Late-night TV show comic Dulce Sloan was just a student at Gwinnett’s Berkmar High School when she had her first theater experience at the Aurora. Granted, at first it wasn’t on stage. At the time, the Aurora was still located in Duluth and had not yet established its popular camps or educational activities, but Sloan got an opportunity through her school’s Quest internship program to get hands-on experience, so she worked for a time filing papers and working in the Aurora’s office for class credit.
Fast forward a little and Sloan began entertaining Aurora audiences during open-mic time when the theater started hosting comedy nights. “She’s one of the brightest stars who has come through the Aurora and we’ve had some people who have performed on our stages and gone on to Broadway and now that Atlanta is doing filming, they’re playing major roles,” the Aurora’s Al Stilo said. He is director of sales and marketing for the theatre. “She went on to break the ice on a career as a stand-up comedian. The Aurora had just moved to Lawrenceville and we would book her for mic time when we first started doing comedy nights. She was great. Her work ethic and talent were clear to us...She became a headliner for us and was headlining around Atlanta and around the country.”
Stilo said Sloan got the attention of Comedy Central TV host Trevor Noah and is now a full-time comedy correspondent on his show. “She’s very funny,” Stilo said. “She’s got a great personality. She’s definitely someone who literally started out filing papers and was at Berkmar and doing an internship because Aurora was the only professional theater in Gwinnett. We didn’t even have an education department and had not yet started our apprentice program. We like to think we were part of her star shining and rising.”
As the Aurora continues to expand its extensive education department and a full slate of summer camps, as well as its prestigious apprenticeship program, there are many more stars ready to rise. “We are still finalizing our details, but we’ll have a musical theatre camp which will be at the center of our camp experience,” Stilo said. Aurora’s Musical Theatre Camp usually lasts three weeks and culminates in a “junior version” of a Broadway musical. Campers have presented Lion King Jr., Willie Wonka Jr. and other favorite shows.
In addition to musical theatre camp, the Aurora offers a selection of one-week and two-week acting camps for ages from K- 2nd grade; 3rd -5th and middle school students and high school kids. Stilo said that the Aurora now has such a “beautiful new costume shop” that organizers are considering having a camp that focuses on creating costumes and clothing for kids who are interested. He said the camps give kids an opportunity to explore acting in a professional environment, adding that all camp teaching artists are working professionals.
“The students are working in the same environment where professional theatre is made,” Stilo said. “I think that really changes the game for kids in getting the opportunity to act, sing and dance. It takes it to another level.” Stilo said the Aurora is fortunate in that it has strong support for its camps from local community partners and foundations which allows it to offer financial assistance.
“One thing that’s been a hallmark of the Aurora camps is we have a very generous scholarship program, so camps are accessible for a lot of kids who might not be able to attend otherwise,” he said. “That will continue and we’ll offer as much scholarship as we get support.” The Aurora also hosts a camp for students during spring break. Other programs the Aurora offers for up-andcoming young actors include Teen Nation; internships and the Apprentice Company, which is designed to help emerging artists bridge the gap between educational and professional theatre. An impressive array of those AppCo members and their “Where are they now?” biographies is listed on the theatre’s website. To read that information or to find out more about the Aurora and its summer camps and educational programming, visit the theatre’s website at www.auroratheatre.com.