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Break a Leg! Curtain Call theater program hosts summer fun at Lyons for students across region

JULY 29, 2022 — There’s one key rule at Lyons Curtain Call: You have to have fun. 

Founded almost 30 years ago, the summer musical theater program has always been centered around exploration and development of creative artistic skills — with an emphasis on building confidence and self-esteem no matter what a student’s skill level might be, said Mark Wlodarczyk, co-founder and program director.

“The young people are the energy of the program for us,” Mr. Wlodarczyk said. “The idea that they’re having fun is important. But they’re also learning skills that will help them perform in front of others and work with others.”

Part of that energy is dedicated to ensuring that every student has fun and feels excited about participating.

“We’re not here to make superstars,” Mr. Wlodarczyk said. “We’re here to make them all shining stars. We want them all to feel success of some sort — not every one is going to be a triple threat.”

The program hosts students from several districts across the region, including Lyons, Newark, Clyde-Savannah, North Rose-Wolcott, Sodus, Midlakes and Gananda. It runs for four weeks in July and costs $325 per person, though some districts offer scholarships to assist students who want to participate.

The program has a 1:8 teacher-to-student ratio, with many of the staffers (dubbed apprentices) being high school graduates and college students who went through the program themselves. 

Isabelle Figueroa participated in Curtain Call for nine years. This past summer was her second working as an apprentice.

“The performance isn’t the focal point, it’s the journey to get there,” Isabelle said. “We want to help kids get out of their shell, wherever they are.”

From learning the basics of being able to count music, understanding the direction of the notes and sight-reading music, to more expert challenges involving singing, dancing and acting, there’s something for everyone. 

Curtain Call also offers elective classes to its participants that cover topics like stage-ography (which dives into stage design and prop making), team building, vocal health, playwriting, stage building and mindfulness to round out each student’s experience over the course of the four weeks. 

Each year, the program culminates in a performance at the end of the four weeks. All the students wear the same costume — their camp T-shirt and a pair of jean shorts — and the performances aren’t just held on the stage, but rather all over the auditorium. 

This year’s performance, held over two evenings in the end of July, was centered around a “Seasons” theme.

“It’s kind of like a recital on steroids. It’s very much organized chaos,” said Mr. Wlodarczyk. “The theme for this year is seasons, so a lot of the songs and dances will make reference to times of the year, the weather. Things like 'California Dreaming,' 'Frosty the Snowman,' 'Seasons of Love,' et cetera.”

Working with Curtain Call for the entirety of its existence has been a joy, Mr. Wlodarczyk said. Born and raised in Newark, he worked at the Lyons Central School District for 32 years and still is a Lyons resident. 

“For me, it’s all about kids participating in the performing arts to become better people,” Mr. Wlodarczyk said. “This program has evolved, but the mission has always been the same: We’re trying to make a welcoming environment for the kids through appreciating the arts.”