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INTERVIEW: Bethany Dellapolla On Bay Street’s Virtual Musical Theatre Vacation Camp: "My Life The Musical!"

T.J. Clemente

Bethany Dellapolla. (Photo: Courtesy of Bay Street Theater)

Bethany Dellapolla is an East Hampton-based actress who also teaches, choreographs, and directs various theater camps, productions, and classes for all ages throughout Long Island and Manhattan. She received her BA in Theatre Performance from SUNY New Paltz, where she was named one of the Outstanding Graduates of her class. She also graduated (with honors) from Long Island University with her Masters Degree in Childhood Education, and holds teaching certifications in Childhood Education, Early Childhood Education, Special Education, and Theatre Education. This winter, Dellapolla will guide rising stars in Bay Street's "My Life The Musical! Vacation Camp," which will take place virtually this February.

Dellapolla was kind enough to share her excitement for this year's program with Hamptons.com. She started by explaining, "I have done these vacation camps for five years. The goal is not only to improve musical theater skills, or work on musical theater skills building, but to also allow the performer, the members of the camp to create their own work and their own story."

When asked how this is achieved, she replied, "What I do is I come at it from a theme, and they get to pick their theme with scenes that can range from fairy tales to friendship, to school, to rebellion, which was a theme one year. We take that theme and we either create little skits around the theme that the kids create, or do one big story. However, it is really driven by what they want to do and the story they want to tell. If somebody wants to sing, I ask them what songs they know or what songs they really feel passionate about singing. I then try to work that in. The same is true with anybody who wants to dance. As for any of the actors, I make sure they get a role, something that they are in to. Everyone really shapes it together traditionally. But now that we are in a virtual phase, this year will be different, so we are translating how we can do this live on the computer and eliminate the delays factors. The biggest difference is we are going to pre-record and film everything."

While Zoom is a relatively new medium, Dellapolla is confident that the budding stars will master the class' digital format. Dellapolla relayed, "You would be surprised, but yes, I think it has become such a part of their reality at this point. A lot of these kids went virtual last year, and whether it was Zoom or Google means, everyone has been exposed to something of this variety. For anyone who isn't super familiar with Zoom, I will do a quick little tutorial."

She then spoke about the new aspect of this year's virtual camp being on film. Dellapolla explained, "We are going to have to pre-film to make it the most cohesive it can be. Even with musical theater on Zoom, the way Zoom works it tries to find the audio. For instance, I could play the background track from my end and have somebody else sing from their end. The kids will be learning from this process and using some new great virtual skills."

Dellapolla noted that as a child she never experienced a camp where she could create her own theme or musical story. "I actually think that this is one of the exciting things about the program - that it will be their stories," she noted. "I am not handing them a pre-written thing. They get to talk about what's on their minds." She added, "I started my theater training when I was between 8 and 10-years-old, when I started doing voice and dance lessons. I remember a lot of the advice from them, along with different useful games and things like that. I believe my techniques developed more as I got older, and then of course I learned even more going through college and grad school. I have now worked with several groups of kids over the years that were talented individuals that just wanted to become better artists. It's fun to work with new students, as well as students that I have had for a while."

When asked if doing this year's program virtually will in effect teach the students new skills, Dellapolla said, "They are essentially the same skills, but it's a different medium - because you are virtual and online. You almost become and do film and TV acting. There are just some things that are more effective on Zoom than they would be in person live and vice-versa. Because you have a different space to play with, it's different. As opposed to blocking from A to B on a stage for the audience, here this would be like getting closer to the camera or getting far away from the camera, including where you put your eye gaze to make it most effective in communicating with your scene partner. So, while the basics are the same, the technical things are different on a virtual stage. The students are getting some acting skills and some filming technical skills."

"My Life The Musical! Vacation Camp" is open to students 7 to 12-years-old. The class will be held Monday, February 15 through Friday, February 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.

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