For 10 years Miss Mona’s School of Dance and Performing Arts on West Main Street in Salem has been teaching the area’s children all about drama and what it’s like to run a production from start to finish, all by themselves. With of course, a little bit of supervision.
The drama camp is held each year at Showtimers, in Southwest Roanoke County. The beginner’s camp began on August 3, and the advanced camp on August 10. The camp is a 40 hour, weeklong camp where campers learn to not only perform on stage but dance, sing music numbers, make costumes, act, do lighting, and create a stage set.
The show is run entirely by the students from beginning to end, including lighting technicians, costumers, program designers and stage managers and taught by Chip and Traci Addison.
“They do the whole thing themselves,” Traci Addison, with Miss Mona’s said.
The campers arrive everyday at Showtimers for camp at 8 a.m. and work on improvisation and learning their lines for the show they conduct by the end of the week. This year the beginner’s camp performed “Frumpled Fairy Tales” by Bill Springer and “Woolfie” by Sybil St. Clair. The advanced group performed “Attack of the Pom Pom Zombies”.
Guest speakers also help mold the campers into great dramatists. This year’s speakers included Karen Moore, Nancy Lawrence, Michael Ridenhour, and Heather O’Bryan.
Carrie Gladden, a Glenvar High School graduate has been doing the drama camp since she was about 8-years-old, for a solid 10 years. She now serves as a camp counselor for the advanced camp and is attending Roanoke College and will soon transfer to BYU Idaho to major in Special Education.
“I’ve always been involved in the studio. I’ve always loved it,” she said. “The campers do really well. The cool thing about the advanced camp is we don’t have to explain everything.”
Gladden said that throughout the week the campers learn improvisation, games, learn to develop their characters, blocking, and stage directions. Campers also have the opportunity to hold positions such as stage manager and work backstage, or participate on the costume committee, props committee, or program group.
“We really stress community theater, just like Showtimers,” Gladden said. “We do a lot of singing and choreography. They have a lot of fun with that. We really try to stress a triple threat and have them to do any and everything.”
Gladden said that she learned a lot about theater by participating in Miss Mona’s Drama Camp but she said she also learned to be a better person.
“I learned how to talk and project my voice, how to make friends, how to feel good about myself and know who I am,” she said. “it’s just a great place for your kids to be. it’s important for kids not just to do sports and here each person gets a chance and their time to shine and I think it’s important for them to grow as individuals.”
Will Duff, 15, and a student at Hidden Valley High School has been participating in the camp for five years now.
“I wouldn’t be in any other shows if they hadn’t helped me,” he said about the camp. “It’s fantastic.”
Alli Printz, 13, and also a student at Hidden Valley High School said that her mom originally signed her up for the camp about five years ago.
“It’s so much fun and everyone’s been coming for so long it’s like family,” she said.
“I’m still learning how every small part is important,” Kate Keeley, 12, and a student at Andrew Lewis Middle School said. “A lot of people are nervous usually but people don’t even notice. Once you’re done with a show you really want to do it again. ”
Addison said that by throughout the week-long camp they practice the show they will perform on Friday. By Wednesday they start rehearsing without a script.
“We only spend a small amount of time rehearsing which is what makes it so amazing when it comes together. We don’t allow kids to spend money on their costumes. We want them to be creative. It’s a neat experience having 7-year-olds and 17-year-olds work together. There is never a dull moment. It’s important to find the kid’s individual talents.”
Miss Mona’s Drama Camp used to be held a Miss Mona’s but when it grew to be such a big hit, they merged with a camp that Showtimers also held. Today, the drama camp is soley Miss Mona’s Drama Camp and is no longer merged with Showtimers, but they graciously let them use their facilities, Addison said.
“We are fortunate to have the support of Showtimers physically and emotionally,” she said.
Miss Mona’s encourages team-building, responsibility and preparedness in all students and they believe that drama is a great class for everyone, regardless of their interests.
Registering for Miss Mona’s drama camp is no easy feat, Addison said. Children are allowed to sign up in December and it only takes a few weeks for both camps to fill up. If you are interested in attending next summer’s drama camp contact Miss Mona’s at 387-9575 of their website at www.missmonas.com. The cost for camp is $150 for beginners and $165 for the advanced group. Each camp is 40 hours a week.