By PAM HARBAUGH
If you’re interested in sending a young person to a summer theater camp, heads up…today is the last day you can get them registered for the Cocoa Village Playhouse program at the King Center and the Henegar’s Middle School theater camp…so scurry on over there fast. Read the rest of this later!
Area theaters may be on a low simmer with their big productions, but most are sizzling with summer theater camps designed to delight children and their parents. Children from pre-school to high school ages can learn teamwork, gain self-confidence, make new friends and, oh yes…put on a play for the public.
Participants exude joy in these programs, said Niko Stamos, an instructor with Titusville Playhouse’s Rising Stars program.
“The energy is infectious, the kids are having fun and doing what they love,” he said. “”One of the best things is sitting in the balcony during a show and watching how mesmerized and proud the families of the students are as their child takes to the stage.”
The young participants come together not only to learn, but, as Mickey Rooney said, to “put on a show.” Frequently, those shows are always colorful, full of energy and fun…sometimes, they are surprisingly lavish.
“The ending of a camp with a show gives the campers a sense of accomplishment in what they have done all week and also a way for their parents to understand what they have been talking about all week,” said Jo Pearl, education programs coordinator at Riverside Children’s Theatre. “It gives the parents a proud moment and happiness to see what their child has accomplished in just one week.”Such camps may even pave the path for a career. Before you worry about raising a starving artist, remember that there are many behind the scenes professions in the theater.
“The cliché is it changed my life forever,” said Jason Crase, an instructor with the Cocoa Village Playhouse/King Center’s Summer Musical Theater program. “I knew I had an interest in singing, but getting involved with theater just opened so many doors. It’s been pretty much my career eve since I was 16.”
Summer theater camps generally include warm ups for both voice and body. The little ones will do some “voice and diction” exercises such as tongue twisters. They’ll also learn to speak up.
They’ll go through some sort of physical warm ups as well. On stage, they’ll learn to face the audience. They’ll also learn other stagecraft such as “upstage, downstage, stage left, stage right, etc.”
There are character exercises and fun theater games.
“Not only do they learn the importance of theatre in culture and the skills it takes to be a performer but they also improve their literacy by reading scripts and memorizing lines,” Stamos said. “(They) become more confident public speakers, and gain critical thinking and problem solving skills as they work together with their directors and cast mates to put on a show.”
They also get a chance to work under the direction of experienced professionals, like the one running now with the Cocoa Village Playhouse/King Center’s Summer Musical Theater program.
The program is education and enriching, said the King Center marketing director Autumn Shrum. That program has been extremely popular for teenagers since it began in 2012. Now, it has added another component – a program for younger students.
“Kids love the experience of acting, singing and dancing under the direction of industry professionals,” Shrum said. “At the end of the program, parents experience the joy of watching their children perform on stage at the King Center. They are always amazed at the quality of the end product.”
Then there’s that all-important lesson that there are no small parts. Everyone is crucial to the show.
“It’s always a challenge when everybody wants to be the lead,” said Anastacia Hawkins-Smith, executive director of the Cocoa Village Playhouse, which has a yearlong thriving children’s theater program.
“At the theater, we place importance on every single part,” she said. “We teach life management skills, not just performing. It’s more about teamwork, learning to function as a group together. To present something that is bigger than the individual.”
While these are grand ideals, the theater gets something from this as well: An audience.
Getting young people immersed in theater helps build an appreciation of the art form, thus, future audiences.
“In a time where the future of the arts and live theater is heavily unknown it is gratifying to know that there is still a love and passion for it in a new generation,” Stamos said.
While some theater camps are already in full swing or have their deadline to enroll today, there are others for which you can still register your child. And remember, there may be scholarships available. Here are those camps still open to register:
For high school ages, the Henegar Center will begin its Feller Theater Academy high school summer program June 19 to July 29. It will perform “Singin’ in the Rain” July 27 to 29. Cost for that is $150. They run 5 to 9 p.m. Call 321-723-8698 or click here.
For children grades 1 through 8, the Titusville Playhouse will present its Rising Stars summer program July 17 through July 29. Performances of “Wish Upon a Star” runs July 29. Cost for that is $175. It runs 9am-11:30am. Email Niko@TitusvillePlayhouse.com.
For grades 7 through 12, Titusville Playhouse will present its Steps to Broadway summer program June 26 to July 20. Performances of “Saturday Night Fever” will run July 20 to 23. Cost is $350. It runs 9am-5pm with a lunch break. Call 321-268-1125 or click here.
For grades 2 to 10, Surfside Playhouse will runs its Surfside Youth Players’ Summer Youth Theatre Program July 10 to 29. It will perform “Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.” July 28 and 29. It runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost for that program is $275 per child, with discounts for siblings. Click here.
For ages 5 to 7, Riverside Theatre will offer weeklong summer camps beginning June 19 & 26, July 10, 27 and 24. Those camps run from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $100 per camp week. They each end up with showcases for family and friends. Call 772-234-8052 or click here.
This is an edited version of a story running this week in the Melbourne Beachsider.