KINGSTON — One dancer raised a fist skyward. Another froze in a pugilist stance. Others pointed — showing they meant business — or placed their arms akimbo. A few lunged forward.
“Love it. Love it. Love it,” choreographer Spencer Hansen said as he walked past the group, making sure each person had chosen a position that looked sufficiently “proud and defiant,” ready to “slay the giant.”
The teenage participants in the Summer at Sem creative arts program are portraying “newsies,” a group of old-time, newspaper peddlers ready to go on strike, so they can’t look soft.
“This is not ‘we’re playing a game of patty-cakes,’” Hansen said after the dancers paired off and pummeled each other’s hands during a Thursday afternoon rehearsal. “You’re starting your revolution.”
The “Newsies” segment, which comes from the Broadway show of the same name, will be the closing number in the Summer at Sem Final Dance and Theater Showcase, set for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4 at the F.M. Kirby Center for Creative Arts on Wyoming Seminary’s campus.
Rather than presenting a full-scale musical as it has other years, the summer program will culminate with a collection of Broadway-style songs and dance numbers interspersed with monologues the students wrote themselves.
“Mine’s about bullies and forgiveness,” said Hope Austin, 15, of Wilkes-Barre.
“Mine’s about the way the LGBT community is treated,” said Julia Poole, 14, of Kingston. “There’s been progress, but we still have further to go.”
The writers will not present their own monologues — other students will — and the musical numbers will support the monologues in subtle ways, director Jeremiah Downes said.
“The songs come from a lot of contemporary musicals,” said 15-year-old Stanley Motyka, of Kingston.
“Even if you’re not a ‘Broadway geek’ or ‘nerd,’ you’ll love this,” Poole said.
During their preparation for the production, students spent three days working with Broadway actor Billy Bustamante, who conducted master classes in movement, voice and character presentation.
As the performance drew near, they honed their skills with Downes and Hansen.
“Even when you’re not singing, you’re face is ‘on,’” Downes said, reminding them to maintain an animated expression.
“If the sharpness of your number is a 5 right now,” Hansen told the group, “I want a 50.”
The students are doing extremely well, the mentors said later.
“There is so much talent in this community,” Hansen said. “It’s a hidden diamond.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.