Claflin University Associate Professor of Speech and Drama Annette Grevious uses one word to describe her Summer Arts Camp students’ feelings about performing their first live production Friday – anxiety.
From nervousness to stage fright and tears, the nearly 20 students will aim to “break a leg” this Friday, July 19, at 6 p.m. in Ministers’ hall on campus. They will perform excerpts from The Lion King.
“This year we have 19 campers ages eight to 14 from Orangeburg, Columbia, Charleston and Charlotte,” Grevious said. “We are in our fourth year and it has been a complete joy to watch the camp grow in size, talent, and enjoyment.”
The Claflin University Summer Arts Camp provides campers the opportunity to act, sing, dance, write and participate with set design and construction while preparing for their culminating performance. Morning instruction is conducted by college theatre professors and the afternoons are devoted to preparing and rehearsing for the culminating performance. Additional supervision and mentoring are provided by upper level college students studying one of the specified disciplines.
Cedric Rembert, assistant professor of speech and drama at Claflin and the camp’s acting coach and co-director, said the camp is filling a void in the local community.
“Overall we are providing Orangeburg with a program that, to the best of our knowledge, has not been offered before,” he said. “We are filling a unique artistic void for youth in that we provide a camp environment where students are able to obtain instruction in acting, singing, dancing and writing while working towards putting together a culminating production, all in one week. Furthermore, students have the opportunity to receive this instruction on a college campus and be mentored by college students and professors.”
Veteran camper Diavianne Thomas of Orangeburg has attended the Summer Arts Camp for four years.
“I like acting and singing and I think it’s really fun,” the 11-year-old said. “”My favorite part of the camp is doing the plays.”
Karynton Odom, 12, of Columbia, S.C., said the camp is helping her to improve her acting skills.
“I attend because it's fun to act and sing and dance,” she said. “My favorite part is performing in front of my parents and family. I have learned how to be more outgoing, outspoken and have become a better actress because of the camp.”
Grevious and Rembert produce numerous productions throughout the year with students in the Claflin University Theatre Ensemble, PULSE Dance Company and community members. Earlier this year, the group earned rave reviews for their production of The Color Purple on campus. Additionally, both are working actors. Upcoming productions include “Flyin’ West” by Pearl Cleage and “Ma’ Rainey’s Black Bottom” by August Wilson. PULSE is also planning two dance productions.
Claflin currently offers a minor in theater arts and shows it support of the humanities each year with CALA-Bash (Claflin’s Arts and Letters Annual Bash), showcasing the arts. The camp is another way to expose the community to the arts.
“I have worked with children's camps for more than 20 years, and I have always been amazed by how much children can learn and retain in one week, and their excitement while doing it,” Grevious said.
Nine-year old Sa’Dya Johnson from Charlotte, N.C., said she is excited about the upcoming play and everything she has learned this week.
“I wanted to learn how to be the best actor and perfect my dance skills in a play,” she said. “My favorite part about camp is practicing the dance and playing theatre games. Camp has taught me to do my best and try very hard.”
Friday’s culminating production is free and open to the public.