One only has to attend a middle-school concert or play to know how talented the youngsters are in our area. While some students dream of heading to a performing arts school, there’s no need for them to travel to New York City to hone their skills and fulfill their dreams. Trumbull’s Regional Center for the Arts (RCA) located right here in Fairfield County, at 23 Oakview Dr., adds plenty of performing art choices to the high school experience. The initiative for the school came about in 1990 through the efforts of the founders, the superintendents of schools in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford, and Trumbull, who wanted to provide a performing arts program taught by master artists.
According to the school’s history, the first programs consisted of 30 dance and music students who attended classes at the University of Bridgeport. In 1993, the Cooperative Educational Services was asked to administer the program and in 1995 RCA moved to downtown Bridgeport as part of the city’s revitalization movement. During 1996, RCA became a magnet school, and in 2003 moved to a larger facility in Trumbull. Since then it received a grant to build an even larger state of the arts facility in Trumbull, where the school now stands and offers courses in everything from theater and music to dance and video; each discipline has a substantial curriculum.
Theater students, for example, take an introductory acting class in which the basics of script analysis, voice and speech, physical acting, monologue work, and scene work take place. During their first two years, theater students also study theater history and improvisation. Following these courses, they study important periods in theater such as modernism or Shakespearean theater. Before graduating they will have had the chance to direct scenes with other student actors. Other classes in theater include stage combat, solo performance, comedy, and more.
Here’s how it works: Students audition for RCA. Once accepted they attend their regular district high school classes in the morning and then travel to RCA in the afternoon where they begin classes at 1:30 p.m. They receive academic credit at their district high school for the classes they attend at RCA. Essentially RCA is a part-time performing arts magnet school. It’s like the best of both worlds for talented students who want to devote time to their passion.
The mission statement for the school includes creating a diverse cultural heritage, developing skills and discipline to reach their artistic potential, and the skills and attitudes needed for a productive life in society as creative citizens.
According to Principal Dr. Mark Ribbens, “At RCA, we bring passionate, talented students who are willing to work hard together with working professionals who want to support the next generation of performers. We do our best to create an environment where young performers can take risks and grow.”
Recently, the theater department presented a production of “The Laramie Project,” a play about Matthew Shepard, a young man who was kidnapped, beaten, and tied to a fence where he was left to die. The production is one that many regional and community theaters perform. Students at RCA may also audition for major productions including a musical theater production held each year.
While theater is certainly a popular choice for young talented thespians, the music courses and video courses are just as comprehensive. Music students focus on theory as well as performance in their classes. According to school policy, at the audition before acceptance to RCA, students take a music theory placement test that functions as a starting point. Whether note-reading or sight-singing, students move forward in their capabilities. For the performance end, students are grouped in ensembles based on their experience. Music students “continuously reach unprecedented levels of professionalism and expertise for musicians their age,” Dr. Anthony DeQuattro, a teacher at the school, explains. “We are fortunate that so many of them have chosen to come to Trumbull to share their gifts.”
Dance students are also placed in appropriate levels and the classes are very sequential. Video students use equipment to begin creating short projects and advance to larger projects and teamwork. Some students collaborate on creating a single film.
Currently, the school comprises approximately 250 students from Ansonia, Bethel, Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Newtown, Norwalk, Oxford, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. Most of these students will go on to college after graduating and many will major in the arts. Dr. Ribbens concludes, “As one of our recent grads (who’s working to break in in LA) told me, ‘The goal is less about fame and fortune and more about making a life doing what you love doing.’”
For more information, please call 203-365-8857 or visit ces.k12.ct.us.