Berridge Artistic Director Andrea Mardon shares the details of how "A Summer in France" came to be.
Ian: Can you tell me about how Berridge came to be?
Andrea: I was the Executive Director of a company called Oxbridge Programs out of New York City for four years- they run a series of summer programs in Oxford, Cambridge, France and Spain. We had about 1,500 students overseas each summer and that experience was how I really got into the world of summer enrichment. Having trained hands-on as a costume designer, actor and theatre producer, I understood the benefits of experiential education so summer enrichment was a great fit for me. It's really exciting to see how much young people can thrive and grow outside the classroom, particularly through cross-cultural experiences. The inspiration for Berridge actually started when I was traveling through France with Oxbridge and came across Chateau Le Mont Epinguet in Normandy. I remember stepping out of the car in front of the Chateau and just thinking, “I’m going to run a program here.” I didn’t know what it was going to be just yet, but I knew it had to be something creative.
Ian: So why a Chateau in France?
Andrea: I used to publish a brochure about the Berridge experience back when we were just getting started, and I used to say, “if you had the chance to spend even one day at Chateau Epinguet, you would know the answer.” It sounds a little corny when you see it in our testimonial videos as well, but there really is a magical feeling that exists when you’re at the Chateau. It’s an immensely special place for all of us in part because of the intersection of history, culture, and true feeling of family when you’re there. It really creates an experience that can’t be replicated.
Ian: Who is Berridge for? High school students or college students?
Andrea: We currently have two big things happening. First is our flagship program: a four-week theatre and film summer program that will re-launch at the Chateau in summer 2022. Second is our Creative Semester gap year program- it's set to launch in January 2022 at the Chateau as well. Our summer programs will be geared towards students of ages 14 through 19, and our gap year program is for students 18 through 22.
Ian: What makes Berridge such a unique program?
Andrea: The strongpoint of Berridge has always been the faculty. Our program has really been structured around them and what they love to teach. We have a strong core group of faculty, many of which have been with us since the beginning of Berridge, each bringing their own skills, passion, and approach to making art. There is certainly a feeling of authenticity among our faculty in that they are all here to inspire and contribute to your growth as an artist, and we get so much out of that in return. I think it’s worth discussing why we don’t audition our students as well. It’s a real point of pride for me that we strive to create a non-competitive environment. Instead, we’re creating a nurturing and supportive atmosphere that’s really meant to discover unique artistic voices. An audition process is certainly more warranted in a professional collegiate program, but not at the summer program level. We don’t want to exclude students that have the curiosity to do something creative, but may not have the confidence to audition for us just yet. One of faculty members, Duane Daniels says it perfectly: "See what’s possible, not what’s there."
Ian: Do you have a favorite memory so far?
Andrea: We have a lot of sayings here at Berridge...Berridge-isms if you will. Greg Ainsworth, our on-camera instructor created this saying to help students become familiar and comfortable with acting for the camera: “You are enough.” It quickly became one our biggest values here as it reassures students that we’re really just looking for them to be themselves. One of my best memories from Berridge are our Saturday night performances. The energy in our barn on those nights is absolutely wild. You can expect anything from a crazy skit about spiders to the most human and vulnerable monologue. It really goes to show that we just love to have fun here at Berridge, and those performance opportunities are a chance to do anything you want to do.
Ian: Tell me a little about the new Santa Barbara programs!
Andrea: We are very excited to host our second summer of U.S programs! We first have our three-week “Spotlight” program which closely resembles our six-week summer in France experience. It’s then followed by an additional week called “Generate” which you can do by itself, or in conjunction with Spotlight for a full-month experience. Generate is purely focused on creating and premiering original work while Spotlight is focused on instruction and training. We built the curriculum for this summer around the strengths of our faculty so students will get to experience an incredible assortment of original Berridge training. We’re looking to offer students a host of “tools” that they can use in their professional lives moving forward- exposing students to a little bit of everything now will let them figure out what really motivates them to get creative. We’re also extremely fortunate to be living and working at the Westmont College campus in Santa Barbara. It’s nice and small and offers students a taste of what a college campus is like while being quite safe and beautiful.
Ian: Does Berridge offer scholarships and college credit?
Andrea: We don’t offer college credit at this time as we would have to stick to a specific curriculum that we don’t believe would allow us to provide you with the same unique Berridge experience. However, we do have multiple scholarships available, some of which are new for this year! We have the two that we’ve been offering since we first started; the Merit Scholarship, a $1500 award, and a Financial-Need scholarship, which can cover up to 50% of the program tuition. New for this year is our Diversity Scholarship which offers 100% tuition coverage- all three are available for our upcoming summer programs, and you can find more information here!
Ian: What does the Gap Year program look like?
Andrea: Our gap year program, dubbed “Creative Semester” has finally come together after about three months of creative research! It’s a ten week abroad program, taught in six modules. The first two weeks are all about cultural immersion and include thorough travel within France, multiple daily excursions and experiences, and even a brief introduction to
French language. We then move into the arts intensive portion where we focus on developing your skills as an artist in a major of your choice. We use that time to help you build your audition repertoire, show reels, portfolios and all that stuff. Next, our students will venture off campus for an arts internship or to a language immersion experience. These experiences could be in France or in a neighboring European country such as Brussels or England. After that, students will return to the Chateau to work on a community creative project or an arts activism piece. The goal here is to engage our surrounding community with our creative skills, and we leave a lot of the rules up to our students for this one. We then have another week off-campus where we give students a budget and help them pick a location in Europe they’d like to visit. While they’re there, they will prepare a presentation based on the art and culture they experience in that city. The final week of the program is known as our “ArtFest” week. Our students will have a chance to present material they’ve worked on throughout the program and prepare themselves for what lies ahead in their artistic lives. All in all, this program is for the creative individual that feels they aren’t quite ready for college but want to explore the world and more importantly, themselves.
Applications are now open for all programs. Students will be admitted to Spotlight, Generate, Summer in France, and Creative Semester programs on a rolling basis following completion of all application materials. We hope to welcome you to the Berridge family very soon.