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Sugar House Journal

SPA students teach teens during summer program

Jul 27, 2017 12h38 ● By Natalie Mollinet

The students come together after the workshop and perform in a play. (Jim Lipscomb/SPA volunteer)

When you fall in love with something or learn to appreciate its value, you want to share it with the world. One grandfather did just that, and brought the world of performing arts to young students at the School Of The Performing Arts (SPA) in Sugar House. During two weeks in the summer, students ranging from grades 6-9, could sign up for the Summer Intensive Theatre Workshop at the SPA building. 

“It is a small group of 18 actors, which allows for very intensive coaching from SPA student instructors in dance, vocal performance, drama and musical theater,” Jim Lipscomb, the person behind the workshop, said. 

When SPA first came to be in 2007, Lipscomb’s granddaughter joined the school. He told her that if she did the challenging work in school, he’d do the rest. His granddaughter went from being a teen with no direction to a hard-working student, who joined the National Honor Society and eventually became a student body president at SPA. She attended the University of Cincinnati and has been a working actor since. She will soon be studying at the London Academy in England for her master’s work. Lipscomb was so impressed with what SPA had done to help his granddaughter achieve so much that he wanted to help the school. He has done so for 11 years. 

“We were looking to do something during the summer while the building sat empty,” Lipscomb said. “When we were at Highland, we couldn’t do programs during the summer but when we moved to the new building, they didn’t care much what we did.” 

Lipscomb saw the way that the SPA students excelled and thought, why not have the students teach something during the summer? They were already excelling in their later years in high school and he thought who better to teach these young students than the talented students at SPA. 

“I went and researched some of the programs that were driven by adults,” Lipscomb said, “and by the time our kids get to be juniors, they’re excelling and they’re competing and getting to state level in competitions. We’ve got some of the best teachers around the world with just our students.” 

Lipscomb, with the help of the staff at SPA, picks out student teachers during the two weeks of the summer. Those students are then put to the test and create the structure for the workshop. The students are only with the young students three hours a day and pick out what monologues they want the young students to read and what scenes they want them to perform. 

“They coach them all through this,” Lipscomb said. “It’s really fun to watch. Kids come in day one afraid like little mice and then the following Monday, they know everyone and they are comfortable and go after each other like brothers and sisters, it’s fun to watch them build the ensemble.” 

Lipscomb mentioned one 13-year-old teen, who joined the workshop last year who was uncomfortable being around kids her own age, which broke Lipscomb’s heart. The teen had no performing experience but was intelligent. This was the first time she had to think out of the box and learn to be creative. Because the students work in groups, she had a part to contribute and made friends and gained confidence in herself. 

At the end of the two weeks, the students do a performance whether it’s in a small group or a large one. This year the students did “Peter Pan Jr.” with almost 50 kids participating. 

“What we’re trying to do is develop multiple lines of advantage here,” Lipscomb said. “One is to let people know that SPA exists, and second to give our students, especially ones that are graduating, experience to teach what they learned to others, realizing it’s very hard.”