Arts Listings

The Stage Door Conservatory Presents ‘Gypsy’

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Friday July 28, 2006

Are your kids gone at summer camp? Are you in need of some fulfillment from young people? 

For the next three nights, under the direction of Heather Raines, the Stage Door Conservatory’s 17- member cast of the Teens Onstage Program, will present Gypsy, a theatrical musical first produced by David Merrick in 1959, at the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. 

Right after school got out, when most students were going off to foreign countries, summer camp or summer jobs, these kids were doing theater. Teens Onstage began camp on June 19 and have been tirelessly working to produce a stellar, final product. 

“There were no auditions for the play,” remarks Raines. “We take students on a first-come, first-serve basis ... we pride ourselves on the learning that goes on as much as the final product.” 

During the first two days of camp, Raines gave the kids the opportunity to look over the play, study it, and even do some outside research. Then, they performed before Raines, who decided on a cast list. 

Ashley Swihart, 16, who plays Louise, said, “Before we do a scene, Heather tells us to interpret the scene the way we think it is supposed to be and then she guides us through it. She gives us feedback and takes a lot of our suggestions.” 

At camp, which ran from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., many different things go on. Kids participate in drama sessions, art sessions, dance sessions, and music sessions. The kids make all their own scenery as well. But most important of all, the self-described “close cast” learn to bond and work together. 

Daniela Debergue, 16, plays the leading role of Mama Rose. Mama Rose is portrayed as a “typical stage mom” who has two daughters named June and Louise. She concentrates all her efforts on her favored daughter June and wants to make June famous on the stage. 

“She’s very desperate for everything,” says Debergue. “She’s obsessed with June, because she didn’t get famous when she was younger. She’s living through her children.” 

The story continues as June and Louise are included in the picture. June is a “ditzy, annoyingly perky blonde” who is very intelligent. Her sister, Louise, played by Swihart is a child, scarred by neglect. 

Swihart says of her role, “Her mother is mean and ignores her. It is not until the end of the play that Louise is happy.” 

The Stage Door Conservatory is a theatrical program that Debbie Grossman and Gina Scher founded in 1999. It was originally located at the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center. 

“It’s a real ensemble group,” mentioned Simon Kaplan, camp director. “We give each kid a chance to shine. We really believe that everyone is important and that everyone has something to contribute.” 

Performances are at the Julia Morgan Theater at 2640 College Ave., between Derby and Parker Streets. The showtimes this weekend are Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m. Tickets range from $15-20 for adults and are $10 for children, students, and seniors. The box office is open 30 minutes prior to the show.