Lovejoy Theater Camp is All About Having Fun Learning
Taylor Pettit, is not your typical elementary school student. While he displays the maturity, good manners, and self-confidence one might expect from an advanced high school student, maybe even a graduate, what really distinguishes him is that unlike most kids his age, for three weeks this summer Taylor bounds out of bed before eight o’clock each weekday morning so that he won’t be late for Lovejoy Independent School District’s Summer Theater Camp that run from July 10th through July 20th when the campers present The Jungle Book.
This is Pettit’s first theater camp and he says, “I love it. My goal is to give the best performance I am capable of presenting. The role of Mowgli, the male lead in the production, is difficult because it involves a lot of dialogue.” When I asked him how much he rehearses the part he just smiles and then adds, “I study every day, sometimes all day, just to make sure I know the part and how to convince the audience that I really am Mowgli.” Pettit’s enthusiasm and commitment are shared by all of the kids with whom I talked.
Lovejoy Summer Theater Camp began in 2013 and each year since about three dozen students from 3rd through 7th grade participate. Many former campers are now interns (junior counselors). Sydney Legg, Kynan Lowrence, Sarah Bradley and Lauren Burgess, all former campers and all now interns, take a break from this morning’s rehearsal to share what they think the best part of the summer theater camp experience --- meeting lots of new friends.
Faculty Advisor Jessica Brewster is no less enthusiastic than her charges. She clearly revels in the teaching and learning experiences she directs. Brewster explains, “The summer camp is divided into two groups, thirty-five who will actually play roles in the production and five students who learn the technical skills and know-how that makes it possible to stage these events.” It is clear that Brewster is just as proud of both groups when she takes me to a workshop to observe the teaching of theater skills to a group of six students. For the current exercise, Brewster has asked each to create their own special pet, to give it a name and describe what environmental value the pet offers. One student introduced me to Wilson, his pet that helps the environment by eating bad bacteria.
Marcie Sawyers is the Assistant Director of the Jungle Book and works especially closely with the kids who are the leads in the production. Sawyers explains, “We conduct auditions on the second day of camp and assign all roles on the third day of camp. Learning roles begins with just reading the lines and progresses to the point where we are helping our kids learn about body language and making sure they fully understand the nature of their characters and the context in which each part should be managed. The camp experience is all about having a good time while you are learning. Each of our campers are great kids, they learn everything so quickly.”
In addition to the campers and interns, thirty-six Lovejoy High School students volunteered for a variety of support roles. Brice Fuller, is typical and serves as the choreographer of the Jungle Book based on what he has learned from having participated in many Lovejoy High School theater productions himself.
Lovejoy’s Summer Theater Camp dramatically illustrates that many of life’s most important lessons are learned in experiences aside from readying books. Learning can, indeed, be lots of fun.