This is not your typical summer camp. Then again, this is likely not your typical student-actor.
James Willis of Sequim recently spent three weeks at an acting workshop at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre. Willis was one of just 20 students from Washington allowed into the exclusive program that required an audition.
The workshop, held Aug. 2-20, featured instruction from Fifth Avenue producing and resident musical directors as they brought 16- to 20-year-olds through a concentrated rehearsal process ending in a performance last week.
Willis, a senior this fall at Sequim High School, has acted in school productions since seventh grade.
We caught up with the 18-year-old actor via e-mail as he prepared for that final camp performance.
Sequim Gazette: Why did you get want to do this workshop?
James Willis: I wanted to do the camp because I had done it two years prior and I had learned so much, made so many friends and had so much fun that I wanted to try out their newest program. I first heard about the Fifth Avenue Theatre camp about two years ago from Christy Rutherford, who directs my high school plays.
SG: What kind of things are you learning at this workshop?
JW: I'm learning absolutely everything that an aspiring performer needs to know. How to approach a character, how to approach a song, proper dancing technique, dancing as a character, vocal technique, how to audition, and the basic ins and outs of theater.
SG: What about the people you're meeting, students and instructors - what kind of talent level are you seeing?
JW: The talent level in the Professional Intensive group I am a part of is very high. Everyone reads music, has had proper singing training, other acting and dancing classes, everyone is just ready to jump into the world of theater.
SG: Do you want to go into acting as a career?
JW: I absolutely want to pursue a career in acting, whether it be theater, movies or television. Although the theater is where I am most comfortable.
SG: What's the best part about acting?
SW: The greatest part about acting is being able to go into a surreal moment all by yourself, and if you do it well enough you get to take an audience of however many with you on that journey. For about two hours a day, I get to step outside myself and be this character that I have created inside my head, and then I get to view how people like this character. Everybody likes to hear people cheer for them and support them, so that's always a definite plus.
SG: What's the most difficult part of acting?
JW: The most difficult part ... is becoming another person. The very core of what acting is. I have to spend weeks thinking on who this person is, what he sings about, why he sings, why he dances, why he makes the choices he does in the show, and I have to show all of that through what is in the script. I can't do anything else except that.