The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jul 12, 2013

Opera reaches children through costumes

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Thais Menendez, Florida Grand Opera

Even through it’s off season, Florida Grand Opera (FGO) continues to show its commitment to the community through a series of events and partnerships targeting students interested in the arts. Cerise Sutton, Director of Education, and Camilla Haith, Head of Costuming, are working with schools and theater programs throughout the summer to enrich the performing arts experience for local children.

It all began with a costuming presentation for a group of music and art students at Richmond Heights Middle School back in May. Haith gave a talk that illustrated the importance of basic academic subjects — such as math, history, and art — as they apply to building costumes for the stage. Above all, Haith encouraged students to pursue their passions and explore their opportunities.

“Most of these programs serve underprivileged kids. It’s important to me that they know that working in the arts is something they can achieve, even with minimal resources,” said Haith. For a lot of them college is not even on the table, and they have to know they can have a career in the arts if they want it.”

In addition to continuing to bring opera to schools, the company has engaged its costuming department to assist two performing arts camps this summer.

Photo by Alina Vidal Photography

TANDEN THEATRE PROJECT Designed to compliment instruction at the school level with a hands-on performing arts experience, Tandem Theatre Project offers a summer theater camp at the Deering Estate that culminates in a student showcase. FGO is pitching in by providing costumes, scenery, and props, adding a professional touch to the show.

For the younger division, Haith spent the last month designing and creating multi-purpose sets and costumes for the camp’s production of Three Little Piggies, which hit the stage on July 1. Next, Tandem’s teens will stage a production of Romeo and Juliet, opening July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Deering Estate Stone House Ballroom.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. The kids are amazing,” said Sutton. “We were able to sit in on a rehearsal, and they sound great, so it should be a really good production.”

On a field trip to FGO’s costume warehouse, the campers were fitted for costumes, both original and borrowed pieces from FGO’s own production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. “They went through the steps that our professional singers would go through before they go on stage,” said Sutton.

Tandem Theatre Project’s production of Romeo and Juliet is open to the public. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 12 and under, and can be purchased by calling 305.235.1668 ext. 233. For more information about the performance or Tandem Theatre Project, please visit

GIRLS EMPOWERMENT CAMP Florida Grand Opera has also joined forces with the Girl’s Empowerment Camp at Miami-Dade’s Women’s Park, an arts program managed by Raices Hispanic Cultural Arts Center. Celebrating the achievements of women in South Florida, the park mentors girls in middle and high school.

Haith will walk the girls through a two-part workshop introducing them to the world of opera through costumes. On July 26, she will regale the girls with an introduction to costuming for opera, including a hands-on challenge. Each participant will receive a bag with mystery items they must revamp to create a wearable garment, as is regularly done with costumes in opera. Haith returns August 2 for a fashion show presentation where the girls will share their creations and talk through the process, focusing on artistic challenges and execution.

For more information on Florida Grand Opera’s education programs, visit the company’s website at

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