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Pests fill theater during summer lag

by Lenise Willis

Many The first, Froggie Went a Courtin’, a children’s piece written by Collins herself, enabled students to practice performing a prepared script. The second piece — in stark contrast to the children’s story — was a dramatic piece about depression, which emerged from a skeleton’  play lovers may believe theaters are deserted in the summer since they end their performance seasons in late spring. In fact, North Carolina Shakespeare Festival’s headquarters in High Point was filled with mice, frogs and a flea during its summer lag. The vermin, however, were not pesky invaders, but welcomed actors from a local teen theater camp.

Summer camps are a popular service provided by theaters that wish to remain prevalent in the community between seasons.

Meredith Stephens, assistant managing director, said NCShakes runs camps all throughout the summer and that they are important for both the students and the theater.

“[The summer] is a lag period,” Stephens agreed. “[The camps] are a great way to keep us in public during the off season.

“But we also believe we need to educate this generation of theater goers. With all the 3-D movies and Twitter, we need to convert [these kids] and teach them to love theater and being with people, and all the simple things that we’ve taken for granted.”

This summer’s pests, for example, were a product of one of the many summer training sessions offered by NCShakes.

The two-week-long camp helped students to hone basic acting skills, but focused mostly on the Spolin technique of improvisation, in which students learned to listen to one another, share the focus, react with the acting ensemble and to be creative and spontaneous.

“I’ve learned a lot with this,” said student Wilson Haworth, 14. “I’ve mostly done musicals, and this has focused more on acting which I enjoy more.”

“You have to think quickly,” said student Meghan Rankins, 14, about learning to improvise. “You can’t think about what you’re going to say. You have to say the first thing that pops into your head and then just keep going.”

To put the students’ skills to the test, and to get a taste of performing, the camp concluded with a final performance at the NCShakes Spirit Center on Ward Avenue. The eight students, aged 13-16, performed two pieces.

script and improvised scenes by the students.

There are still spaces available in NCShakes’ upcoming Shakespeare camp, which occurs toward the end of July, beginning of August. Camp is for ages 12-17. For more information email info@ncshakes.org or call 336.841.2273. Of course, NCShakes isn’t the only area theater providing camp this summer, Greensboro’s City Arts Drama Center, Community Theatre of Greensboro and the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem are a few additional examples.

“Our camps are a good starting point for students wanting an introductory into theater,” said Rozalynn Fulton of Community Theatre of Greensboro. “A majority of the kids go on to get more involved with our classes and some of our main-stage productions.”

CTG offers half-day camps throughout the summer for students aged three to 18 who are interested in singing, acting or dancing. An online brochure can be found at www.ctgso.org/education/camps.php.

“Do A Play All the Way” is the name of the production camps taking place at the City Arts Drama Center. In a partnership with the Center for Visual Arts the students spend half the day with the Drama Center on acting and performing the play and the other half of the day with CVA working on scenery, props and costumes. “Everyone gets a well-rounded view of theatre,” said Rosina Whitfield, youth theater director.

Coming up, the Drama Center has two one-week-workshops (9-5 p.m.) July 23-27, a filmmaking workshop for those in grades 4-9 and a Creative Dramatics class for grades K-3.

There are also a few specialty workshops that meet a few days a week at Lindley, Glenwood and Brown Recreations Centers.

“These classes do prepare young people to participate in the regular season of the Greensboro Children’s Theatre as well as build confidence, foster ensemble work, and provide an environment for learning good performance techniques,” Whitfield continued.

WANNA go?

Visit www.thedramacenter.com or call 336.373.2728. Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem’s next summer camp is for ages 7-10, “Camp III: The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which students will spend four days rehearsing the play before the final-day performance in the theater’s rehearsal hall. Visit www.childrenstheatrews.org/summercamp.htm for more information.

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