The Georgia Southern University Performance Arts Center's black box theater was abuzz last week with a combination of thick southern drawls and crisp British accents as 39 students from a Derby, England performing arts school joined a dozen students from South Georgia for the International Arts Academy, a tuition-based camp offered through GSU's Continuing Education program.
The students worked hard during the 12-day long camp, and Friday showed results of their dedication and creativity through two performances at the PAC. There will be two more performances, "vaudeville style," Monday, at 7:30 in the Foy Fine Arts recital hall, said organizer Sarah Hancock.
The British students hail from the St. Benedict School for the Performing Arts in Derby, England, she said. The rest of the students involved in the International Arts Academy — a cooperative effort between GSU and St. Benedict to benefit and expand the students' experiences in performing arts — are from southeastern Georgia, including a student from Stilson and one local student from the Savannah Arts Academy.
The students worked together for two weeks to put together performances based on a "numbers" theme, said Caroline Reader, teacher at Benedictine School. "The students devise it all — anything to do with numbers, using music, dance and drama."
She said the camp is beneficial by mixing students from two different cultures, so they can learn new techniques and methods of rehearsing and performing. This is the second time a group from the school has visited GSU — "the last time, three years ago, was very successful," she said.
And having American students from all over the region is beneficial as well, because it exposes the university and is a good recruiting tool, Hancock said.
Watching the students work together and form new friendships is encouraging, and "It's astounding how these kids can put together something like this in a week," she said.
While the camp involves a great deal of work, it also provided a great deal of fun, said Poppy Clark, a 15-year-old Benedictine student. It also offered British students a chance to experience the differences between their country and the United States.
"It's very hot," she said about south Georgia. "It's very big. Everything is so scaled up, big cars, big buildings. It's amazing how everyone is so nice when it is so hot. I get rather grumpy when I am hot."
She said the camp helped her learn. "It's nice to be pushed in this way. You learn more than you do in school."
Ian Horgan, 18, said the recent camp was his third visit to the United States. He visited Texas and New York "on holiday," and agreed with Clark that things in America are bigger.
"Everything is on a bigger scale," he said. "It takes you down a notch, being in a different environment."
Horgan said studying things in an "entirely different manner, with a traditional take on things" is different from what he is used to, as things in his country are "more modern and innovative. This is great — you see stuff you didn't see before."
Working with others from the United States "made me aspire to be better," he said. "I'm taken down a notch by the level of talent."
Amber Miller, 15, of Lawrenceville, said she enjoys learning the new techniques from other students and said the camp "is helping me improve my vocal and overall performing skills. I get to learn so many differnt things, and I enjoy learning the new words" — such as terms and slang used by the British students.
Kinslee Dubois, a 17-year-old from Stilson, said the camp was a fun challenge.
"It was a really good experience," she said. "Getting to come up with your own scenes from scratch is challenging but fun at the same time."
Just performing on a stage at anytime is good experience, said Charlie Hancock, Sarah Hancock's son who also participated in the camp. "I've been doing some cool stuff that I've always wanted to be able to do."
GSU's Dr. Michael Braz was also involved in the International Arts academy, and taught at St. Benedictine School for the Performing Arts briefly during a visit in 2007.
"I know most of these students already, and most of the staff," he said as he spent one day last week surrounded by the students. "This is a great deal of fun."
And students had more fun Saturday with a visit to Savannah for a day of exploration and Independence Day fireworks display.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414