Future Hillary Swanks and Jamie Foxxes in the area have a chance to study their craft through camps offered during Fairfax County's spring break, March 21-25.
One camp, StagePlay, is for grades kindergarten through sixth and meets the afternoons of March 21, 22 and 23 at St. Aidan's Church, 8531 Riverside Road, Alexandria. The other, organized by Mount Vernon Community Children's Theater (MVCCT), meets March 21-25 at Heritage Presbyterian Church, 8503 Fort Hunt Road, Mount Vernon. Full-day and half-day morning programs are available.
StagePlay, launched four years ago, operates under the direction of actress and former television presenter Heather Sanderson. It runs a variety of programs throughout the year, most of which focus on introducing Shakespeare to children. However, the spring break camp is "the one thing I do where we do not do anything at all with Shakespeare," Sanderson said. Instead, the program is designed to stretch children's imaginations. Activities include improvisation in small groups, costume play — such as using costumes to create characters — and musical activities, lead by David Grimes. "It's like a sampler plate of how they would get used to being in a [summer] drama camp," she said.
Katie Kershaw, 8, has participated in StagePlay's afterschool programs for almost two years. Katie is a second-grader at Waynewood Elementary.
"I really like it when we get to dress up in costumes and do plays and stuff," she said.
Her grandmother, Mary Warren, said the drama programs had given Katie an appreciation for theater and helped her be more comfortable performing. "It's a way of expressing herself and getting to know other children," Warren said.
WHILE SHAKESPEARE is off the menu at StagePlay, it's a central feature at the camp offered by Mount Vernon Community Children's Theatre, said Beth Hauptle, who coordinates the theater's educational programs. The three-year-old spring break program ended in performances of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 2003 and "Scenes from Shakespeare" last year, Hauptle said. This year, they may do scenes again, or else the play "Twelfth Night."
"Kids love Shakespeare. They don't have the barriers a lot of adults have about the language," Hauptle said.
In the mornings, the camp focuses on general acting techniques, while afternoons are given over to rehearsing for the week-ending Shakespeare production. Classes are divided by age, allowing each group to focus on different skills, Hauptle said.
The program has two teachers, director and playwright L.B. Hamilton and actor Chris Davenport. This is Davenport's third year with the camp.
"It's nice to be able to spend all day with the kids, and putting something together that quickly is pretty intense and rewarding," Davenport said.
Sharon Roberts' 9-year-old son, Ben, attended the spring break camp last year. "It was a great experience for him," she said. Ben, who is in third grade at Hollin Meadows Elementary, later attended MVCCT's summer camp and performed in the musical "Honk!" this fall.
As a parent, Roberts said, she appreciates the environment of the MVCCT programs. "I know he'll have a fulfilling day, and when I come back, he's happy. He's with people that seem to have similar interests and values," she said.
StagePlay's camp and the half-day program at MVCCT are both $90, while the full-day program at MVCCT is $325. For more information on StagePlay, call 703-619-5206. For more information on the Mount Vernon Community Children's Theatre, visit www.mvcct.org or call 703-360-0686.