Sandi Carll has done summer theater camps before. Now, in a new role as Desert Foothills Theater’s education director, she’s planning to bring the best of what she’s learned for five new camps this summer.
She says many theaters try to jam an entire production in one week, leaving everyone drained and overworked — especially children who are new to the medium.
“I am very focused on taking the best parts of that performing arts experience and crafting a program that is fun and not so much work,” Carll says.
Instead, they will focus on singing, dancing, acting and putting on a smaller performance with selections from each week’s themed show.
Registration is open for the in-person camps that are divided into two groups — one for campers age 5 to 8 and the other for campers age 9 to 14. The camps run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, and before- and after-care are available for an additional fee. Because of COVID-19 protocols, classes are limited to 20 students.
The camp themes this summer are:
• “Aladdin,” June 7 to June 18 (two weeks), $495.
• “Shrek,” June 21 to July 2 (two weeks), $495.
• “Tangled,” July 12 to July 6 (one week), $250.
• “Matilda,” July 19 to July 23 (one week), $250.
• “Lights Up,” comedy and acting class, July 26 to 30 (one week), $250.
Camp instructors will have different tasks each day, but kids will still learn the songs and choreography to favorite numbers from each show.
Each show will have special activities. For example, in “Tangled,” which is a retelling of “Rapunzel,” dance instructors will teach ribbon dancing.
“The camp is designed to be different every day,” Carll says. “We’ll roll in some arts and crafts, roll in some scene work and roll in some behind-the-scenes magic.”
The camps will end with performances, because that’s what’s fun for everyone in the performing arts.
“It’s more of a student showcase,” Carll says. “We’ll have students sing and dance and share what they learned throughout the week and show off a couple of fun acting exercises they’ve done.”
Carll says each class will be joined by a professional music director, acting instructor and dance teacher. They’ll bring fun activities designed to balance the class between campers, who have no knowledge of music, dancing or acting and those that have a little experience.
Each day, campers will have music, dance and acting classes, during which campers will play games, do arts and crafts related to the show and perform for each other. Depending on the age group, the children will do activities like teach theater vocabulary, etiquette and protocol.
“Everything is built around inspiring self-confidence and inspiring the kids to think creatively,” Carll says. “Lessons are really geared to kids learning to work together and rely on each other. Kids will get positive feedback for being brave, for taking risks — because sometimes it is scary to be out here.”
The camp is designed to be a safe place for kids to try new things.
“I want to not only inspire a love for the performing arts from a young age, but when they go back to school and have to stand up in English class to read a paragraph, I want them to feel comfortable, to make eye contact and stand up and read,” Carll says. “The acting skills go well beyond the stage. They are life skills, and we want to provide an opportunity to practice those life skills.”
Eager to be back
After a year of virtual performances and shutdowns, Carll says she is thrilled the building will be filled with performers. They have already made plans for their 2021-22 season, and the camps are paving the way for the theater program’s huge comeback.
“I am most excited about coming back into our building and enjoying the arts, the sounds of singing and the excitement of dancing, and the energy that families and kids have shown to us that they’re ready to do,” Carll says.
“Families are primed for a comeback. (Kids) are ready to work hard and appreciate the opportunity to be in person, and a lot of that energy is just so positive in every way. That is exciting to me, to get to connect with kids in a way that they’ve been missing for a long time.”
Musical Theater Summer Camps
When: One- and two-week sessions from June 7 to July 30
Where: Desert Foothills Theater at The Holland Center, 34250 N. 60th Street, Scottsdale
Cost: $250 and $495