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Attention Thespians: NIU Theatre Camps Going Online This Summer

Photo provided by Kendra Holton.

Theatre has been a part of society for at least 2500 years. Northern Illinois University is making sure it continues, regardless of the pandemic.

As it has in the past, NIU is hosting theatre camps for middle schoolers and high school thespians. This time, the camps are virtual. Kendra Holton is an assistant professor at the university's School of Theatre and Dance. She says it will be a different experience online, but kids and their parents can still expect an excellent experience.

"We'll have scene study where they have a partner and they have lines and they need to be human together," she said. "They'll have a teacher to guide them through that."

Holton said they would be teaching improv, too which "will be very similar to how it feels in person, but it will be very different and taught differently."

They will also teach campers how to "self-tape." "It's the art of framing oneself appropriately and giving an audition piece online," she explained. Holton added that self-taping is already happening in the industry and this is a valuable skill for young actors to learn.

The theatre camps will also provide voice and movement classes, design and technical theatre workshops, and acting for musical theatre. Holton said kids will have the opportunity to rehearse a piece with a small group online, and then perform it live for "anyone in the world who receives the link and would like to watch it."

She added that the kids will be building a very particular skill set that is part theatre and part live television. "We think it'll be exciting for them," she said. "It's certainly very exciting for us to teach."

Besides experiencing the fun and confidence-building that is inherent in theatre camps, students will also be taught how to build lasting, meaningful, professional relationships. Holton said that in the past, campers and staff have frequently gone on to work together. She expects that tradition to continue.

"Relationships are everything in the entertainment industry," she said. "The key to being remembered is no different online than in person."

Holton listed ways for kids to be remembered for future work:

  • Show up focused
  • Be enthusiastic and ready to go
  • Be prepared
  • State your purpose

"If you want to be remembered for future work," Holton said, "say that to your teachers. Say, 'I would like you to consider me if you have a project in the future.'" That extra step of communication could help ensure that a young actor is taken seriously. 

Holton emphasized that parents play a crucial role in the success of their children's ability to form positive relationships. "I would advise parents to be savvy," she said, "and to help their kids be outspoken about their hopes for future collaborations."

Holton said campers need high speed internet along with a device that has a camera and microphone.

"They also need a quiet space where they can move in their own homes," she said, "and we will help them set that up." That space will be their home acting studio. "It can be small, that's fine," Holton said, "but it will need to be private, so they can focus."

Middle school theatre camps run July 12-17. High school theatre camps run July 19-24. And, Holton said, "It's worth mentioning that we've cut our registration costs in half." Though kids won't have the experience of sleeping and dining in the dorms, they will receive the same number of class content hours that they would have received in person. And now, because everything is online, travel is no longer a problem.

"We're hoping for a really mixed group, beyond the normal community we serve, which is almost always Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin." When asked if she thinks she'll get international students this summer, she said, "I really hope we do."

For more information about NIU's theatre camps, click here.