Usually, kids aren't encouraged to act out. But in a unique camp offered at Webster City Community Theatre, children have the opportunity to do just that as they take to the stage under the direction of three professional actors.
More than 40 area children are taking part in the weeklong event called Camp Creamery, which will culminate on Friday and Saturday with public performances of a musical - "Calamity Jane and the Shoot Out at Dry Gulch."
Camp Creamery was developed by the staff at the Old Creamery Theater in Amana.
Jackie McCall, far right, director of education at the Old Creamery Theater, works with a group of Camp Creamery participants at the Webster City Community Theatre Tuesday. Pictured in the front are Gemma Borer, Adalie Schwandt, Kyra Wagner and Molly Gallentine.
"We had a few board members who lived in small towns and they were hoping have some kind of drama camp or workshop for kids in their communities and their community theaters," according to Jackie McCall, director of education at the Old Creamery Theater.
That was in 2007 and the program has continued to grow and expand. At first the camp performances were cabaret style shows with fun songs and skits. But for the past few years, they have written musicals which are presented at the end of the week.
"This summer we're in 12 different towns," McCall said, adding that there are currently two different Camp Creamery teams operating in the state. A second group is working this week with young people in Wellman, presenting "Merlin's Apprentice and the Deadly Dragon."
McCall is leading the camp in Webster City. Working with her are Lou Petrucci and Beau Wilson, educational and acting interns with the Old Creamery Theater. The actors were brought to assist with the camps.
"This is a crackerjack group of kids we have here this week," said Petrucci. He said that each community they visit brings new challenges and new experiences.
"Some weeks, there are more kids, some weeks we have less kids," he said. "Some weeks the kids are rowdier, some weeks they are quieter. We have to figure out how get the kids to come out of their shells to help them perform and be the best actor they can be."
The camp sessions are four hours each day, and in that time, the actors work with the young people to teach them scenes, songs and choreography. Roles were cast Monday. By Wednesday, the group is "off book," meaning that no scripts are used beyond this point. Camp Creamery travels with all the set pieces and costumes needed to present the musical. The set is assembled and costumes are assigned, and at the end of the whirlwind week, two performances are presented. The musical will be presented on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Webster City Community Theatre.
What do the kids think?
"I'm playing a cowpoke in the musical," said Jayce Abens. "I've never been in a show before."
Abens admitted that he was enjoying the camp, as was Gemma Borer.
"I've been in a few productions at the theater here before and I thought this would be a fun experience also," she said. "We've learned a lot of different songs and dances."
High schooler Jenna Short said she hoped to learn more about acting during the week of camp.
"I hope this will help me go on to do more difficult roles in plays," Short said. "It's really helping a lot and it's a lot of fun."
For those young people seeking a career in acting or other aspects of theater, Wilson offered some advice.
"Go see a play. I think you can learn a lot of things going to see plays and live theater rather than movies. You can get a feel for the live stage," he said.
He also encouraged young actors to get involved with camps, workshops and classes.
"Some people will love it. Other people will find that this is harder than they thought or it isn't something they want to do," he said. "But try it, give it a shot. You never know until you try."
Camp Creamery was made possible through a grant from the Webster City Hotel/Motel Tax Board.