Summer Spotlight brings children together for fun and theater arts

Summer Spotlighters perform in their Showcase in Claudia Crosby Theater. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)

Summer Spotlighters perform in their Showcase in Claudia Crosby Theater. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)

After a year’s hiatus, the Department of Theatre and Dance’s acclaimed Summer Spotlight was back in action this summer. 

Some 77 children had the chance to participate in Summer Spotlight’s Creative Drama Camp July 11 -16 and the week before, 40 children participated in either the “Mini Spotlighters” camp for ages 4 -7 or COMICAMP. About 30 high school students are expected to participate in the upcoming Summer Spotlight Intensives July 18-24.

“They can’t just sit at home and be on screen and have a normal, healthy, happy childhood,” said Tori Averett, chair of Theatre and Dance. “I’d not considered the value of what we offer in terms of the health and wellbeing of children and young people. That thought really spurred me on.”

For the kids in this week’s Drama Camp, however, the stress the faculty experienced in hosting a summer program amidst COVID-19 concerns went unnoticed.

“The best part for me is rehearsal,” said 10-year old Chris Frigge. “I used not to like acting, but I’ve gotten comfortable with it now and it’s fun.”

To the casual observer, none of the children seemed to be concerned with protocols or masks, even if the adults were.

“It’s been strange with the COVID thing,” admitted Averett, who forged a partnership with Charles Henderson Child Health Center’s pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Dawson in developing a plan to make Summer Spotlight safe.

“What rang the truest for me was when Dr. Dawson said that young peoples’ health is not just about their physical health, and while COVID is scary and we’re doing our best to keep our kids healthy and safe, them being isolated all this time is just as unhealthy as them being exposed to viruses,” she said.

“The good thing in all this is that we’re so happy to be back and the children are glad to be back. We’re sad not everyone who wanted to come got to this year due to the limited numbers, but we’re glad to be back,” Averett said.

Ada Cellon, 10, said without missing a beat that “lunch is my favorite part of theater.” She added that she had learned a lot of terminology of the stage was excited to be able to be out doing something with other children.

It was a sentiment Mary Clark Brown, also 10 and a six-year Spotlight veteran, echoed.

“This is my sixth year and I love it. I really enjoy the experience of making new friends and learning the crafts that you usually don’t get to learn,” she said. “It also helps me in my singing and dancing.”

Averett said nearly 80 percent of those attending this year are like Mary Clark, returners.

“Parents tell us how much their child looks forward to coming to Spotlight all year, and a lot of those children will tell people they ‘go to school at TROY’ because of they have such ownership of the program,” she said.

Dawson Tidwell, a junior from Spanish Fort, has been working with a group of the Spotlighters. He said for him, the camp had been a very instructional time.

“I’ve had a great group, and I’ve learned a lot about teaching that I didn’t know,” he said. “I’m glad that I had this chance to be involved and that the kids are learning not just acting but what it takes to put on a show.”

11-year old Ethan Prendergast concentrated on set design and building.

“I loved getting to help plan and make props. If you mess up, there’s nothing that’s really wrong. You can just work off from where you,” he said. “You can create from where you leave off.”

A photo gallery from the week is available here. Click to view photos from the Showcase.