Summer camp takes center stage

COLUMBIANA &8212; As a girl dropped to her belly, doing her best version of the worm, a boy standing next to her asked, &8220;What are you doing?&8221;

From her spot on the gym floor of Columbiana United Methodist Church, she answered, &8220;Climbing a tree.&8221; He began pawing feet and hands at the air and, when asked the same question, replied, &8220;Putting clothes on.&8221;

The game continued around the circle of third- through sixth-graders as long as they could think of new actions while doing another. Part of an improvisation workshop, the exercise was one of many learning activities offered through the Missoula Children&8217;s Theatre summer camp held in Columbiana last week.

Thinking quickly &8212; and creatively &8212;

is not a must, but it definitely helps.

&8220;It&8217;s fast moving from the time they get here,&8221; said Bonnie Atchison who, through the Shelby County Arts Council, helped bring the touring drama program to Columbiana.

Two directors from the Missoula troupe, Evan Anderson of Kentucky and Emily Philio of Washington, brought costumes, stage props, scripts &8212; everything needed for a stage production of Robinhood &8212; and had one week to turn local children into actors.

&8220;It&8217;s a pretty simple process,&8221; said Philio of the tight schedule. &8220;It just involves taking things one step at a time.&8221;

Participants auditioned at the beginning of the week and then received part assignments, drama instruction and the chance for optional workshops, such as makeup and improvisation. By Friday, the young cast knew lines, stage directions and the basics of putting on a show.

&8220;I feel like we don&8217;t really do that much,&8221; Philio said of getting the show ready. &8220;The kids do a lot. We put a lot on them.&8221;

Rising 11th-grader Rosemary Austin, who played Maid Marian, said, &8220;The last couple of days it&8217;s all pressure.&8221; The home-schooled student said she participates because she likes acting and the camp is fun, but added that she learned to have confidence and focus. &8220;You have to have dedication to do something like this.&8221;

Anderson said developing those practical skills, not just acting ones, is Missoula&8217;s main mission.

&8220;It&8217;s teaching life lessons &8212; how to speak publicly, how to be a team player, but also to be a leader,&8221; Anderson said. On the final day of the camp, Anderson and Philio handed the practice over to children chosen as assistant directors.

&8220;That&8217;s my favorite part, giving kids an opportunity to succeed,&8221; Anderson said.

Area children are enjoying the opportunity again this week with camps in Calera and Chelsea. At the end of their five days of rehearsals and workshops, campers will present Snow White at Calera High School and Wizard of Oz at Chelsea High School. Both shows have performances Saturday, June 30 at 2 and 6:30 p.m.

Atchison said she hopes Missoula&8217;s traveling camp, which has visited Columbiana for three years, Calera for two and Chelsea for the first time, continues to catch on in communities throughout the county.

&8220;We want children to grow in appreciation of the fine arts,&8221; she said