High school students from all over Southern California gathered at UC Irvine this June and July for a first-of-its-kind opportunity to obtain college-level instruction in either drama or digital arts – and have fun in the process.

The Summer Academy in the Arts exposed participants to the Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ academic offerings and teaching philosophy, says director of outreach programs Ana Halland: “The academy is an earnest attempt to share the type of education we offer with young, aspiring artists. It reflects the school’s vision for the role of the arts in higher education.”

Led by UCI faculty and graduate students, courses in the two “majors” covered the audition process, acting for the stage, improvisation, musical theater, desktop applications, digital video and audio production for the Web, social networking issues and narrative shot structure.

Anika Solveig, academy drama instructor and first-year M.F.A. student, says: “Attendees aren’t just learning acting techniques; they’re learning how to be creative, how to listen and how to respond to others. You can apply this to business or any other creative field.”

Fellow M.F.A. students Lucas Calhoun, Siobhan Doherty and Sonya Cooke joined Solveig in designing the academy’s theater program. Christopher Smith, who’s pursuing an M.F.A. in music, provided musical accompaniment and coaching.

Studio art lecturer Bryan Jackson, who headed the digital arts program, admits that the prospect of instructing high schoolers was “daunting” at first. But, he says, “they’re open to working with the iPad 2 and understand the creative possibilities of cell phones and blogging.”

Students in his workshop used the tablet computer to shoot and edit short films and post videos and photos to a class blog. For each project, they rotated the roles of director, gaffer, assistant director and director of photography.

“We’re bringing them up to speed on digital video production and teaching them how to be ‘digital citizens’ and think critically about what they’re creating for the Internet,” Jackson says.

The two-week academy concluded by showcasing acting monologues, singing performances and a student-made short film about a purse snatching gone awry.

Emiro Blom, a junior at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, says the experience offered a good balance of theory and technique.

“I’ve known my whole life that I want to act,” he says. “This is a perfect program because it offers college-level training and workshops on how to get professional jobs.”