‘I love what’s happening here.’ Kids have a blast at PPT’s summer drama camp
By Katie Scarvey
On Friday, Aug. 15, the third floor of the Meroney Theater was buzzing with youthful energy.
Participants in a summer drama camp run by Piedmont Players Theatre were wrapping up a week of musical theatre. Later in the day, students would perform selections from “Peter Pan,” “Annie” and “The Sound of Music.”
Camp director Debbie Hubbard, who has a degree in theatre education from UNC-Charlotte, has been working with PPT summer drama camps for five years. She has been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and will be teaching drama at Salisbury High School this fall.
For this session, Hubbard was assisted by Frances McGill and Christin Duncan.
Last week, Hubbard headed up a drama camp for middle schoolers. In that group, there were five boys and 11 girls.
This week, however, out of 13 campers, there was one lone male ó Matthew Pickens.
He didn’t seem lonely, though. In fact, “being the only guy” was the best thing about the week, he said.
Hubbard takes a developmentally appropriate approach with her young campers.
“The study of theater arts at this level is called creative drama,” she said. “We work on developing self-confidence, a sense of body.”
Early in the week, the focus is on “creating a safe container” ó or learning to feel comfortable in your own skin while on stage.
In order to take risks while performing, Hubbard says, the young actors need to trust one another.
Once that is accomplished, the real work begins.
Piedmont Players Theatre director Reid Leonard says the camps are important because they give young people a chance to work on technique and improve their skills.
One camper this summer auditioned for the role of narrator and wasn’t cast because she couldn’t project as well as she needed to. Over the course of the week, Leonard says, she came to understand why she didn’t get the part. She worked on projecting her voice so that the next time she auditions, she’ll have the tools to succeed.
“To me, that’s exactly what the drama camps are for,” Leonard says.
Friday morning, participants were playing “Museum.” Pretending to be statues, the children were asked to strike a pose and then hold it as long as possible.
To make the challenge more difficult, several of the campers were charged with breaking the statues’ concentration ó but without touching the statue.
The campers were clearly having fun ó but also learning about staying in character.
“It’s called a ‘play’ for a reason,” Hubbard said. “It truly starts out as play.”
Sarasota Serulneck found it nearly impossible to stay stock still while her friends were acting goofy, trying to get her to break character.
She didn’t last long before dissolving into giggles.
“That was quick, Sarasota,” said Duncan, who yelled out instructions and warnings for contestants.”Your eyes have to be open Samantha.
“Sophia, you may not touch the statues.”
“Do something funny; try to make them laugh. If it doesn’t work, then change your tactics.”Campers found that holding a pose could tax the body.
“My cheeks are killing me,” said Addie Bost, after holding a funny face for several minutes.After playing Museum, students did some improvisation, acting out a scene in groups of two. Holding a suitcase, one camper played the part of a traveler while another played the role of a hotel clerk.
Kaitlyn Burgess’ traveler had an unusual problem ó dancing uncontrollably for no apparent reason.
“Oh no, here it goes again,” she said, breaking in to an Irish step dance. “Can you make it stop?” she asked the clerk.Occasionally, Duncan called out instructions.
“Be louder, girls; you’re whispering.”
Sarah Hallett enjoyed watching the improvised scenes.
“You never know what a person will say,” she said. While the campers were having fun with Museum and improvisation, Hubbard was taking a few campers at a time back to the props room to find costumes. The goal was for them to look like orphans for the performance later that day.
Hubbard gave thumbs up or thumbs down to the outfits.
“That’s fab, Ivy,” she said to Ivy Overcash, who had brought in a pair of her brother’s pants.
And to Kaitlyn Burgess: “I love it, girlfriend.
“I love what’s happening here.”