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Though many oldsters forget a lot, smiles often cross their lips as they remember a camp song.
Now, as vaccinations help corral the COVID-19 pandemic, a new generation is stockpiling future musical memories at summer theater camps for youngsters throughout the Bay Area.
Safety precautions triggered by the pandemic act as accompaniment.
Camps, peppered with original musicals and plays, are relying mostly on junior versions of oldies but goodies.
Anne Clark, 6th Street Playhouse’s managing director and education director for 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, for instance, has planned three indoor camps at the theater between June 7 and Aug. 6 for kids 7 to 16 that feature “Disney Frozen Kids,” “Sister Act Jr.” and “Junie B. Jones Jr.: The Musical.” All deal with the basics of character development, “super-fun choreography” and singing techniques. Each is limited to 30 participants (https://bit.ly/3trEAOI).
Clark’s evaluation of “Frozen” is telling: “It’s well-written and uses the best features of the Broadway production for a 45 minute show. I like it because the main characters are female.”
She emphasizes that “keeping kids safe, because they don’t have access to a vaccine, is imperative.”
Her goal, however, “is to provide theater education for everyone, from 2 to 100. We’ve been focusing on youth education but will soon offer adult programming.” She also will integrate the recently acquired Santa Rosa Children’s Theater and Show Biz Kidz program.
Clark hopes to create “an outdoor stage as a backup for the fall,” though now, final performances are Zoomed — like the final performances of this spring’s “I Hate Shakespeare” class, taking place Friday and Saturday.
Meanwhile, MoonSchool, an offshoot of San Francisco’s 42nd Street Moon company, has “Madagascar Jr.: A Musical Adventure,” “A Chorus Line: High School Edition” and “Annie Kids” in the wings. They’ll take place outdoors in the arcade of the Gateway Theatre in San Francisco, with a maximum of 14 thespian-students per camp.
Anne Norland, director of education, chose “Madagascar” because it’s “very acceptable for students that haven’t seen [a] Broadway show, or children who haven’t seen musical theater. Because they know the characters, it’s comfortable.”
She’s happy the camps — aimed at students in grades 2 through 12, from June 14 through Aug. 13 — will be in-person rather than last year’s digital.
Currently, the company (https://bit.ly/2REwcO1) is holding virtual spring classes for tots, elementary students, teens and adults.
Regarding COVID-19, Norland’s “confident our staff is trained to keep our students properly distanced. The biggest challenge is to practice great diction and projection through masks. Also, theater people like to hug, so not doing that is also a challenge.”
In the South Bay, Peninsula Youth Theatre, where 20-student maximum Theatre in the Park Summer Camps are held at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, provides multiple options.
PYT’s June 7 to Aug. 13 mix of indoor and outdoor activities includes camps for kids 6 to 9 (like mystery adventures that highlight Snow White, Cruella DeVille and Dorothy); camps for 9- to 13-year-olds (such as “Death by Dental Floss,” a British whodunit takeoff); production, adventure, showtime camps (with an acting lab based on Harry Potter’s world); and a musical theater marathon with “Wicked” for the foundation.
“The past year,” says Meg Fischer, education director, “has brought a lot of challenges. We reinvented our programs as virtual, and now we’re reinventing again. We’ll be using scripts we wrote ourselves based on public domain titles, and we’re filming final performances, which will be really cool, to stream on our website [https://bit.ly/3tpOFM6], and that’ll allow family members who live far away to watch performances.”
“The most important thing,” she contends, “is that teachers and parents feel comfortable having the kids spend all day with us. We make sure they aren’t sharing materials, and plan to keep social distancing even if it’s no longer required. We like to be on the safer side.”
In Oakland, the second location of Kids ’N Dance ’N Theater Arts, established in Lafayette a quarter of a century ago, is now a.k.a. On Stage (https://bit.ly/3siycIt). Kris Mueller, company owner, describes it as “a performing arts center that grows with your child.”
Pandemic precautions include a dozen medical-grade air purifiers plus “double-layered masks, mics clipped onto masks and hand sanitizer.”
Three major categories thrive: little-theater camps for 4- to 8-year-olds who “must be potty-trained and self-sufficient in restrooms,” youth-musical venues for third to eighth graders and an arts-theater camp for first through fifth graders who write and perform their own play, make scenery and props, learn hip-hop, create crafts, take field trips and use a gym room. Shows spotlight stories about a snowman, trolls, a wicked witch and Alexander Hamilton.
The company also offers circus arts, replete with clowning, juggling and aerial arts — a program that’s “super popular, with a large wait list,” says Mueller.
Tangentially, her 17-year-old daughter, Esme Cammarata, has run a circus troupe since she was 10. It starts in the summer but goes all year round (and puts on “Cirque du Soleil-type stories” for kids 8-14). Performers, who must audition, pay nothing to learn.