They didn’t know what to expect the first year the Abilene Performing Arts Company (known as APAC) decided to create a summer theater production camp with youths. They didn’t know it would end in a high quality, live stage production at the Paramount Theatre.
The production would incorporate all the students in grades third through 12th who had signed up for the camp regardless of skill set or experience. Plus, no audition was required to participate.
“The first summer production was amazing in that we truly had no idea we could create a live stage production in such a short amount of time,” said Lanie Westman, APAC’s executive director. “Since it was new to all of us, everyone seemed to pull together (campers and staff) as a family unit. It was an incredibly special experience!”
That first summer production in 2007, Guys and Dolls Jr., was a successful trial run with room for adjustments.
MTI (Music Theatre International) had begun offering Jr. Musicals for ages 8-18, which was perfect for this performance. Not knowing for sure how many days/weeks it would take, an estimated calculation of two full weeks from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including Saturdays, was decided upon. Eventually, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. became the more manageable choice for the summers that followed.
“Of course, there were three summers of two, two-week, back-to-back production camps before ‘manageable’ was the obvious choice of a very fatigued staff,” Westman said. “This all began a wonderful summer tradition among families from Abilene and surrounding communities that now is an anxiously awaited event by those who participate in the camp and attend the performances.”
The students (campers) and staff spend three weeks together, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first two weeks include casting, measuring for costumes, rehearsing, choreographing, creating props, and staging scenes at APAC. Week three, campers meet at the Paramount Theatre, where the final staging and dress rehearsal take place. The three weeks culminate into two, live stage performances: Friday evening and Saturday matinee. Last summer was the first time a second show was added. The 2007-2019 Production Camps concluded with one Friday evening show.
This annual camp is a popular event drawing numerous participants creating a cast size of approximately 50-70 campers depending on the production. The camp staff consists of a director, music director, choreographer and assistant, assistant director/stage manager, costumer and assistant, and a few volunteers. And, of course, once the production makes it to the Paramount Theatre, their technical director, assistant technical director and crew become a part of this fantastic tradition as well. Prior to summer, APAC’s camp director and the Paramount’s technical director meet to discuss lighting, staging, and backdrop plans beginning the process of a professional and collaborative effort of creating an amazing production experience for cast, staff, and crew.
This summer’s camp will produce Disney’s “Newsies JR.” musical at 7 p.m. Friday, July 15 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 16. Tickets are $5.
APAC’s Musical Theatre Production Camps through the years
2007: “Guys and Dolls JR.”
2008: “Alice in Wonderland JR.”
and “Back to the Eighties”
2009: “Singin’ in the Rain JR.”
and “Willy Wonka JR.”
2010: “Once Upon a Mattress JR.”
and “Annie JR.”
2011: “The Music Man JR.”
2012: “Into the Woods JR.”
2013: “Fiddler on the Roof JR.”
2014: “Thoroughly Modern Millie JR.”
2015: “Pirates of Penzance JR.”
2016: “Peter Pan JR.”
2017: “Singin’ in the Rain JR.”
2018: “Mary Poppins JR.”
2019: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang JR.”
2021: “Into the Woods JR.”
2022: “Newsies JR.”
Contributed By Abilene Performing Arts Company