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Fayette-Mom: A summer theater camp worth the winter rush

Posted July 24, 2014

— Forgive me if I gush, but we’re coming off one of the best summer camp experiences we’ve ever had.

You always hear about the camps that fill up quickly, the ones in which registration opens in February and are full by March. Part of me has always been tempted to rebel against that idea. I think, what is the big rush? What about living in the moment?? Summer is months away, and I’ll worry about that when the time comes. If a camp is full then, oh well, it just wasn’t meant to be.

After this summer, I’ll be resisting that temptation as much as possible.

The summer drama camp at Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville is worth every moment of pre-planning. This was our second year participating, and once again, I am blown away by what these kids accomplish in such little time, as well as the many takeaways these young folks gain from the experience.

In just two weeks, these kids, many of whom have very little stage experience at all, put on a full-fledged production, complete with solo and ensemble singing, choreographed dance numbers and acting performances that will make your jaw drop. This year, the show was “Annie, Jr.," and as I watched the chorus of dazzling orphans and giggled at the wise-cracking ,one-liners coming from mini versions of Miss Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks, it was hard to remember that these kids were not professionals, and had only practiced for a handful of days.

I mean, the three little girls that took turns playing Annie had to deal with a real-life (and adorable) dog that kept running off the stage—and they didn’t skip a beat! The word amazing tends to be overused these days, but in this case, it is an entirely appropriate way to describe the shows these kids put on. Amazing.

At the helm of it all is a husband and wife team, Jae and Sean Powell, who are in their sixth year of directing and producing together. Jae directs the music and Sean works on acting. The level of their teaching talent is easily apparent in the end result.

How do they do it? How do they take 68 campers and pull off such a wonderful production in such a short amount of time? Maybe it’s the fact that they are a young, fresh couple that appears not to be long off the student stage themselves. The kids can easily relate to and have fun with them.

Certainly part of their brilliance lies in the wisdom of keeping the parents out of the production process:  Auditions and rehearsals are strictly off limits, with the directors promising the wait will be worth it. And indeed it is. It was hard to find anyone leaving one of the three weekend performances without a smile on their faces.

As a parent of one of the campers, I can tell you that the children leave camp having learned so many lessons they will use later in life, whether or not their futures include more stage time. How to work as a group; how to take on a large task and get ‘er done, while still managing to have fun; how anything is possible when you’re willing to put in the time.

Each kid feels as though they were an important part of a special thing, and that is wonderful for parents to see.

The two-week sessions of Annie camp are over for the summer, but the Powells are not resting. They have two more mini-sessions of Annie camp to go, and I encourage everyone to try and catch the performances on July 26 and Aug. 2. I have no doubt it will be worth your time.

And as for me? I’m already putting sticky notes on my calendar for next year (yes, I’m old-fashioned) …. making sure I don’t miss registration for summer drama camp. Just the thought of it has me smiling already.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. She writes about motherhood and, starting this week, family-friendly events in Fayetteville.

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  • Dorothy Davis Jul 26, 2014
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    I will miss Sean's talent at Seventy-First High School. He is a treasure of talent.