By Matthew Sockol
MILLSTONE – Youngsters who attend Cornerstone Music Studios’ Summer Music and Theater Arts Camp are ready to perform a theatrical adaptation of the works of author Lewis Carroll.
The young actors and actresses will perform “Through the Looking Glass” at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. today, Aug. 11, at the Millstone Performing Arts Center, 5 Dawson Court, Millstone Township. Admission is $10.
The Summer Music and Theater Arts Camp runs for three weeks, Monday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Participants are incoming third-graders through incoming ninth-graders. Studio operations manager Holly Deitz said the children reside in Millstone Township and nearby Manalapan, Hightstown, Monroe Township, Jackson and East Windsor.
Cornerstone Music Studios owner Laura Wittman said, “The goal of our camp is to nurture in our campers their passion for music, musical theater and their desire to expand in their creative journey in the areas of music, performance and acting. We strongly believe in providing our campers with the highest quality music education and exposure to our professional musicians and directors.”
This is Cornerstone Music Studios’ sixth summer camp.
Music director Shane Tapley views the different ages of the campers as the most intriguing aspect of the production.
“It’s interesting because the age group is very broad,” Tapley said. “It’s great to see younger students working together with older students, almost as if they are brothers and sisters coming together.”
The music director said it is wonderful to see how the campers and crew members are able to produce a full show in such a short time.
Among the students participating in the show is Christina Orthodoxou, who will enter the eighth grade at the Millstone Township Middle School. Christina, who has been a piano student at Cornerstone Music Studios for five years, serves as a theater assistant for the show.
“Working on the show is exhilarating because the people here are energetic and have wonderful personalities,” Christina said.
The cast includes Sophia Friedenberg of Manalapan, who will enter the eighth grade at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School. Sophia views the camp as beneficial to her creative abilities and in forming relationships.
“It’s really fun to make new friends and it’s really nice to get stronger with my singing and acting,” Sophia said.
Syrenah Hannah of Millstone Township, who will enter the seventh grade at the Millstone Township Middle School, said that while appearing on-stage can be nerve-wracking, she enjoys singing.
Portraying knights on opposing sides are Phillip Quinn of Hightstown and Cole McCaleb of Jackson.
Phillip, who will be a freshman at Hightstown High School, portrays the White Knight. He describes the character as clumsy and goofy, but finds him relatable because the knight defends Alice and is always trying to help people.
Cole, who will enter the eighth grade at the Carl W. Goetz Middle School, portrays the Red Knight. He said the camp has been fun and exciting.
Older students may participate in the camp as high school interns. Many of the interns are former campers who appeared in previous productions.
Among the interns is Paul Cuffari of Millstone, who will be a senior at Allentown High School. Paul was in Cornerstone Music Studios’ first summer camp and will play bass guitar in the orchestra.
“I love working with the kids and learning how to mentor them,” Paul said. “You can see eye to eye with them. There is a connection between the campers and the facility.”
Hope Trenkler of Monroe Township is serving as an intern. She has been dancing since the age of 4 and and is helping with the show’s choreography.
“When you start dancing, you start choreographing whether you realize it or not,” said Hope, who is homeschooled and will be a high school junior.
“I never got the chance to do shows outside of ballet productions,” she said. “Once I was able to do this, I fell in love with it. The people you are around are a team and you immediately become friends.”
Helping with vocal instruction is Matt Spadaccini of Millstone, who will be a senior at Allentown High School. Matt performed with the camp for three years and is an intern for the second year.
“Seeing everyone grow from when they started the camp to where they are now is amazing,” Matt said. “They grow as actors and vocalists and you make friends with everyone. I recognize people from past camps and they are improving.”
Aly Carminati of West Windsor, who will be a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, is providing vocal instruction. Aly did not participate in the camp when she was younger, but came aboard through Tapley, who is her voice teacher.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came here, but it’s been really inclusive and really fun,” Aly said. “Everyone is really nice and working for the same goal.”
Michael Deitz of Millstone, who will be a junior at Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver, credits the Cornerstone Music Studios camp for inspiring his passion for acting. Michael participated in the first camp and is a theater assistant for “Through the Looking Glass.”
“I’m lucky because not many music camps leave you with a sense of family as this one does,” he said. “A lot of the people are here to have fun and put on a show.”
Theater assistant Jack May of Millstone, who will be a sophomore at Allentown High School, also participated in the first camp and holds it in high regard.
“It is a life-changing experience,” Jack said. “It’s all fun and games and a learning experience.”