Taking Center Stage

With programs for children from ages 7-18, Amelia Community Theatre offers Kid’s Camps in June and July to introduce kids to producing and performing stage shows.

Going to camp is a long-remembered experience for many. Amelia Community Theatre (ACT) has offered summer camps for youngsters interested in theater for more than 40 years. Chartered in 1981, Amelia Community Theatre is a community non-profit organization. Forty-one years after its founding, ACT has met and far exceeded its founding principles, thanks to the support of its volunteers and donors. Says former Managing Director Linda McClane, “Youth theater education and youth exposure to live theatrical productions was a goal from the very beginning in 1981.”

ACT’s Education Program (ACT-ed) engages community youth through summer programs for students aged 7 to 18 years old. The camps focus on creating and producing stage shows. Appropriately, graduation happens with the final product, a stage production open to friends, family, and the community. Additional programs and opportunities are offered throughout the year.

The camps are taught by experienced theatre professionals supported by dedicated volunteers, many of whom are former students. The summer camps have continued to evolve through the years. Three distinct camps are offered over five weeks spanning June and July. Registration fills fast. The staff, skilled in the performing arts, teach stage skills, acting techniques, voice, and choreography. In addition, students can learn the basics of sound, lighting, and stage direction.

Camp cost ranges from $235 to $325. Campers bring their lunches, and the camp provides snacks. “We see the kid’s confidence grow exponentially in a very short period of time,” says Karen Bowden, a former board member and volunteer. “The first few days, they are timid, but by the end of camp, they are looking for the center stage spotlight.”

Jessica Tita, 18, a recent Fernandina Beach High School graduate, has attended ACT Summer Camps since the age of 9. She remembers playing her first speaking role as the Dodo Bird in “Alice in Wonderland.” Her experiences in the summer camps led to roles on ACT’s main stage. The camps helped her decide that she would major in theater as she goes to college. “I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be in the summer camps at ACT, and I can’t wait to come back and teach the next generation to love theater as much as I do,” shares Tita.

Last year, a troupe of young actors performed at Dickens on Centre in December and staged encore performances at Story & Song Center for Arts & Culture, learning the challenges and rewards of a traveling show. This May, on the National Holocaust Day of Remembrance, ACT-ed students performed “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” Fourteen performers, ages 11-18, portrayed children separated from their families and detained in the Terezin encampment outside Prague during World War II. This moving performance was free to the community.

Each of the camps has a show they perform on stage for an audience. This summer, the 7-11-year-old group will perform “Winnie the Pooh” (Kids Version) on June 29. The teen camp for ages 12-17 will perform “Willie Wonka, Junior,” offering two performances each on July 13 and July 14. This summer’s final camp is “Bad Auditions by Bad Actors,” a comedy performed by teens aged 13-18, with two main stage performances on July 20.

ACT-ed’s operating committee comprises several ACT Board Members and volunteers, including 3 to 4 youth volunteers. Youth members add valuable insight into show selection and contribute social media skills. A sponsorship fund has been established to help kids with tuition costs. “Theatre education is at the very core of ACT’s mission,” says current Managing Artistic Director Quote Steve Carver. “We are an educational institution, teaching not only in ACTed’s classes and workshops, but also through the rehearsal process of every main stage production.”

Amelia Island is blessed with a wide range of artistic opportunities, and ACT has added a great opportunity for youngsters to learn about the stage. For more information about the camps, contact Karen Bowden at education@ameliacommunitytheatre.org. To make a donation to the camp sponsorship fund, visit www.ameliacomunitytheatre.org/education and specify the youth program.