The Quest – Camp Theatre Jacksonville

The 24th year of Theatre Jacksonville Arts Camp is now history as the 2nd session completed the camp showcase on August l3th. 187 kids between the ages of 7 and l3 attended this year learning the basic of what it takes to become an actor.
Theatre training is unique in many ways. Oh, sure children learn how to overcome stage fright and get a large dose of self esteem but there are so many other valuable lessons that the parents of the children will subtlety observe over the coming months and years.
They learned patience! Yes, actors do a lot of standing and sitting around waiting to make an entrance, and unless you are the leading man or lady, you do a lot of that. As a former actor I know. I did a lot of sitting and waiting while doing smaller roles. They learn how to speak out, but also learn silence. Waiting off stage or exiting you want to talk to your fellow actors, but you can’t since the audience can often hear what goes on in the wings that is not part of the show. Session B with 93 participants performed marvelously in the technique of silence, along with their wonderful stage performances.
The last time I attended at showcase of TJ’s camp was probably 18 years ago and my my have things have changed. The theme “The Quest” was a concept by the TJ staff and written by Jaclyn Hofman (Co -Director) and Laura Mauldin (Acting Instructor). The big thing on TV now is the competition shows, like “American Idol” and other talent searches. In the Quest, 4 groups (The Red Stars, Blue Stars, Green Stars, and Gold Stars), are all trying to become the best musical group. Each star represents an age group, with Red being the youngest in the 7-9 range and gold the l3 year olds.
They mainly sang and danced with some dialogue to lead into the musical numbers. The fast paced show lasted just over an hour. What really was a surprise to me was the intricate choreography by all the groups. You would have thought you were watching the Florida A&M band or a Marine Corp drill team.
Some of the music was recorded like the opening number “Footloose” and the classy “Svecounia” from the Cirque Du Soleil. Belted out with gusto was “Good Morning Sunshine “from Hair and “Whistle While You Work” There were others but these were my favorites.
The entire 93 campers were on stage at the opening, dancing to and singing such songs as “There is no Business like Show Business” and “Anything Goes”. Wow what a sight to see all the colorful tee shirts and arms moving in precision with all those interesting faces smiling and having the experience of their lives.
The talented team of professional instructors made a brief appearance on stage, but mostly they were very much involved with co-ordaining the entrances and exits of the groups. The staff included, Co-Directors Juan Unzueta and Jaclyn Hoffman, Laura Mauldin Acting Instructor, Laura Patey Hammock Dance Instructor, Hodge Podge Instructor (improvisation) Kendra Holton Helton and Musical Director Samuel Clein.
The camp uses Student Counselors, who must be at least 15 years old. They earn community service hours for their work and returning counselors received a small stipend. They included, Kat McLeod (Head Counselor), Denise Baughn, Samantha Blake, Buddy Delegal, Sara Gray, Brittany Jolly, Calt May, Tanisha Moore, Miles Para Griffin Pelaia, Rebekah Peltz, Emma Pulley, Derrick Routier, Amelia Strickland, Chris Valade and Caylor Ventro.
Each session concluded with three performances that were well attended by parents, siblings, friends, neighbors etc. I guess if you are going to start these kids off right, it might as well be to the most enthusiastic and energetic audience they may ever experience.
A number of “graduates” of previous camps have gone on in show business both in professional positions and with the local community theatres. Every participant came away with lessons learned the fun way that they will use the rest of their lives no matter what they choose to do in their adult life. Above all they learned the value of teamwork, something we sure can use in abundance these days.
Camp Theatre Jacksonville will be back again next summer and if you want more information call 396-4426 or stop by 2032 San Marco in Jacksonville and tour this historic theater.
Thanks Camp Jacksonville for making me feel young again.!!