Those of us who attended summer camp in our younger years can identify with the campers at Camp Runamok – from bugs and bossy counselors to scary stories around the campfire and getting outside your comfort zone by meeting strangers who later become friends.
The children at Chocachatti Elementary School portrayed all of these and more with their latest musical show, “Summer Camp.” The cast was made up of students in third grade to fifth grade who chose Theatre Arts as their Micro Society elective.
A portion of the school day is devoted to Micro Society. In this program, the students can learn such skills as running a business, raising farm animals and creating cultural and arts organizations. They even earn “money” which they can use to purchase items in the student-run store.
As with all the performances at Chocachatti, “Summer Camp” was a joint effort of the instructors in dance, music, drama and art. Dance instructor Ms. Rhoda Bowers was in charge of choreography, while Ms. Irmarie Kraft oversaw the acting and Ms. Nancy Kraus handled the music. Ms. Marianne Poholek and her art students worked on the props, stage sets and decorations .
Ms. Kraft, the drama teacher, explained the auditioning process.
“They [the students] picked their top three characters, but only auditioned for their first pick. Then the three directors and the two junior directors (two high school students) discussed the auditions and we picked the cast. The students who sang the solos also auditioned for those parts. “We spent micro-sessions practicing the music. The kids also had their own CDs so that they could practice the songs,” Ms. Kraus remarked.
The plot of the show, of course, centers around a summer camp and features a number of quirky characters with funny names.
First, there is the camp director played by fifth grader Alexander MacDonald. He portrays an ex-Marine who treats the campers like recruits and shouts orders to them like a drill sergeant.
Not surprisingly, Alexander’s favorite part about the role is that “I get to yell at the campers.”
Third grader Hadley Baroudi plays a major part as Bonnie Blogger. Bonnie doesn’t want to be at camp and blogs to her fans about how bad it is. At the end of the show, however, she has a change of heart. Hadley had many lines and spoke them without hesitation or a fumble. She also had a solo song.
Hadley remarked with keen insight, “I like that I can act in so many different ways. I like how I can be able to change my emotions.”
Another cute character was Camper Josher, played by Harley Cole. She came up with numerous groan-worthy, corny jokes that had the audience laughing.
Kara Pelham, a fifth grader, plays one of the counselors named LadyBug, while Savanna Jackson, another fifth grader plays Camper Scattered and Can’t Sit Still. Kara commented, “I had a lot of dances to learn and I like that part the best.”
Paxton Licht, also a fifth grader, plays Counselor Winnie (as in Winnie the Pooh). Throughout most of the show, she clutches a teddy bear. Paxton was outstanding in her solo performance of “Everybody’s Got a Little Talent.”
The unsung and unseen heroes of any stage show are the people behind the scenes. At Chocachatti they’re called Stagecraft and they handle the props and lights among other duties, which they take very seriously.
Fifth grader Jeffrey Frazier candidly admits, “What I like best about Stagecraft is that I’m really scared about being on stage and would rather be behind the scenes.”
Beni Vilchis was in charge of the lights and remarked, “What’s most important about my job is making sure that everybody is performing and in the spotlight.”
Most of the students who were a part of this performance have had experience in other shows at Chocachatti and it showed. They knew how to speak clearly into the microphones, memorize the words to the songs and perform the dances flawlessly. And they didn’t display a hint of stage fright!
The show had plenty of catchy songs and clever dialogue, along with several dance numbers featuring somersaults and other acrobatics.
The finale of the performance was a song entitled “A Place Where I Belong,” which truly expressed the theme of the show.
Being part of a show like this teaches the students many skills and attitudes that will follow them into their later school years, as well as adulthood. Among these are discipline, overcoming fear of the unknown and how to work as a team toward a common goal.