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Curtain goes up for church drama camp

Curtain goes up for church drama camp

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Curtain goes up for church drama camp

Sept. 10, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0543}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

Organizers and participants of Swaim Memorial United Methodist Church’s Velvet Curtain drama camp learned a lot this summer about being able to improvise when necessary.

With the Jacksonville church launching its first drama camp some of the best-laid plans had to be changed before the camp started. Originally planned for 30 middle school children and four weeks, the camp instead ended up with nine students and lasted for three weeks because of difficulties recruiting participants. But organizers were still able to “ad lib” their way to success, according to the Rev. John Bennett, pastor of the church.

“We did the camp with nine kids and we have learned a lot from this,” Bennett said. “ … I am very impressed with Jason (Collins, the camp director) and the work that he is doing with these kids.”

Collins, a longtime professional actor and private school teacher, praised the participants for their efforts.

“We had to adjust and adapt a little bit,” Collins said. “ … We ended up with kids that have been very, very solid children as far as their attitude.”

The youth attended the camp, which included daily lunches, at no charge as part of the church’s outreach mission. The goal was to enroll children whose families would not otherwise be able to afford a drama camp. Funding came in part from a grant by the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, which gave $4,200 to the Community Outreach Agency — an extension ministry of the Florida Conference’s North East District — to help the church launch the venture.

Collins selected three single-act plays of Appalachian folklore known as “The Jack Tales” to have the children rehearse and perform for an audience.

“The great thing about these three tales is that every child (had) a big part, a medium-sized part and a small part,” Collins said.

That choice also gave participants a chance to learn about designing a scaled-down size of the final set, as well as finding costumes and props; research the Appalachians; learn about voice, diction and proper breathing; and advertise the event.

Although the drama was secular, the camp offered the children a chance to make a connection between God and the arts.

“The best way I found to incorporate God was just plain faith,” Collins said. “ … I always reminded them before rehearsals (to have) faith that you can do this.”

There also was enough time in the camp for Collins to teach the campers about the art of journaling. In the journals, the students would write about their camp experiences — good or bad.

“Ironically the one thing that they wanted more of was more rehearsals,” Collins said. “Getting them to keep writing in their journals is going to be hopefully the one thing that they will continue on an everyday basis.”

All the campers were girls between the ages of 12 and 14. Carey Sellers, an eighth-grader this year at Landon Middle School in Jacksonville, said her favorite moment from the experience came during the performance of the plays. “We did the play and my parents and mama’s friends were all proud of me, and they said I wasn’t even being shy.”

Sellers, who would like to become a doctor or an artist when she’s grown, also enjoyed preparing the set.

“(Collins) made us draw some ideas and he used some ideas on the set and that’s what I liked about it,” Sellers said, adding, “I would say that if you want to do a drama camp you should go to the Methodist church … if you like to do art or write or do a play of your own.”

The performance took place in mid-July and went well, with about 75 people attending, according to Bennett. He and Collins both hope to offer the camp again next summer, as well as offer periodic drama workshops throughout the school year.

“We’ve been in conversation with another Methodist church … about possibly doing some joint ministry in drama over the coming year,” Bennett said. “Maybe doing a Saturday once a month and having that build toward next summer and three two-week sessions.”

“In a way I am very happy that I only had (nine campers) to start,” Collins said. “(You) start with a small foundation and you grow.”


This article relates to Outreach Ministry.

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