Day camp focuses on performing arts

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By John Barnhart

Last month, Little Town Players (LTP) gave 27 local youth a chance to learn about theater by doing.

Every summer LTP holds a theater camp. According to Mickey VanDerwerker, who along with Margie Skalka, runs the day camp, they can only take 20 campers. The problem is the camp is so popular that they hate turning youth away and often fudge that number. There are limits, however. VanDerwerker said that if they get too many youth, it diminishes the learning experience.

The benefit for the youth is that they perform on a real stage, with real stage lighting and real costumes. They also perform the plays they rehearse in front of a real audience. They packed Little Town Players Theater at the Elks Home on July 11 and 12.

"We had a full house both nights," VanDerwerker said.

What the youth learn depends on them. VanDerwerker said that the younger children work on stage presence, learning lines and projecting their voices. Older youth learn about becoming the characters they are playing. Many return from year to year, but those who return learn something new. VanDerwerker said that they look at each one and ask: "What is the next step for them?"

The youth made the sets used in the two plays. The older youth actually built the sets and all got to do some of the painting. The youth also ran the lights.

VanDerwerker and Skalka wrote both of the plays that the campers did. The younger ones did "Greece (Not that One)," a play based on ancient Greek myths.

The older ones did "Thirteen Dancing Princesses." This is a fairy tale that VanDerwerker and Skalka turned into a play. The action took place in the Kingdom of Bedford. The girls all wore beautiful ball gowns and had to learn to dance for their parts. Boys played various famous celebrities. Three played servants who narrate the piece.

VanDerwerker said that it was a tongue-in-cheek play which she described as "silly as all get out." In the end, the Kingdom of Bedford ran out of money and downgraded to a shire.

This is the sixth year that LTP has run a theater camp, but it won't be the last.

"We're back again next year," VanDerwerker said.

Photos of the plays can be seen on LTP's Web site at www.littletownplayers.com.