Opal program teaches kids art of theater

Participants in the Opal theater youth camp take the stage during one of the workshop’s final showcases.

Over the course of the last three weeks, kids have had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the theater at Opal Center for Arts and Education. The inaugural year of the Opal Young Performers theater camp saw 16 kids for the “littles” camp and six for the older kids’ camp.

The kids worked with CJ Cramer, who ran the camp for the younger actors; Carmen Dowell, who taught the older campers stage management; Hal Holbrook, who taught playwriting and stage presence; and Michele Rose, Opal executive director who taught movement and posture. Dowell, Holbrook and Rose also co-directed the Opal Young Performers camp.

“We’ve had different variations of summer camp at Opal but we’ve never tried to do a full theater camp,” said Rose. “This camp came out of discussions ... that we needed to offer more theater-type things for kids.”

The younger campers’ final performance was a short skit on July 26, with the older campers’ final performance consisting of a monologue showcase Aug. 9.

There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in theater, from lighting to costuming to stage organization and management. The camp sought to address it all, along with the traditional skill associated with theater: Acting.

“We tried to present a broad spectrum of things that happen in theater,” said Holbrook in a speech before the showcase, “Because a lot goes on in producing a show.”

The older kids presented their monologues, acting them out along the way. They were taught how to use not only their words to convey the message, but their movement as well. Other aspects of the final performance included props and where to put them.

“What they had to do was come together with each of their monologues and work as a group and build a set that would work with all of their monologues, so that was a fun challenge,” said Dowell in her speech before the showcase.

They also learned how to make a great set on a budget which, according to Dowell, can sometimes be an aspect of theater. But she said making a very appropriate set out of a minimal set is doable.

The kids also seemed to enjoy the camp and all the skills they were learning.

One camper, Elizabeth Eller, said she liked how “it covers a bit of writing, it covers posture, it covers how you talk, it covers emotions — it covers everything.”

Another camper, Anja Bartlog, expressed her enjoyment with practicing monologues, and also the progress she’d made at the camp.

“I think it’s been kind of challenging to play characters I’m not entirely familiar with. In one of the monologues I was doing in the first week, it was a character that wasn’t really anything like me — and it was sort of hard to get down the physicality and the voice of that. But I think I got a lot better at it,” she said.

Most of the campers in the older kids’ camp showed an interest in continuing to pursue the theater arts in one way or another, which was one of the goals of the Young Performers camp, according to Rose. 

She also spoke about her hope that the theater camp will continue to happen, and perhaps even year-round classes. 

From speaking with the campers, it seems they would be excited for an opportunity like that.

“It’s a very good camp and I recommend it to everybody,” said Eller.

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