STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
The wind will come sweeping down the stage in Collegeville. Facetime Theatre’s Summer Stage’s production of “Oklahoma!” is the culmination of a three-week intensive theater camp experience.
Now in its fourth year, Summer Stage, created by Phoenixville’s Facetime Theatre, offers two camps and productions each summer. July’s show was “Children of Eden.” August features the classic Oscar Hammerstein musical.
To participate in Summer Stage, kids entering fourth grade through college age register then audition to participate in three-week sessions that culminate in a full-length Broadway show performance. College-aged kids work as interns as well and they usually are the main lead roles in the shows, though not always.
Maddie Parker, 13, of Collegeville, is a featured dancer in “Oklahoma!” She used to take dance classes and still remembers her skills, she said. Plus, they practice a lot in camp.
“I like it because it’s really fun and it’s awesome to do,” she said in a telephone interview. “Everybody there is nice and they make it fun and funny.”
Parker, who’s going into eighth grade at Spring-Ford Elementary School, has participated in Summer Stage for two years. Performing is fun.
“I like it because you get to be somebody that you’re not usually,” she said. “You get to experience all different types of culture and people and go in people’s shoes and, like, feel what they’re feeling.”
When the shows open, she’s nervous, but everybody is.
“Once you’re out there, you just gotta shine and do your best,” she said.
Kate Nice, co-director, said in a recent telephone interview that’s the goal – to help children be all they can be in theater.
“We are trying to teach the kids about putting on a production, about working together, and all aspects of theater,” she said. “By the time we open the curtain and I get to sit and watch the kids put on the show, it’s awesome.”
Nice knows she and the staff are helping children gain confidence as well as teaching them about theater and having a good time.
“To have anything to do with having a student feel that way is the biggest joy of the whole thing,” she said.
Molly Williams, 23, of Collegeville, said theater has changed her life.
“Camp opens you up,” she said. “And theater has challenged me to continue to grow.”
Williams is a college intern at Summer Stage for the fourth year. She’s a featured dancer in “Oklahoma!” as well.
“I love it so much. Every year is just better and better,” she said in a telephone interview.
Williams does hair and makeup for everybody in the show as her job. Other interns work with sets, props, and other behind-the-scenes aspects that the show requires. It’s been a huge learning experience for her.
“This is so beneficial, to see everything behind the scenes and on the stage,” she said.
Being in the shows is fun, too. Williams, who will graduate from West Chester University in December, wasn’t familiar with “Oklahoma!” beyond the eponymous song, but loves it now.
“Some of the scenes are hilarious,” she said.
Participating in Summer Stage has also brought her amazing relationships.
“We’re like a family now,” she said. “These people are like my best friends.”
Parker, who is young enough to participate again (Williams is aging out), said she loves theater, but she really likes the people. And she appreciates everyone’s hard work.
“Kate and the staff – they’re the reason this all happens,” she said. “It’s just awesome. I hope to come back for years to come.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Oklahoma!” by Facetime Theatre’s Summer Stage
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 6-7; 2 p.m. Aug. 8
Where: Ursinus College’s Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center, 601 E. Main Street, Collegeville, PA 19426