Stag­ing Sum­mer­time

Young tal­ent shines at Cul­tural Park The­ater

Cape Coral Living - - Contents - Ja­cob Ogles is a free­lance jour­nal­ist based in South­west Florida and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor.

Can you put on a full-scale the­ater pro­duc­tion of a Broad­way hit in less than three weeks? Maybe your seven-year-old can. Cul­tural Park The­ater in Cape Coral hosts three ses­sions of sum­mer camp each year where chil­dren put to­gether ma­jor pro­duc­tions in a frac­tion of the time it takes adults to do the same. “I tell you, chil­dren are like sponges,” says Michael Mo­ran, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the the­ater. “I can­not get over how fast chil­dren learn things. Even with our juniors, they learn a full show with danc­ing rou­tines, songs, di­a­logue and all of the cos­tume and scenic changes that go on in a play. I def­i­nitely don’t see adult shows come in where you can do a show in three weeks.” Mo­ran would know. He has served in his po­si­tion for 13 years at Cul­tural Park The­ater, where an ac­com­plished team pro­duces 24 shows each year. Three of those hap­pen dur­ing sum­mer camps for chil­dren ages 7 through 15. Classes of 40 to 45 stu­dents pull off the full-scale shows over three 3-week ses­sions, run­ning five days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The re­sult? Kids, many of whom never stepped foot on a stage be­fore and who come in shy and full of stage fright on day one, end up per­form­ing con­fi­dently in front of an au­di­ence come day 15. Each camp ses­sion runs $285 for the three-week pro­gram, and stu­dents are free to en­roll in all three camps if they choose. Last sum­mer, the the­ater per­formed pro­duc­tions of Hair­spray, Thor­oughly Mod­ern Mil­lie and Dis­ney’s Aladdin. All of those pro­duc­tions hap­pened to be ju­nior shows, ver­sions of the

Kids, many of whom never stepped foot on a stage be­fore and who come in shy and full of stage fright on day one, end up per­form­ing con­fi­dently in front of an au­di­ence come day 15.

plays abridged for younger per­form­ers, but the com­pany also some­times puts full-length mu­si­cals into the hands of its young­sters. It’s usu­ally a mat­ter of roy­alty ne­go­ti­a­tions more than con­cern about the young tal­ents’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Mo­ran says. Typ­i­cally, ma­jor roles are de­cided in the first week of camp. From there, the groups work with about a half­dozen camp coun­selors to learn lines, mas­ter chore­og­ra­phy and fig­ure out how to run sets and light­ing. Of­ten, Mo­ran says, stu­dents who com­plete the sum­mer pro­gram come to au­di­tion for ma­jor pro­duc­tions in the fall. The the­ater makes an ef­fort to present one pro­duc­tion at that time of year that of­fers roles for young ac­tors (i.e., or­phans in Oliver! or band mem­bers in The Mu­sic Man). The lo­cal the­ater com­pany has ex­isted in Cape Coral for 55 years, with a per­ma­nent home at the Cul­tural Park The­ater since 1991, and in that time many of the as­pir­ing young­sters have grown up to be­come reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pants in the com­mu­nity the­ater. Even if par­tic­i­pants never pur­sue drama on a ma­jor scale, there’s value in at­tend­ing the camps. “The most im­por­tant as­pect is they are hav­ing fun,” Mo­ran says, “but they also learn in their time here to do things as a team. They have to be pa­tient and wait their turn while some­one else is block­ing a scene. They learn to mem­o­rize lines, and they leave know­ing what de­layed grat­i­fi­ca­tion is—it’s hard work but when that au­di­ence is there ap­plaud­ing them in the end, they are all thrilled.”

The chil­dren put to­gether ma­jor pro­duc­tions in a frac­tion of the time it takes adults to do the same.

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