JCC theater camps put kids center stage

Shrek (Rome Kapan) sings with fairy tale creatures (from left, Riley Vandell, Sam Jacob and Matthew Hasson) in last summer’s production of “Shrek Jr.” at the Jewish Community Center’s Omanoot camp.
Photo by Julie Cole

Last summer, Isabelle Goodweather played the court jester in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the end-of-session production at the theater camp of the Edlavitch DCJCC in Washington.

Isabelle, a fourth grader at Sheridan School in Washington, plans to be back at theater camp this summer.

“It’s very fun,” she said. “You get to understand what people do in movies and theater.”

The Edlavitch JCC contracts with Imagination Stage, a theater-arts organization for young people, to run the camp.

The two-week session (July 10-21) focuses on “from page to stage” — learning lines and rehearsing. It’s not just about acting, but also what goes on behind the scenes. About three quarters of the day is spent on theater. The rest is activities such as swimming.

The camp culminates in a production. Everyone has a part, and children from the Edlavitch’s other day camps are invited to attend. No word yet about what this summer’s play will be.

Knowing that theater kids all “love the spotlight, every kid feels involved,” said camp Director Greg Feitel.

Theater campers also learn that actors don’t always get the parts they prefer.

“In the beginning I wanted the role of the queen,” said Isabelle. “Then I loved the part I got and realized it’s great.”

The Bender JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville offers a camp for theater-loving kids in second through seventh grades called Habimah, (meaning “the stage” in Hebrew, and also the name of Israel’s national theatre).

There are two sessions:  a four-week session, June 26-July 21, and a three-week session, July 24-Aug. 11.

Each session ends with a production. In the past, the camp has performed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Jungle Book.”

“Typically we do musicals,” said camp Director Phil Liebson.

Campers learn many aspects of theater starting with a brief history of theater, blocking and other fundamentals,” he added. “This year we’ll be putting an emphasis on sets and props and on learning artistic flair.”

The Bender JCC also offers theater campers the opportunity to swim and play an optional sport or learn Israeli dance.

Omanoot (Hebrew for “art”) is the name of the theater camp at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax. Running from July 3 to Aug. 18, the camp is for rising fourth through eighth graders.

Omanoot leads up to an end-of-season production, which this year will be Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” on Aug. 17.

“The campers audition for parts, but each kid does get one,” said Rachel Dannick, day camps administrator at the center. “We always do musicals.”

Productions are done with the help of counselors. “But we hire a professional director, musical director and choreographer,” said Dannick.

Campers also play improvisational games that relate to their characters. They also learn body movements that help shy kids break out of their shells.

There are also field trips, such as an excursion to a local thrift shop.

“Campers help create their own costumes, so they buy regular clothes at the thrift and then figure out how to make them fit their characters,” Hannick said.

True to each JCC’s commitment to inclusion, youngsters with various needs take part in theater camps. Said Liebson, “We try to incorporate some of their uniqueness.”

Barbara Trainin Blank is a Washington-area writer.

 

10  Washington-area theater/arts camps

Acting for Young People Summer Acting Camp, Fairfax, www.afyp.org
Adventure Theatre Music Theatre Center Camps, Glen Echo Park and Rockville, adventuretheatre-mtc.org
The Art League’s Summer Art Camp, Alexandria,theartleague.org
Camp at BlackRock, BlackRock Center for the Arts, Germantown, blackrockcenter.org/camps
Camp Arena Stage, Washington, arenastage.org/education/camp-arena-stage
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop Camps, Washington, chaw.org/summer-camp
The Children’s Theatre Workshop, Washington, thechildrenstheatreworkshop.com
Creative Adventures Inc., North Bethesda, artinyou.com/summer-camp
Encore Stage Summer Camps, Arlington, encorestageva.org/camps/summercamps
Fillmore Arts Camp, Washington, fillmoreartscenter.org/summer-arts

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