Second Annual Genesee Community College Youth Theatre Camp 'Overwhelming Success,' Director Says

Genesee Community College’s second annual Youth Theatre Camp, which concluded July 27, was an “overwhelming success”, according to Maryanne Arena, Genesee Director of Fine and Performing Arts, who directed the camp.

The success of the camp, which ran three weeks from July 9 to July 27 can be measured in many ways, Ms. Arena told members of the College’s Board of Trustees this evening. First was the number served – 46 children between the ages of 8 and 16, double the number of children served the year before. “The response was amazing,” she said. “I had to turn people away.”

Next was the July 27 capstone production of the camp, Alice in Wonderland. About 360 people – mostly friends, neighbors, and relatives of the youth performers – attended. The College’s Stuart Steiner Theatre, which holds about 320 people, could not accommodate the attendance. “We packed them in the theatre, and then we set up remote video in the lobby so that everyone could see the stage,” she said.

Ms. Arena began the camp during the summer of 2006, not knowing what to expect. “I knew there was interest in theatre among young people, but I thought that a new camp might attract 15 to 20 kids, but we ended up with 23 last year…and a waiting list.”

Although most young people look at the theatre camp as entertainment, it teaches valuable skills, Ms. Arena told trustees. Participants learn voice, acting, and movement skills. “All of these skills transfer to the classroom or any other venue,” noted Ms. Arena. “When a child gets up on stage for the first time and is able to command the attention of others with speaking or acting, that child develops poise and confidence. They don’t leave the campus the same way they came in.”

The camp also teaches a variety of technical theatre skills, including set building, lighting, sound, painting, and stage design. Genesee Community College Theatre Arts students served as counselors, assisting Ms. Arena with the 2007 camp.

Next year, Ms. Arena would like to expand the camp further. The capstone production will probably be a musical, giving area young people the opportunity to learn music skills as well as theatre skills.

“The Youth Theatre Camp is an unqualified success,” she said. “I can just see the camp becoming bigger and better every year.”