Perry-Mansfield faculty gear up for busy summer

— Spring has come at Perry-Mansfield. That means one of the oldest performing arts schools in the country is getting ready for another summer of nearly 400 children and young adults studying the arts in a rustic setting.

This year, officials at Perry-Mansfield are especially looking forward to spring. Right before the first students arrive, the camp's New Noise program which workshops up-and-coming musicals and straight theater scripts will kick off, and it may be the most exciting session yet.

"This is the first year that it is in festival format," Executive Director June Lindenmayer said.

"We have two big ones. We have an award-winning writer, Dana Yeaton, and an Academy Award-winning composer, Stephen Schwartz," she said.

Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics to "Godspell," which earned him two Grammys early in his career. That was followed with countless other successes is musical theater. He also has worked on the Disney animated features "Pocahontas" (for which he received two Academy Awards) and the "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," which was later adapted as a stage musical. Schwartz also wrote six original songs for DreamWorks' "The Prince of Egypt" and won his third Academy Award for one of them.

Schwartz will be at Perry-Mansfield to workshop a new musical called "Rodeo." After a public performance of "Rodeo" at Perry-Mansfield June 16, the musical will premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

At the same time, Yeaton will workshop his critically acclaimed stage production of "Midwives," adapted from the novel of the same name.

Yeaton is the winner of the Heideman Award from the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, and his last play, "Mad River Rising," received the Moss Hart Award from the New England Theatre Conference. Other plays include "Alice in Love," "Men in Heat" and "Helen at Risk."

The public will be able to see "Midwives" June 15.

The faculty from Perry-Mansfield will perform in both productions. That will be at the same time the students will be spending their first days at the camp.

"What's great is that the kids get to see the faculty perform," Lindenmayer said. "It gets them jazzed up."

Times and tickets for the performances will be made available soon.

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