Church launches summer drama camp

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church launches summer drama camp

June 4, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0499}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

JACKSONVILLE — Swaim Memorial United Methodist Church. Photo #06-372.

Swaim Memorial United Methodist Church in Jacksonville will soon be seeking interested young actors for its first summer drama camp.

The camp will be launched with the financial assistance of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, which gave a $4,200 grant to Community Outreach Agency, an extension ministry of the Florida Conference in the North East District that will help the church fund the venture.

The Citizen Planning Advisory Committee, comprising volunteers from the city of Jacksonville, was responsible for selecting which organizations from various parts of the city would win the grants.

“(The money) will cover buying the scripts and music, and all the things to do with the production and sets,” said the Rev. John Bennett, pastor of the church.

The program will be called the “Velvet Curtain Drama Camp” and take place weekdays June 15 through July 14. It is open to middle school-aged children who have completed the sixth grade with at least a “C” average and show an interest in drama and the arts. The youth must also demonstrate financial need.

“(Camp is) offered at no cost so that every child has an equal opportunity,” Bennett said.

Bennett hopes to have at least 30 children attend for free, then possibly open the camp to paying students if there is more demand. The grant money requires certain performance objectives be reached, which, in this case, relate to the children’s interpersonal abilities.

“All of these grants have performance objectives we have to quantify … in either behaviors or movements,” said the Rev. Pam Hall, director of Community Outreach Agency. Hall helped the church write its grant.

At a separate cost of $1,500, the church also hired Jason Collins, a professional drama teacher, to direct the camp. Collins teaches fifth grade full-time at Lighthouse Christian School in Orange Park. For Collins, teaching is a career change. He is also a professional actor and worked in children’s theater for 15 years.
“This is for kids who are low income … kids who really don’t have an outlet for the summer,” Collins said.

The application to participate in the program will mention the program’s purpose is to reach children for Jesus, Bennett said. The drama, however, will be secular.
“We’re going to do a secular drama because we feel like that will be appealing to a larger range of children and parents,” Bennett said.
Collins selected the stage show “The Thirteen Clocks” by Fred Sadoff and March Bucci.
“Basically what we wanted to do is to come up with something that would allow the children to use their creativity and imagination,” Collins said. “And … to basically allow the students themselves to come up with their own ideas of what the set should look like and what the costumes should look like.”
The story is a conflict and resolution plot involving a prince, a duke and a princess, Collins said. The plot revolves around the prince’s efforts to use a thousand jewels to unfreeze 13 clocks and save his princess from the duke.
“The play itself is a very fluid play so the kids are going to have to study a lot to learn it,” Collins said. “I wanted to pick something that was a bit of a challenge and not a bunch of fluff.” 
Bennett said the camp is a natural outreach for the church, which is located near a public middle school.
We are a small congregation church in the midst of many mega churches within a couple of miles,” Bennet said. “(The camp) really goes right along with a our mission; we feel like we are really a community-minded church.”
A large percentage of the camp hours will be dedicated to a variety of theater and arts appreciation, Collins said.
“We are going to explore God and the arts — how God basically has transformed art in the world,” Collins said. “We are going to look at the history of art … get them to open their eyes a little bit when they look around.”
Among the activities Collins has planned include creating masks that show conflict and resolution, photography around the community, devotions, theater history, set and lighting design, communications and public relations, costume and prop preparation, journaling, drawing with charcoals and painting, and theater terminology.
“I want to get kids interested in the entire realm of what it takes to put on a show,” Collins said.
Collins also wants to find children who are interested in things like design, building, arts and theater.
“This is going to be … teaching (children) the arts and appreciation of what art is,” Collins said. “And it’s going to be very open, and the kids are going to have a lot of leeway to explore. … I want them to think for themselves.”
Collins said he hopes most of the children who attend will be from the general area near the church so that transportation to camp is easy. “ … (We’re) looking for the kids that don’t get a chance because of their financial situation,” he said.
The camp will conclude with a Friday evening show and Saturday matinee. There is no charge for tickets. Collins hopes the camp will be successful enough to continue in the future.
“That’s the goal, too, to have this first year of a budding theater camp that keeps going year after year after year,” he said.


This article relates to Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.

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