Under the guidance of co-director Cathy Maciariello,
the library offers many engaging programs from book discussions to
appearances by nationally known performing actors and musicians.
One of the most popular summer programs is the three week Arts
Discovery Camp for grade school children. The camp introduces kids
to art, music, and theatre, with each topic conducted in one-week
Friday, July 25 saw the conclusion of the week of theatre camp with
the presentation of a play that was completely crafted by the
campers. Professor Jean Kerr of Illinois Wesleyan University and
five of her acting students provided the guidance for the theatre
Kerr and Maciariello became acquainted about three years ago when
Maciariello inquired at Wesleyan if the school would be interested
in partnering with the Atlanta Library to develop the Arts Discovery
Camp. Kerr jumped at the opportunity, and the camp has been
Last year it was two weeks with art and theatre. This year a third
week for music was added.
During the one week theatre camp, the kids were asked to select a
book from the library that they were familiar with and develop a
play from it. The campers selected Hans Christian Anderson’s tale
“The Ugly Duckling” in its original version. Since this is a book,
the campers had to adapt it to a stage presentation with characters,
props, sound, costumes, and a new concept this year called
dramaturgy. The goal was to present the completed play to the public
at the end of the week.
The Discovery Camp Players got busy Monday morning with their
mentors from Illinois Wesleyan. Wesleyan acting students Elizabeth
Albers and Alec Sutton would be the directors for the production,
while Bucky Emmerling was the props master and Haley Miller would
handle costume design.
New this year was the addition of a dramaturg, handled by Cassondra
Takas. Dramaturgy is the study of the history of the play and the
themes brought out in it. This is a sophisticated concept that is
taught at the college level, but the Discovery Camp Players dove
Dramaturgy is a necessary element in the crafting of a play in order
to develop characters and supply their motivation. Since “The Ugly
Duckling” had to be crafted into a play, the college mentors
encouraged the campers to study the themes of the book and then
improvise dialog and scenes based on the themes.
Takas and her charges came up with bullying, jealousy, friendship,
judgment, and self esteem as the main themes. Then Albers and Sutton
had the campers improvise dialog and scenes once they understood the
themes. These improvisations led to a formal script.
Once character development was underway, Miller set about helping
the students craft costumes for the characters. These took the form
of unique caps that were designed and crafted by each camper.
As the play filled out with characters and scenes, Emmerling helped
the students design props to enhance the show.
Professor Kerr pointed out that each camper took part in every phase
of the development of “The Ugly Duckling” play.
The campers learned to be part of an ensemble and be proud of their
contributions to the production. “We stressed to the kids that they
had to own their part in the whole production,” she said. The
selection of cast members in the play was done by drawing names from
a hat. Cassondra Takas stressed to the kids that the part they were
selected at random to play was the one they were supposed to get.
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And the results of four days of hard work? The play was
presented to a packed house of family and friends of the
Discovery Camp Players at the Atlanta Methodist Church Friday
morning. With a shout from Jean Kerr to the gathered cast
members, “Don’t forget to be fabulous!” the Discovery Camp
Players launched into a flawless production of “The Ugly
Duckling," a play they had built from the ground up in only four
days. Lines were read off book, that is without scripts in hand,
actors remembered their cues when and where to move around the
stage, and the chorus provided sound effects that melded
perfectly with the scenes.
During intermission, cast members instructed the audience in the
dramaturgy of the show, discussing the themes and what they had
learned from them.
The enthusiastic applause when the cast members gathered on
stage for a bow at the end attested to their enjoyment of the
player’s efforts. And the grins from the Discovery Camp Players
and the final shout out to their audience attested to the fun
Many of the young performers were heard telling their parents
that they wanted to enroll in next summer’s Arts Discovery Camp.
Cathy Maciariello is already thinking about that, and she said
there will be some surprises along the way.
It’s obvious that the Atlanta students got a great deal of real
world information about live theatre during their participation
in the theatre camp and had a lot of fun in the process.
When the Wesleyan students, who all volunteered their time to
help out, were asked what they got out of the week, they were
also enthusiastic about their experience.
Alec Sutton, director of the first act, said he learned
leadership skills. Bucky Emmerling said he was surprised by how
unself-conscious the kids were. He is inspired by that and
hopes, as an actor, that he can strive to be the same way.
Elizabeth Albers, director of act II, said with a grin, “It was
exhausting dealing with 14 kids.”
One of the most important lessons all five Wesleyan students
hope they imparted to the campers was to have an opinion and be
proud of it.
Professor Jean Kerr said she had students who helped during the
inaugural 2013 Arts Camp come to her during the spring semester
to volunteer for a second season in Atlanta. She is looking
forward to a rewarding relationship between Illinois Wesleyan
University and the Atlanta Public Library.
[By CURT FOX]