There is a kind of nerve-wracking excitement, a kind of tightrope balancing act, a kind of walking on eggs — the eggs being the delicate egos of every child in our summer program. Every child who walks in is due the opportunity to succeed, learn and grow and, least of all, to find out if this art form is for them, alongside the potential talent development of some first-time thespian hopefuls. One has the glorious opportunity to engage a child, to stoke that small fire of interest or, by chance, to extinguish it forever with an offhand comment or glib remark (for which, I regret to say, I have been infamous and must learn to curb).
The Parks and Rec Summer Playhouse is very dear to me. When Richard Gildrie suggested the idea some 24 years ago to Starlene Shackelford Sykes, then head of Parks and Rec, she jumped at the opportunity to umbrella the arts under the Parks and Rec Summer Youth Program. This award-winning program is essential to our community, especially since we do not have year-round schooling, which makes summer an unstructured and possibly treacherous time (idle hands, etc.).
Melissa Atkins, our immediate supervisor at Parks and Rec, sees to it that we have everything we need to facilitate, serve and care for the sixty young people who sign up for the Summer Playhouse. She gives us an almost daily heads-up on the summer’s progress, and she is an unsung hero to many who don’t even know she exists outside of Tom, Travis Kendrick and I. But she does, and we must laud her for her efforts.
Our days here begin with yoga at 8am, followed at 9am by the morning meeting for the summer interns: Summer Aoki, Ali Arnold, Gavin Berlyak, Jesse Boyle, Kourtni Cottrell, Whitney Flickinger, Samantha Grimes, Truman Jepson, Hannah Kitterman, Ashley Knowles, Saige Mazur, Katherine McCarty, Sidney McCarty, Jenna Meredith, Lauren Mund, Madeline O’Connor, Christian Rieke and Amy Wyer. At 9:30am, the cast of Captain Louie — Hannah Church, Regan Featherstone, Humberto Figueroa, Erin Keas, Sean Ormond, Rob Rodems and Amy Wyer — rehearses until 11:30am, at which time the interns work on dance and stage movement with Travis Kendrick after their 11am lunch under the marquee, where they voluntarily solicit potential ticket buyers.
At 1pm, the Parks and Rec Summer Playhouse participants join the interns for a dance routine staged by Tom Thayer. Then I have the joy and pleasure of workshopping with them my adaptation of Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, which is scheduled for next winter, while Travis works on improvs until 3pm.
At 5pm, the Dalmatians show up — all 101 of them — for their 6pm performance, followed by the evening performance of The Wedding Singer. And last Saturday, Tim Ghianni and Rob Dollar had their book signing in the lobby while parents and friends photographed their children in their 101 Dalmatians costumes. So, that midday nap is nowhere in the summer picture.
See you at the theatre!