A youth drama camp focused on more than just honing acting talents, as it encouraged more than 30 participants to be the best they could be.
Through exercises in improv, stage movement, character development, diction and projection, the 33 participants, ages 6 through 18, participating in the “To Be or Not To Be Drama Camp,” learned what camp director Cheryl Mulholland described as the most important lesson — “being the best you can be and not judging yourself against others.”
Drama camp attendees also received audition lessons and feedback, something which can be rare in the business.
“We wanted them to know what they did well and what they still need to work on,” Mulholland said as the camp, held at St. Paul United Church of Christ, wrapped up Friday afternoon. “What we hope they really did is find who they are.”
An experienced actor and director with Encore Theatre in Lima, Mulholland said she wanted youth to see how fun acting can be and help them tap into their imagination.
“All I ask them is ‘you be you. There is only one you,’” Mulholland said of a message she continued to emphasis with the youth.
Assisting her was Nick Bader, a 16-year-old also involved in acting and directing with Encore.
Students who participated in the camp also did so with the goal of gaining a part in a late summer production of a version of The Wizard of Oz to be presented at 8 p.m. Aug. 20 and 2 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Wapakoneta Performing Arts Center.
“Everyone involved in the camp will be in it,” Mulholland said.
Since 13-year-old Kenzie Brock was a third-grader, she has performed in Encore shows.
“It was something I really wanted to do,” Kenzie, of Lima, said. “I’ve never been to a drama camp before and it was so much fun. I loved being a part of this and really getting a chance to focus on learning about acting.”
Tristam Cheeseman, 11, also of Lima, became involved in theater a couple years ago.
He got his start playing parts in plays “everyone had to be in” at his school and then gave Encore a try.
“It sounded fun,” Tristam said. “It’s an awesome experience. Here, you can go with everything you have. Where I come from it just makes you stupid.”
Set to play the wizard in the upcoming performance, Tristam said he wasn’t expecting that big of a role, but he is so excited.
Kenzie is to play three different scarecrow parts.
Mikayla Halfhill, 14, of Wapakoneta, hasn’t had a lot of experience acting on stage, but as she heads into high school this fall, she is hoping to get to play parts in productions there.
“I wanted to learn about drama,” Mikayla said. “I’ve been told there’s so much more to it.
“It’s not something I’ve done much but that I’m very interested in,” she said.
As the camp ended, Mikayla said it was particularly helpful in improving her projection as well as learning about stage direction.
“You need to let all your emotions out, not be afraid to be you,” Mikayla said.
With a love of singing, Mikayla thought improving her drama skills would help her in upcoming musicals, as well as show choir and symphonic choir performances.
Wapakoneta Performing Arts Center Events Coordinator Pam Egbert, who helped bring the camp to town, also was surprised by what youth in attendance took from it.
“I thought it would just be about acting,” Egbert said. “They are learning to stand on stage in front of others and speak with confidence. That will go farther than just acting. It helps with everything, increases their self-esteem and makes them think on their feet.”
Egbert first proposed the camp, which she hopes can become an annual event, after learning of funding cuts to arts programs in schools and communities throughout the area. She joined forces with Riverside Arts Center to present the camp.
Not only did Egbert hope that area youth would learn about the arts through the camp, but that it would expand the Wapakoneta Performing Arts Center’s role in the community.
“There is a definite need in the area and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” said Maggie Bowsher, who served as administrator of the camp. “There is so much we can do with this program. We can expand to different areas and possibly do more than one show a year.”
Beginning next year, plans for the camp are to expand it into teaching youth about other aspects of theater as well, from creating three-dimensional sets and preparing the stage to designing backdrops.