From modest beginnings, the arts camp idea has grown
to include theatre, visual arts, and music camps for the youngsters
in Atlanta. Each year more students sign up for the camps months
ahead of time until they are almost always filled long before the
This year was no different for the just completed theatre camp.
“Community support for the camps is terrific,” said Cathy.
One of the unique features of the camps is the quality of leadership
that Cathy has tapped into. As in past years, Professor Jean Kerr of
the Wesleyan University School of Performing Arts and Dance served
as artistic director of the Discovery Camp Players.
Crew, clockwise from left: Maya McGowan, Genny Kleve, Professor Jean
Kerr, Emily Strub, and Kira Rangel. Professor Kerr recruited the
four freshman students to help with the summer camp.
Professor Kerr brought along a select few of her Wesleyan students.
She said she puts out a call for volunteers among her students and
is always overwhelmed with a response. She chooses four students
from among those applying for the positions.
At a visit to rehearsals before the Friday performance, it was
difficult to tell who was having more fun, the young campers or
Professor Kerr and her students. Each Wesleyan student was assigned
a different aspect of the camp, from directing the plays to costumes
to music and movement. It is important to note that the campers were
in charge, while their mentors just assisted when it was needed.
When the three plays were selected, the campers themselves were in
charge of the arc of the play. We all have seen “Little Red Riding
Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Thumbelina,” but the students
were asked to add to the plays based on their own ideas.
“We want the kids to learn about the crafting of a play, how the
parts fit together, called the 'Rule of Three' in fairy tales, the
good, bad, and problem,” said Jean Kerr.
After a week of building sets, crafting costumes, and learning
lines, the campers were ready to present their finished work to a
large crowd of parents, relatives, and friends in the Union Hall
Theatre above the Palms Grill in Atlanta.
Librarian Maciariello and Play Director Jean Kerr both had opening
remarks to make before the plays began. They both lauded their
campers for their hard work, excellent behavior, and genuine love of
all aspects of putting on a play. “It was a pleasure to work with
the kids this week. They have been one of the most sophisticated
groups of youngsters I have worked with during the Atlanta Summer
Arts Program,” said Professor Kerr. That sentiment was echoed by
Wesleyan student Genevieve Kleve, who was one of the directors for
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Once the curtain went up, the kids jumped into their
roles with excitement. One unique aspect of the presentation was an
exercise before the play, used to pump up the actors. Usually this
is done offstage, but this year the audience was treated to this
team building. One of the exercises was called “The Machine” where
members of the cast created an assembly line complete with sound
effects. It was a huge hit with the audience and the campers, who
were already bubbling with energy and excitement. They were ready to
perform judging from the laughter and grins from the cast members.
“Little Red Riding Hood” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” were performed
with sock puppets, with the actors hiding behind a small stage in
the middle of the room.
“Thumbelina” had the actors performing in person.
Parents were grinning and taking lots of photos and videos of their
kids’ performances. Each play was followed by bows from the actors
and great applause from the packed theater.
“We are so grateful for all of the support we have received for the
Atlanta Library Summer Arts Camps. We want to thank the Illinois
Prairie Community Foundation for their continuing support for our
camps and for arts programs in central Illinois,” said Maciariello.
Why have a theatre camp?
“Theatre contains all of the aspects of the arts from dance, visual
arts, and acting,” said Jean Kerr. “These campers may never become
artists as a career, but introducing them to the arts at such a
young age will instill an appreciation for the arts for the rest of
their lives,” she said.
The Atlanta Public Library Summer Arts Discovery Camps continue
making a difference in the community now and for future generations.