Lessons encourage students to grow as actors and people

Sitting in chairs forming a neat circle during one of their lessons, the kids from the senior class at StoryBook Theatre Camp read the script they wrote together.

Concentrated on rehearsing their lines for the show they will be performing in a few weeks, emotions and occasional hand gestures start to show as they get more into their characters.

Some of them still feel nervous to let go, but for others, this is not the first time taking part in these lessons.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah Zamponi first joined StoryBook Theatre Camp two years ago. She has attended most of the seasons at this year-round theatre school ever since.

When she first decided to join, Sarah recognized that she was interested in acting and would possibly like to make a career out of it.

“When I realized I wanted to do something with it, I started taking some classes and I have so much fun here. I love it,” she says. “I never stopped. I just kept coming back.”

Sarah is currently enrolled in the senior class, along with 11 other kids in their teenage years.

Learning about themselves

They are taught valuable acting skills during the course of the camp and part of the program is based on developing more personal skills.

Stefanie Lyall, the current senior class teacher, says the camps allow kids to grow more as individuals and explore who they really are. Jesica Pearce (left) and Rachel Hardy (right) rehearse the lines for the show they will present at the end of the 10-week session.
Photo by: Sofia Lugo

“You don’t just learn how to act like a clown,” Lyall says. “I mean, you do, and it’s great, but you build confidence, you build a sense of security, you learn about yourself.”

Sarah says she used to be really shy but now, because of the acting lessons, she feels more comfortable opening up to people.

She says the camps have helped her “as a person and as a performer.”

The class environment 

While most of their camps usually have a specific theme such as Shakespeare or Disney, the current senior class for the winter camp doesn’t have one and is being created from scratch. 

During Lyall’s classes, the first half is dedicated to teaching skills such as movement, voice work, technical theatre, and improvisation.

The second half is when the group works on developing, writing and rehearsing the play. She says the idea is to give the kids a “well-rounded view of theatre.”

While these technical acting skills are an important element in these camps, Jacqueline Strilchuk — one of two directors of education at StoryBook Theatre — says, “The main purpose is to build self esteem and to promote learning with other kids.”

Jesica Pearce, 12, is also in the senior class. She says, “Since there’s no judging allowed, I find it pretty comfortable after a few days and it’s really fun.” This is the fourth time Jesica has enrolled in the theatre school.

Another 13-year-old senior class student, Rachel Hardy, says she also feels comfortable working with the other kids in her class.

“I make a lot of good friends here,” she says.

Sarah agrees with Rachel, saying that since she joined she hasn’t met anyone with a negative attitude or that she didn’t like.

Putting a show together

Sarah Zamponi, 13, rehearses her lines. Writing the script and presenting it at the end are both part of the StoryBook Theatre Camp activities.
Photo by: Sofia Lugo
 During the fall, winter and spring camps, the kids get three hours a week of training during a 10-week period.

The summer sessions are different than the rest because they run over 10 days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For every session and every age group  — junior, intermediate and senior — kids get to work on a performance that they will present at the end of the camp to friends and family.

“You can work in a production; you can write it yourself. So, it’s great performing something that you’ve made yourself,” Sarah says. “It really feels like you’re putting something that you’ve done on display.”

Strilchuk says that, while the final work is still important, instructors concentrate more on the process rather than the product they present.

Lyall adds that developing their qualities to become better people is what will be the most beneficial for the kids.

“Our most important thing, and one that we’re emphasizing, is that we’re creating confident, well-rounded, creative, critical thinkers, that are great human beings and are able to handle situations that are challenging and exciting.”

slugo@cjournal.ca