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 Camp Barrett Students Excited About Attending Play

By Amanda Wallace, JCCS lead registrar


The audience waiting to be seated for The Old Globe’s Saturday matinee performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods looked like your standard theater-going crowd: older couples, small groups of ladies, a few husbands that looked like they’d rather be anywhere than seeing a musical, and a high school group. As I approached this group of nervous and excited young men, they all smiled and waved.

For all but two of the 12 young men, this would be their first theater experience. We talked about theater etiquette, the playwright, and basic theater terminology. The students were engaged and quick to answer. I expected nothing less of the 12 gentlemen from the Juvenile Court and Community Schools’ (JCCS) Camp Barrett.

The JCCS staff in attendance were as excited as the students. Stacy Spector, JCCS executive director; Ray Mallard, Camp Barrett’s English teacher; and Joanne Finney, Camp Barrett’s principal, worked directly with SDCOE and San Diego County Probation to ensure this group of young men would have the opportunity to attend this performance as well as future visual and performing arts experiences. As we entered the theater, the students were full of questions and observations. Immediately, the student I was seated next to asked why the actors were out and acknowledging the audience, even though the show hadn’t started. We talked about the “fourth wall,” the convention actors use to imagine there is no audience, rather, a fourth wall that would compete the box shape of a standard proscenium theater. In this production, there was no fourth wall; the actors would talk to us as an audience. He nodded and sat back in his chair. He then started cracking jokes with the kid next to him. Now I was getting nervous.

Into the Woods is not known for its brevity. A running time of nearly three hours requires an audience to be engaged. Was this the right show for the students—a production that requires so much of an audience—as their first foray into theater? And the student I was seated next to was now showing himself to be the class clown. I took a deep breath as the lights came down. From the moment the first chords of the first song were played, the students were no longer leaning back in their seats. They were laughing at the jokes, they were the first to applaud at the end of songs, and they were completely engaged.

After the show, staff and students shared a family meal in the Old Globe’s courtyard. The students were full of questions, singing the refrain from Into the Woods, and laughing. The most common question was, “When can we come again?” As we ate, a question was asked about the set, and whether it was normal for the actors to have talked to the audience. My seatmate, the class clown, responded, “No, the actors were breaking the fourth wall. Didn’t you notice how the floor of the stage was jagged and came out into the audience? That represented them coming out to us.” My seatmate has assured me theater is in his future. Suddenly, these Juvenile Court students were engaged members of the arts community, sharing a common experience of community and music. We witnessed their world view expand, and none of us should expect less of the gentlemen from Camp Barrett.

Students even wrote reviews of the play. You can read a couple of those reviews online.