Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Gimme Gimme!” Teen performers in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” dance, sing and reach for the stars in ArtPlay drama camp

Step into the Sirote Theatre at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center and the sound of laughter and a happy hum of giddy conversation reach the rafters. The 40 teen performers are enthusiastic, brimming with energy and fidgeting with excitement, but the moment the director calls for quiet, the teens take their places on stage and ready themselves for acting, dancing and singing.

The 12-18 year olds are participating in one of ArtPlay’s annual drama camps, presenting the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr.” It’s one of the biggest shows ArtPlay has ever produced, and the two weeks of day camp culminate in a full performance for friends and family Friday, July 20 at 6 p.m. in the Alys Stephens Center.

During camp students work on improvisation, warm-ups, concentration exercises, voice and diction, terminology, acting and stage production, all while developing a character and rehearsing for the full stage production. “These kids are something else,” says Heath Mixon, ArtPlay associate director. “They came in committed. They sing the songs before and after camp, during lunch, all the time.”

One student discovered the camp all the way from Guam, and signed up since she would be spending the summer in Birmingham with her father. Many of the show’s leads definitely have dreams of Broadway and performing, and have found the perfect place to chase those dreams through ArtPlay and the Alys Stephens Center.

“The teen camps are always special because we get to see exciting new talent, and work with kids who have been with us for the past four or five summers,” says Kimberly Kirklin, director of ArtPlay. “Two of our students, Grace Stermer and Crews Owen, will actually be celebrating their 10th drama camp production with us Friday.” Both Stermer and Owen are 12—meaning they’ve participated in 2 or 3 of the two-week drama camps each summer. When asked about the camp, Stermer’s face lit up with a smile. “I really enjoy them,” she says.

This particular group of teens is extremely focused and has had an incredibly positive impact on the teachers and staff, Kirklin says.

"‘Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr.’ is not an easy show to produce, but these kids have been an absolute joy to work with. We will certainly look back on this summer with fond memories,” Kirklin says.

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