Lights, camera, action: Youth learning the ins and outs of theater in camp

Published 12:23 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

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Scripts have been sent, the lights are on and the stage has been set as Albert Lea Community Theatre has hosted their inaugural Theatre Kids Camp this week, an event in the works for almost a year.

“Kids come, they learn about theater, they learn what we do here and the different aspects,” said Risha Lilienthal, chair of the Albert Lea Community Theatre programming committee. “They also get to be in groups and learn a script. They learn a show.”

Doing a children’s camp was something floated around by community and board members who wanted a program like it, though it hadn’t been done previously.

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“I had done it in … Indiana where I grew up, and we used to do a full day,” she said. “We had quite a few kids, but it was all high schoolers volunteering to teach the kids,” Lilienthal said. “I kind of knew a little bit more of the logistics stuff.”

Each day the children, who ranged from 8 to 13, would meet on the stage for warmups, getting their voices and bodies ready. They were then split up into different groups based on age, where volunteer leaders directed scenes and helped the kids prepare to be on stage. They also led students to different stations in the theater for 20-minute sessions, including the lobby, the green room, the makeup room and the stage.

“Each station they learn different things about that area of the theater while also working on their scene,” she said.

For example, when students were in the lobby, their group leader would talk about ushers and seating, and while in the green room they talked about choreography and dancing.

Teaching the importance of teamwork was an emphasis in the camp, as was creativity.

“It’s a good place to learn how to speak, too, to be able to speak up for yourself,” she said.

Group leaders included Glen Parsons, Sue Runden, Michelle Supalla and Betsy Smith.

According to Lilienthal, camp was going well, and she was surprised to see how excited the children were to participate, noting that even the youngest participants were giving suggestions. The experience reinforced her desire to help people with their problems.

Smith, who volunteered to help direct “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” helped students going from sixth to eighth grades.

“I’ve been in quite a few plays at the Marion Ross and I was also in “Aesop’s Fables” when I was a little kid, and I remember it was just a really fun experience and a great way to learn about theater,” she said.

She said the experience was fun and that kids were coming out of their shells. Her favorite part of doing this, however, was seeing the creativity of students and what they wanted to do in their show.

Supalla taught “The Lion and the Mouse” to children 8 and 9 after Lilienthal approached her about participating.

“Thought it might be fun cause I like kids,” she said.

Her favorite part of working at the camp was seeing children grow and learn over theater and becoming excited about it.

Ellery Rothmeier was in the yellow group.

“It’s been really fun,” she said. “I’ve been in two plays so far, so I know this theater kind of good.”

Rothmeier was previously in “Willy Wonka” and “Cinderella,” and because of those experiences she wanted to do the camp.

Eleanor Martinez was in the green group, which is slated to perform “The Ants and the Grasshoppers.”

For her, the best parts were acting and making friends.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity in this community because we do have so many kids that have talent,” Lilienthal said, adding they weren’t afraid to voice their opinions.

The camp, with 33 kids participating, concludes at 5:30 p.m. Friday with each group performing their own skit.

Lilienthal encourages anyone with feedback to reach out to ACT and hopes there will be a similar camp next year.

“It’ll all depend on the board and those of us planning,” Lilienthal said.