The Ragland Ross Theater’s Youth Summer Day Camp will be putting on a production of “Madagascar Jr. — A Musical Adventure” at 2 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 13.
Tori Lancaster, the director of the show, has been working with the Ross Ragland’s education program for five years, but this is her first year directing during the summer day camp, which is in its 12th year this year. She said that the theater has provided a lot of opportunities for children in the community to become involved in the performing arts.
“It’s just an amazing theater, and it has really grown its education program,” she said. She said that a lot of the kids at the camp, which is three weeks long, have received scholarships from the theater in order to participate.
“About half of our kids are on partial or full scholarships,” Lancaster said. “The theater gives so many opportunities to so many kids.”
Lancaster said that the camp is open to children from fourth to 120th grade, and the ages of the children in “Madagascar Jr.” range from 9 to 17 years old. Regardless of age or theater experience, though, she said that the children get a lot out of doing a production.
“They learn all the elements. They do technical theater, so they learn stuff about sets and lights and costumes as well as learning singing, dancing, acting, and all of these different production elements,” she said.
“They learn their music and dances and blocking week one, we put it together week two and they’re in technical rehearsals through week three, and they do their production this Saturday,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster said that while a goal of the camp is to put on a great show, it is also important to consider the other opportunities that kids can receive from being involved in the performing arts.
“At the Ragland’s education program, we’re really focused on process over product. Yes, we want a beautiful show that the kids are proud of but it’s about what we learned, what we took away, how did each kid grow individually,” she said. “There is a percentage who will go on and theater will be their life, it will be a future career, and that’s great. We want to foster that and encourage that,” Lancaster said.
But Lancaster thinks that doing theater provides important life lessons for the kids who won’t go on to have a career in the theater, too.
“They learn public speaking, teamwork and the appreciation and the valuing of the arts, which is so valuable,” she said. “So, yes, we are training a few kids the rigor of what it would be like to do a semi-professional kind of production, but at the same time, we are teaching some of the other kids self-confidence, encouraging them to overcome stage fright and really just enriching their experience.”
Lancaster said “Madagascar Jr.” is a fun, comedic show that will be great for the whole family, and a good introduction to theater for young children.
“It is an adaptation of the DreamWorks movie, they’ve written a ton of songs for it. It’s about a 45- to 50-minute show,” Lancaster said. “It’s a very fun production. It’s short, it would be a great introduction to bring kids to. It’ll be a really fun show, I really encourage anyone to come.”