Planning, planning, planning! That is what we’ve been all about over here in Education Land this week at Gulfshore Playhouse. With so much Florida state testing coming up, our ThinkTheatre in-school programs are in high demand in the month of February. I’ve been working with educators across Lee and Collier County to create ThinkTheatre residencies that integrate the arts with the Florida education standards across many subject areas and grade levels. We’re keeping our new Teaching Artist, Kate, quite busy running from school to school and teaching all across the curriculum!
But ThinkTheatre residencies aren’t the only thing coming up for Gulfshore Playhouse Education! This summer, we are expanding our STAR Summer Camp program to include an ambitious ten—that’s right, TEN—summer camps! With ten camp offerings for children ages 4 through 17, as well as a high school counselor program, we couldn’t be more excited to open our doors to the children of Naples this summer.
Among our ten summer camps are two very special performance opportunities for children ages 8 through 13: Our “STAR in a Musical” campers will be performing Disney’s Cinderella Kids, and our “STAR in a Play” campers will be performing a brand-new adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s beloved classic, Peter Pan and Wendy! Our older campers will have some amazing opportunities as well, including the chance to study the art of theatre with Gulfshore Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director, the illustrious Kristen Coury. Even our youngest campers, ages 4 through 7, will have the chance to be a part of Peter Pan and Wendy through our “STARs in Neverland” camp, which allows these little STARs to join the “big kids” for the show—as well as several camps of their own!
“TEN summer camps?” you might be thinking. “And two performances? That’s a lot!”
You’re right—it is a lot. We have been planning this summer since the last summer ended. There have been many meetings, phone calls, back and forth email exchanges, drafts, et cetera – and there are surely more to come. Our wonderful Technical Director Alex Van K has sent me three scenic samples for Disney’s Cinderella Kids today alone. I’m only just ankle deep right now in writing the base script for Peter and Wendy as it is, and I’m sure the final draft won’t be done until the day after our “STAR in a Play” camp starts. Not because of a lack of preparation, but because I will be making script changes to accommodate every single camper and showcase their talents and skills.
So why do all this work? What makes the effort worth it?
At Gulfshore Playhouse, we believe that children need to experience the magic of theatre not just by watching, but by doing. That’s why our ThinkTheatre program is so valuable during the school year—instead of just seeing theatre, students are able to have a hands-on, kinesthetic experience with theatre through games and activity that also teach to the curriculum.
But during the summer, school’s out! ThinkTheatre takes a hiatus—and so does our regular season. As our professional actors depart, our stage at the Norris Center belongs to the kids! And what an amazing opportunity, right? The children who take advantage of our STAR Summer Camps get to perform on the same stage as our professional actors, act on sets and in costumes designed and built by our talented technicians, and learn from our incredible staff.
I can say from experience that this kind of devotion to theatre education is not something that you will find at many theatres. I can’t think of one employee of Gulfshore Playhouse who hasn’t had at least something to do with our education programs, especially our STAR Summer Camps. No one is dismissive of our programs that serve the children of our community—as a whole, Gulfshore Playhouse shows true dedication and commitment to reaching these kids, and sees the value and worth in providing them with excellent theatre education programs.