So after the lights went down on Move Over Mrs. Markham, Joanna Markham immediately left her elegant London flat and stodgy-yet-adorable husband to teach Shining Stars Drama Camp at LTA!
We are always caught between creating a show that the kids can be proud of so that they feel they really accomplished something, and the harsh reality that the camp is only a week long. We started with an ambitious program, selecting seven songs from Bye Bye Birdie because of its relatively easy melodies and the relatability of the subject matter to our 3rd-8th graders (we can easily substitute the idea of the Jonas Brothers for Conrad Birdie). We get kids who are at so many points in their artistic development – some very polished, experienced performers who have previously appeared on the LTA stage; others who just want to find out what this crazy theatre thing is all about.
No matter where their starting point, it’s amazing to see the growth from the first day of camp to the last. They run through the whole emotional cycle of a real show in one week: first, excitement – “what are we going to do?” Then, “We have to practice the dance again? We’ll never learn this!” Finally, “Hey, I think we might just pull this off after all.”
The adaptability and belief that these kids hold in their hearts that “Of course we’re ready to do the show and can learn a dozen lines and hundreds of lyrics in a week, why would you even ask the question?” leaves our staff with no choice but to believe in them, too. Whether they are doing improvs based on notecards filled with answers about their favorite things, singing a solo “audition” for perhaps the first time in their lives, playing “Captains on Deck” and scrambling to touch the wall first when Michael calls “man overboard!”, playing “Name That Show Tune” off Miss Shelagh’s i-pod with prizes for knowledgeable theatre buffs, or forming a spontaneous Conga line at an impromptu dance party to let off some steam, the kids have been exposed to a tremendous variety of experiences.
Some results are predictable – for example, they know that no matter what, Miss Shelagh will never win a single round of Captains on Deck! They know that Michael will make them do their jumping jacks twice if they continue beyond the requisite number. And, as is always the case, we learn as much from them as they do from us.
Bring on the 2:30 showcase with the Hairspray backdrop behind them. We are ready as we’ll ever be!
-Shelagh Roberts (Camp Director)