Musical theater camp is a one-stop shop

August 27, 2018

In just two weeks, campers of various ages and experience levels put together all aspects of a 90-minute musical and then performed it in front of an audience.

The campers had to learn to sing and dance more than a dozen songs.

“I hope everyone will remember their lines, remember their songs and if they forget, know they are doing great,” Sennett Middle School seventh-grader Dora Neppl said hours before the performance.

The campers at the performing arts studio, Express Yourself!, practiced for the performance and helped with the sets and props. They also picked out their costumes, which helped them develop their characters, and learned how to do their hair and makeup.

Last Friday at the end of the two-week musical theater camp, the kids in grades one through eight performed for relatives “Alice@Wonderland,” a modern take on the well-known fairy tale. They also had to put up and strike the stage area at the studio where the camp was held.

“I think what surprised me the most was how well these kids did (memorizing their lines and songs),” said Adele Horton, a sophomore at West High School who serves as a junior leader. “It surprises me every time.”

Jenna Carol, owner of Express Yourself!, said every camper had a substantial part. Some campers said memorizing the lines and songs was challenging.

“I had to practice a lot,” said Maxine Bell, a third-grader at Madison Country Day School and one of the students who worked on memorizing lines at home.

The junior leaders are high school students who have attended a camp or a dance class at Express Yourself! Carol said she was impressed when the junior leaders wrote a note of encouragement to each camper.

“I feel like we are here to kind of encourage these groups (and) kind of help them come out of their shells and do things they didn’t think they could do,” said Sophie Smith, a junior leader who is a ninth-grader at West High School.

Johanna Smith, a sixth-grader at Hamilton Middle School, said she liked camp because she met new people and reconnected with people she already knew.

Carol said while the camp taught technique, it focused on the expressive side of dancing.

“We have quite a few in this camp who have never performed before … They’ve had the environment to express themselves and make mistakes and take risks,” Carol said. “I don’t care what your talent level is, I care how you feel.”

Despite the short window to put on the production, the campers also had a chance to play games and put on a pageant called “Miss Express Yourself!” It involved teaming a group of campers with each junior leader. The younger campers chose a talent for the junior leaders to present, picked out their attire and did their makeup and hair. There also was a question-and-answer round with answers made up by the campers.

Express Yourself! campers also took advantage of the camp’s location at a leased Downtown studio.

“At lunchtime, we would go to the Capitol and eat on the lawn,” said Lucas Morris, a sixth-grader at Cherokee Middle School.

In addition to summer camps, Express Yourself! produces full-scale musicals throughout the year and offers dance and other performing arts classes including the Triple Threat class that will run every Monday after school for grades second through eighth. Scholarships are available based on need and no one is turned away because of finances, Carol said.

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