Curtain rises for productions by theater campers at Lee University

Curtain rises for productions by theater campers at Lee University

June 28th, 2011 by By Paul Leach in News

Staff File Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - The flame and fountain at Lee University serves as a foreground to a pickup basketball game.

Staff File Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free...

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Lee University wraps up its ninth annual round of summer theater camps with student productions Thursday evening at the Edna Minor Conn Theatre.

Elementary students will perform a collection of plays based on folk tales at 6:30 p.m., and high school students will perform the comedy "Breaking News" at 7:30 p.m.

The camps aim to teach stage skills and more, according to Lee Theatre faculty member Dan Buck. Buck, who has several years of theatrical and improvisational performance experience, has a hands-on outlook.

"Theater wakes you up," he said. "It's healthy for people's souls."

The two-week camps give youngsters a chance to experience theater outside school, which often limits exposure to extracurricular activities as opposed to ongoing classes, Buck said.

Camper Nick Wilbanks, a high school junior, said he was turned on to theater after seeing a production of "My Fair Lady," and he views the camp experience as a great way to get involved with the stage. He praised the instructors for being straightforward and getting down to business.

Ninth-grader Maddie Brashier, of Chickamauga, Ga., said the long daily trip was worthwhile because the camp has given her the chance to improve her theatrical skills.

"This is a chance for me to learn stage direction," she said.

The summer camp exercises, rehearsals and productions also teach self-esteem, but not necessarily in an individual way, Buck said. He emphasized the importance of awakening students' awareness of the world outside of themselves so they can perform as a team.

While rehearsals are meant to perfect a production, the building blocks for rehearsals include a number of games and exercises designed to improve the students' confidence to explore and to take direction, Buck said.

A favorite game of the students is "Morph," in which students take turns mimicking each other's gestures and vocalizations, much like a round-robin version of hyperactive "Simon Says," Buck said.

"The first thing we learn is that no one is cool," he said. "The students need to have a safe place to fail. The task of putting on a play is the ultimate exercise."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland, Tenn. Email him at