Future Showstoppers

Local Theater Camps for the Budding Actor or Actress

Summer camp is a staple of the American childhood. Whether the focus is sports, music, or an adventure in the wilderness, camp offers opportunities for new experiences, social growth and just plain fun. In Lynchburg, there are a variety of summer camp opportunities that serve different interests—including the region’s future Tony and Oscar winners.

Something of an aspiring actor myself, I remember my time at the Star Academy in West Haven, Conn., every day after school. Acting in the stage plays of Annie and Cinderella gave me a boost in confidence and the ability to socialize with all sorts of kids.

Here are a few summer theater programs that are continuing that tradition in Central Virginia.

The Miller Center
The Miller Center is a multipurpose facility that is no stranger to the arts. However, musical theater camp is a relatively new addition that came a short while after the center’s 2015 renovation and reopening.

In 2016, Miller Center collaborator Masterworx Community Theater hosted the “Acing Your Audition“ camp with 35 students. Masterworx will return with a similar musical theater camp in 2017. Campers will spend the week learning music, choreography and lines for “Magic Tree House: Pirates Past Noon KIDS,” an adaptation of the fourth of Mary Pope Osborne’s award-winning fantasy adventure books from the Magic Tree House book series.

The Masterworx summer theater program operates like a typical day camp, with drop off in the morning and pick up in the afternoon.

At the end of the week, parents get to see what their child has been working on during two special performances of the play.

Aside from this camp, the Miller Center will also be offering a host of new enrichment camps that explore a wide variety of arts and creative endeavors.

Masterworx Theatre Camp runs July 24-28, 2017. More info at lynchburgparksandrec.com.

Liberty University Theatre Camps
Liberty University’s Theater Arts program has been widely successful over the years, especially since the opening of the Tower Theater in 2010.

Through Liberty University Theatre Camps (LUTC), there are several options for younger children: Elementary Camp, Middle School Camp and KIDS Ignite (a free program for students who have completed 4th, 5th or 6th grade.) This year’s elementary camp theme is “The Jungle Book KIDS” and for middle schoolers, “James and the Giant Peach Jr.”

According to Summer Arts Coordinator Chris Nelson, in all camps children are exposed to acting and behind-the-scenes work, while building toward a performance. LU students who help staff the Tower Theater have the opportunity to teach and mentor some of the kids.

“Children who attend programs like this really grow in confidence and gain a greater respect for working together with others,” said Nelson.

Another camp offered by LUTC is Acting Uncut, a nine-day program geared toward high schoolers who are interested in taking their acting to the next level.
All of LU’s programs are taught with a Christian focus. “There is freedom to talk faith and discuss how faith works within the arts. We look to build students up physically, mentally, artistically and spiritually,” said Nelson.

As this guide went to print, all 2017 LUTC camps were full. Email Chris Nelson (cnelson@liberty.edu) if you are interested in a waiting list.

Endstation Theatre Company
The Embark! Youth Theatre Conservatory is a brand new program offered by Endstation Theatre Company. But it’s also familiar to Central Virginia. According to Maryam Brown, Endstation’s managing director, this is the same theater program held at Randolph College (instructed by Mace Archer) for several years. It was rebranded and is now hosted by Endstation.

Embark is available for 3rd through 12th graders. During the camp, students will work with professionals from around the region and nation in a series of different classes. The camp focuses on teaching the three C’s: Creativity, Confidence and Communication.

“This is a great program for ‘theater kids’ because they will work with professionals from all over the country. But it’s also great for kids who are not ‘theater kids’ because the emphasis is on developing life skills as well as theater skills,” said Brown.

Brown also explained Embark is not a performance-driven camp. There is a showcase for parents at the end of the week. But instead of prepping for that performance, the emphasis is more on teaching the children “transferrable skills.”

The camp will still be held at Randolph College and the final showcase on July 1 will take place at the Miller Center Theatre.

Embark! Youth Theatre Conservatory: June 19-July 1. More information at endstationtheatre.org/embark

Academy Center of the Arts
Nestled in perhaps the most artistic part of Lynchburg, the Academy Center of the Arts is another multifaceted facility that provides kids with a haven for expression and fun when school is out.

Director of Education Kelly Posenauer says the youth theater camp program is one of their biggest draws. “We have a lot of fresh faces each year, which is really awesome,” Posenauer said.

She estimates about two thirds of campers are already involved in theater in some form but explains that “depending on the camp, you could really be at a beginner level and be completely fine” at any of the camps they offer.

For example, “Take the Stage!” is for children ages 4 to 7 and helps them learn the parts of the stage, how to walk/talk on the stage and much more. Older children ages 9-12 can enjoy a two-week camp in 2017 called “Seussical Kids” where they are guaranteed a role in this fun play.

With all the camps combined, the Academy serves children from ages three to 18. Posenauer says that wide age range means older students often mentor the younger campers.

And no matter their age, there is a common goal. “They have a lot of fun, but they work very hard, “ said Posenauer.

For more info on Academy camps/dates: academycenter.org

By Jeremy Angione