“…if I have a child in front of me, and I have to choose between something that might make it a better show in that moment, or make her a better person? I go for the person. I go for the character building. And you know what happens? It ends up making a better show.”
– Brian Dietzler
Brian Dietzler is the director of “Camp Rock.” His face shows his focus and intense concentration as he moves from one group of kids to the other while blocking a scene for “Camp Rock,” Summer Stage’s 36th season opener. But he always breaks into a warm smile as he looks directly into the eyes of each participant he talks to.
He must be spot-on in every interaction he has with the kids because after just ten short rehearsal days the show opens. Every moment is precious. Efficiency without frenzy.
During the non-summer months, Brian is a music teacher at Sun Valley High School and directs the chorus, the concert choir, as well as the high school musical productions. He also teaches piano, theater, digital music and music exploration.
He spent many summers at Summer Stage, originally as a participant and now as a director.
Brian Dietzler: I love to see what the kids can do and witness them develop as people. With our schedule so intense, they don’t have time to be nervous. They have to dive in and start learning and doing it and I love watching that progress. To see the kids come in and such a short time see what kids are capable of. Absolutely capable of. When given the opportunity to succeed and put in an environment that we have here, it really is amazing how fast they can get the show together. It sets an example. It shows us this is what kids CAN do.
In our schools now, we keep hearing about what the kids AREN’T doing – the focus is on test scores and whatnot.
But in our short time here at Summer Stage – here’s what kids CAN do if you…trust them! I trust them. And that’s what we do. We have less than three weeks to get this show together. And I tell them that, “I trust you to get it done.”
THE KIDS SEEM TO REALLY RELATE TO YOU. WHY IS THAT?
BD: At Summer Stage, we teach people first. Not the subject. Absolutely we try to put on quality shows. But if I have a child in front of me, and I have to choose between something that might make it a better show in that moment, or make her a better person? I go for the person. I go for the character building. And you know what happens? It ends up making a better show.
Summer Stage is all about the holistic growth of the kids.
It seems that education is developing into throwing bubble sheets in front of the students instead of asking them to write something, sing something, play something. Eventually we’re just going to have kids who know how to take tests and that’s it.
That’s why Summer Stage is such a breath of fresh air.
Part of it is that the kids all come from different schools. At their schools, they are stuck in the roles that they have there. They’re struggling to find their voice. They face that challenge at their school – and then they can come here. It’s a different feel here. It’s a place where the kids feel very welcome.
HOW ARE THE KIDS IN YOUR CAST ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE?
BD: They’re having a very good time. They’re tired at the end of the day which tells me they’re working hard. I just got finishing blocking some of the big group scenes and there was a great energy.
BD: It’s a feel-good, high-energy show and there is a song every two minutes. An upbeat song. The characters are very fun. It’s very family-friendly. And “Camp Rock” is kind of like how Summer Stage is. “Camp Rock” itself is all about folks coming together to support each other and make music and make friendships. In the plot, we see a rival camp open up that reminds us of what we have here at Summer Stage. It reminds us of what our program is about.
The show runs about an hour, maybe a little more. It’s a Disney, high-energy show, that our kids pull off just as good as what you would see in Disney World! (laughs). Am I allowed to say that?
It’s ideal for kids of all ages, about four years old and up. It moves so fast, there really is no down-time. It’s like a rock concert. It’s just a lot of fun, a lot of special effects. We really want create that feel of camp. Scenes that take place in pitch black with the camp fire, and flashlights, and crickets. It’s like camp in the air-conditioning! (laughs)
EVEN WITH SUCH A SHORT TIME-FRAME TO PREPARE, ARE YOU ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE?
BD: Absolutely! I have two kids at home and my wife is home with them. She understands how important the mission is to me. And this is why I come back every summer. I continue to do this because my two girls, Molly and Anna, can grow up and have the same experience. And that’s the story with a lot of staff members here. You grow up in a program and then you become an adult with a family of your own, and you look at things from a new perspective. You go from being a member to realizing what you had and then saying, “I’ve got to make sure that future generations get to experience the same, welcoming place.”
Photos by Lauren Stevenson Yacina