OCPA – The Magic of Theatre

OCPA Celebrates a Decade of Bringing Kids the Magic of Theatre

This summer the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts (OCPA) presents the eighth stimulating season of its flagship Magic of Theatre camps, offering kids and teens a fun-filled, educational, and enlightening theatre experience. In a classroom atmosphere, students ages six to 18 discover the process of theatre, culminating in a finished production after just a few weeks of rehearsal and training. More than 1,500 kids have participated in OCPA’s program, which helps them develop and expand their skills in acting, voice, dance, and other aspects of the theatre.

“We have a very exciting summer planned,” said OCPA co-founder and artistic director Jeff Tabler. “Some OSF actors are returning to teach and direct for us, we’re getting the educational workshops lined up, and we’ve got a great selection of plays for our students to showcase.”

Now in its tenth year, OCPA, based in Medford, is the largest and longest-running year-round theatre program for youth in the Rogue Valley. It got its start in 1997, when two local high school teachers felt there was a need to offer kids theatre experiences beyond what was found in the public schools, where the arts were being curtailed or eliminated. The two brought together a number of artists and teachers to introduce their concept, which evolved into the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts. After-school and Saturday classes began in 1998. Three years later saw the launch of the Magic of Theatre summer camps. The first camp, for kids six to 16, was a tremendously successful Tom Sawyer. In 2003 the camp grew to 60 kids, who performed The Wizard of Oz at the Craterian Theater to a sold-out house. The next year’s musicals were Charlotte’s Web and Bye Bye Birdie as well as a winter production of Godspell.

In 2005, due to popular demand, OCPA expanded its summer offerings to five camps, including Schoolhouse Rock and Fame, and continued its after-school and Saturday classes in acting, musical theatre, rock band, and Shakespeare. In 2006 OCPA offered four camps: Romeo and Juliet, Treasure of the Caribbean, The
Ruby Princess
Runs Away (which was also a film), and the worldpremiere 20th Century Broadway.

Last year OCPA built on its Youth Shakespeare Festival with the presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Shakespeare camps include workshops in dance, basic acting, text analysis, and voice and speech.

Continuing to serve its mission of empowering and nurturing youth through education and performance in the theatre arts, OCPA also presented Quilt: A Musical Celebration. “By staging this powerful and challenging musical with the voices of teens, we hoped to further educate our community about the impact of AIDS on all facets of society, in keeping with our vision of educa­tional and culturally relevant theatrical experiences,” said Tabler. The cast of Quilt also performed at OSF’s Daedalus Project in the Elizabethan Theatre.

“Our teachers are actors and educators from the public school system, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and other local theatre companies,” Tabler continues. “All have an impressive amount of experience as well as advanced degrees in theatre and education.” Many OCPA instructors have been with the organization for five years or more.

“It’s not only the talent our instructors bring to OCPA but also their dedication to teaching youth that make theatre camp such a meaningful experience for students,” says Elizabeth von Radics, president of the OCPA Board of Directors. “Many of our students return year after year. We know families who plan their summer vacations around Magic of Theatre camps.”

“Many of the returnees are now teenagers, having grown up with OCPA, and they’ve come to appreciate the value of the education they receive,” adds Tabler. Former students are now returning as staff to assist in the camps.

Also in 2007, OCPA staged its first Youth Playwrights Showcase for teen playwrights; launched the Conservatorio Bilingüe, an exciting venture that pairs actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with local Hispanic teens to celebrate their culture through theatre and storytelling; and adopted the displaced dance team from South Medford High School. Now training and performing as the OCPA Dance Troupe, these dedicated dancers entertain at a wide variety of community events.

Working with local organizations and schools, OCPA provides scholarships for at-risk kids and students from low-income families. More than $12,000 in scholarships has been awarded over the past few years.

According to its Web site, OCPA believes that “all young people should have the opportunity to experience the theatre arts—that a complete education involves knowledge of the arts and participation in them. We teach the process of theatre, helping kids develop self-esteem and communication skills through creativity and teamwork.…We are proud to offer the youth of the Rogue Valley the opportunity to discover the Magic of Theatre while gaining confidence, tapping their creativity, and collaborating as a cast.”


This summer OCPA presents three camps.
The first, for 12- to 18-year-olds, features Shakespeare’s The Tempest, co-directed by OSF’s Tyrone Wilson and Caroline Shaffer. Auditions take place before camp begins; all who audition are cast. The second camp, for kids 6 to 12, is Tom Sawyer: The Musical.
The third, a special five-week camp for 13- to 18-year-olds, presents one of America’s most popular musicals, West Side Story, directed
by Caroline Shaffer.


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