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Kids step into limelight at musical theater camp

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ith their hands firmly on their hips, the 24 girls and one boy belted out the song.

They sang the lyrics that, for some, would represent their first foray into musical theater. Others were old pros, have performed in acting and singing camps for children in Indianapolis.

Center Grove’s Musical Theater Camp kicked off its second year this month.

With enrollment steadily climbing, organizers hope the camp will give children a place to practice their singing, dancing and theater skills during the summer.

Plus, the camp is a fundraiser for Center Grove’s choir department, and the camp can act as a feeder program to help strengthen the high school’s choral and theater department, organizers said.

“Theater is not something readily available to kids,” said Amy Johnson, a high school voice teacher. “This is a chance for kids to explore the theater arts.”

Students have two weeks to learn a dance, songs and skits for the magic-themed revue for their final show.

Twenty minutes into the first day of camp, the 25 students already were working on what would be a number in the performance.

They sang about princesses and queens and encouraged their audience to take a journey with them.

Their two weeks of camp will be filled with hard work. For four hours every morning, they will master dance steps, new notes and lines in acting skits.

Students see the camp as a way to help learn an art that they don’t get in school, they said.

Emma Helweg and Rowan Palmer, both 12 and Center Grove Middle School North students, said their school year is consumed by other activities. Track and basketball practices make it almost impossible to stay after school for drama club.

They are getting their theater fix at Center Grove’s camp.

“I think this will improve my acting skills,” Emma said. “I really like acting. If I do it, I should be good at it.”

High school choral and theater directors are counting on kids to hone their skills while at the camp.

The camp is open to students ages 6 to 12. High school choir director Jared Norman hopes today’s campers will be tomorrow’s choir soloist, he said.

Funds from the camp go for the high school choir program, he said.

The camp is mostly meant to foster a love of theater in students younger than middle school or high school, Norman said.

“We wanted to give an opportunity for kids who have this drive to hone their skills and crafts,” he said.

Some freshmen who audition for shows or a spot on a varsity show choir sometimes don’t have any experience with theater.

This camp can change that for children in the area, he said.

Sadie Morris, 10, enrolled in the camp for a second time to get skills that she hopes will help her snag a lead in a musical or role in a high school play.

“(The camp) gets you in the groove for junior high and high school,” she said.

Part of the reason the camps exists is because students don’t have a similar camp nearby, Johnson said.

Morris said no other camp offers everything kids want.

“It was the only camp around that had everything we liked,” she said. “I am very musical. There weren’t any other camps around that were musical.”

Most of the kids at the camp have a flair for dramatics.

Charlie Lage, 7, hit every note in the opening song, with her hands dutifully on her hips.

The Maple Grove Elementary School student had studied at a theater program in Indianapolis. This camp brings her passion closer to home.

“It gives you something to do,” she said. “You can have fun with it.”

Norman is crediting early singing and dancing with bringing the self-confidence needed to thrive on stage in high school, he said.

“If they develop (self-confidence) now when they are younger, they won’t be afraid when they are older,” he said.

A final performance will give elementary-age kids a way to show that they have talent, said Abigail Johnson, 11.

“Some people don’t believe in kids much. This camp lets kids have meaning,” she said.

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