp, as most theatre programs segregate learners by their roles.

SOPA attracts local professional educators who have a background working on Broadway. The adults involved in the summer camp express their professionalism to the students, and it clearly is also expressed between students as a result of the modeling. Children of all ages are welcomed to the program.

These talented students and their colleagues are working hard to prepare a professional level production of Les Miserables this weekend. There will be three performances (Friday, 7 pm, a Saturday matinee at 2 pm, and Saturday at 7 pm). Tickets are still available at the box office.

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