This year brought two new aspects to the theatre camp. This is
the first year that two plays were presented because of the large
enrollment of Atlanta’s young readers, and also the first year that
the meeting space on the upper story of the Atlanta Museum was used
to present the plays.
Professor Kerr teamed with Cathy Marciariello four years ago to
present the summer theatre camp for Atlanta’s young readers. The
program has continued to grow in popularity each summer. Not only
has Jean Kerr brought her expertise in theatre to the community, but
she has also enlisted the help of some of her students in the IWU
School of Theatre Arts to assist in the project.
Kerr said, “I brought my students into this project to ensure they
had experience in bringing theatre to the community, not just the
huge venues in the big cities, but the small towns of America. It is
a way to augment the excellent theatre program at Wesleyan.”
This year Selena Greising, Jace Legarde, Megan Sperger and Cami
Tokowitz were the student volunteers from Wesleyan. Several
participants in the theatre camp that have gone beyond fifth grade
also volunteered to help.
Cathy Marciariello has insisted on bringing real theatre culture to
Atlanta so the student assistants are paid for their aid with the
program, just as they would be in a formal theatre setting. To
further mirror the real world theatre, Jean Kerr has been designated
artistic director for the camp, while Cathy is the producer. This is
theatre immersion from A to Z for the campers.
The summer theatre camp runs for one week, but Jean and Cathy began
to construct the program six weeks before the campers gathered to
begin their immersion in all things theatre. The preplanning
included a prop list, costume design, and the theme of the camp.
This year’s theme was detective mysteries, selected from books that
are available at the Atlanta Public Library.
The younger campers worked on “The Zoo Mystery” under the direction
of recent Wesleyan grad Selena with assistance from Megan, while the
older kids are performing “CSI” directed by Jace and Cami. Jean
Kerr’s daughters Delia and Linnea also helped this year with props
While the theme of the camp was selected by Jean and Cathy, the
actual scripts are written during the week.
The young readers initially were given theatre games to play that
integrated terminology and technical aspects into their vocabulary.
They then were assigned characters that are part of the play and
told to improvise how the characters would behave. From this
exercise, a script was written. “These are the most sophisticated
scripts in the four year run of the theatre camp,” said Jean Kerr.
Each play also has its own cover art on a playbill for the program.
This year the kids will get to take home T-shirts at the end of the
week with the name of their respective play on the back, T-shirts
that each student designed and crafted.
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When asked why theatre is important for this unusual summer camp, Jean Kerr took
a moment to collect her thoughts. “Theatre integrates so many aspects of what it
is to be human. It teaches communication skills, cooperation, collaboration, and
the importance of storytelling. It teaches problem solving and gives the young
actors the satisfaction when the curtain comes down that they did it, created
something,” she said. Kerr completed her thought with “Maybe some of the kids
will go on to be a part of theatre, but even if they don’t, they will have a
deeper appreciation of the work that goes into mounting a production.”
After an intense week of preparation for the final presentation of the plays,
the doors to the Atlanta Museum meeting space were opened to a large crowd of
parents, relatives, and friends of the theatre campers, excited to see the
finished products. It was standing room only.
“This week has been like herding fireflies,” laughed Jean Kerr with affection in
describing the creative process of working with youngsters during theatre camp
week as her actors took their marks. Jean and Cathy presented opening remarks
about the week and then curtain rose and the “Zoo” cast was off to the races.
After a quick cast bow to great applause, “CSI” was presented.
The cast of both plays had received the final draft of each script the day
before, and had only one night to memorize their lines, get off script, in
theatre parlance. Lines were read, characters were fleshed out, and the cast
moved around the stage as if they had been rehearsing for weeks. Both plays
elicited huge applause from a very appreciative audience.
To complete the theatre vibe, a cast party was thrown after the final curtain.
The concluding part of the Atlanta Library Summer Arts Camp will be a week of
music taught by Broadway actor Robert LuPone. He is traveling to Atlanta from
the Big Apple at the behest of Cathy Marciariello, a personal friend. Think
about it, a renowned member of the most famous theatre scene in the world
traveling to Atlanta, Illinois to teach a class on music to first through fifth
graders. What a wonderful experience they are going to have!