Lights, Cameras ... Camp!

Allan Appel PhotoJamie Donovan plays six different bass pans at the same time. He stands in the middle of six drums and maneuvers around to get the 12 notes his instrument is capable of. He’s so proficient at it his teacher often calls on him to set an example of the rhythm.

No wonder he’s having a good time this summer. Playing in a steel band for the first time, he feels he always has a part and is really needed.

The new experiences and fun emerged at tech rehearsal this past Thursday for Jamie and the 70 or so other participants in the Shubert Theater’s third annual summer theater arts camp.

It operates out of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, whose teachers and students, like rising senior Gabriel Ortiz (pictured), serve as instructors and mentors to the camp’s middle-school age kids.

The young musicians, singers, movie-makers, hip-hop dancers, and visual artists were gearing up for their end-of-summer showcase for their family and friends Thursday night.

About half the campers come from New Haven. The other half from the Greater New Haven area, said the camp’s director Kjerstin Pugh. The kids attend from from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. taking two intense 90-minute classes before lunch, and another after lunch with fun and relaxation, field trips and hanging out in between.

Wednesday, for example, Matt Kelsey, who teaches video production at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School, took his summer group to check out the gadgets at the Apple Store. Thursday he was assembling the kids—some of whom were also performing in the steel band—to show the movies they had made in his short film production class.

They were going to be showing those too during tech. 

“The kids are fearless with technology,” said Kelsey. Each went from zero to writing, directing, and finishing four short films each in the two-week camp period, he said.

This is the first summer where the camp, which ran between July 7 and Aug. 1, was split into two sessions of two weeks each, added Pugh. That was to give “opportunities to explore other arts,” Pugh said.

Also new is that each of the sessions was itself divided into two. Kids like Jamie or Gina Misuralo (pictured), who hails from West Haven, could take the three-class option, while other kids who want to work strictly in musical theater did that.

The musical theater kids were also gearing up for their performance, a review based on material from Aladdin which takes place Friday night.

Click here for a story about previous year’s performance of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

While many of these kids are involved in the arts in their schools during the course of the year, the camp’s menu of classes—like the steel band—are offerings not often available at, for example, Hopkins where Jamie goes to school.

He called playing in the steel band “cool,” something he’d always wanted to try.

“He’s very solid,” said his teacher, Kenneth Joseph, who conducts the steel band at Highville Charter School in Hamden during the regular school year.

“You always have a part, you feel needed,” said Jamie.

Kat Watkins, who goes to school in North Haven, also cited a more “with it” quality to the material the kids are learning and performing. “In chorus [at her school] we sing the older songs, here we sing fun, rock-on songs,” she said.

The kids exuded quiet confidence. Gina said she was calm about the performance of “Cups” from the movie Pitch Perfect, which her group was doing with the steel band.

She admitted, however, to being a little nervous about her hip hop dance. Then she went off to find her group to get ready to rehearse it.

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