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STAR Camp Teaches Performing Arts to Kids

June 28, 2005 – The Virgin Islands Department of Education has teamed up with Pistarckle Theater to offer STAR 2005, Summer Theater Performing Arts Camps.
The seven-week program offers three sessions including instruction in drumming, ballet, jazz, tap, capoeria (a Brazilian martial art), basic gymnastics, spoken-word poetry, world dance traditions, creating found instruments, stage combat, acting for the camera, leadership and general acting.
"Theater covers so many aspects of art that the federal government has stated that theater is the best art form for pre-risk or at-risk children because it involves the entire child. It's a collaborative art, different than sculpting or painting," said Nicola Emerich, art producing director.
Emerich said that while this is a fun and learning experience, children applying for theater camp need to be ready to sink or swim from the very beginning — they are expected to audition.
"It's totally frightening. But it's the only way I can find out if they're committed enough to break through that fear. Usually they manage to do something," she said. "If you're going to be on the stage, you have to be willing to put yourself out there in front of people."
Pistarckle offered a version of STAR last summer, and plans were already in the works to schedule another one for this summer. "The Department of Education approached us and asked us to do a longer camp and with more children," said Emerich.
The STAR camp will accommodate 49 children per session. Instruction will also include civics lessons — a volunteer from Kidscope will talk to the students about how to deal with situations they may be confronted with such as domestic violence, drugs or bullying.
The seven-week program is offered in addition to the regular four-week Pistarckle camp with classes in acting and production that ends up in a full musical production of a show, this year "Sleepy Hollow." That session is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Twenty-seven students are participating.
Emerich has been conducting summer camps since 1998, and she said it keeps getting better. "We're attracting better children every year. They come back year after year," she said. "They're all at a certain level of commitment. They all need to want to be there and take direction, and they all seem to be rising to the occasion."
The schedule for the STAR camp is as follows:
July 11-15, Introduction to Theater Week
Classes will be led by Rick Ausland, a percussionist, drummer and tap dancer, and Bethany Burgess-Smith, an acting teacher. Registration for the introductory week is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, July 8 and from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, July 9. The fee is $10.
July 18-August 5, Session 1
Classes will be led by Rick Ausland, Bethany Burgess-Smith and Elizabeth Guilliams, a choreographer and dance teacher. Registration is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, July 15, and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 16. The fee is $30.
August 8-26, Session 2
Classes will be led by Bethany Burgess-Smith, Elizabeth Guilliams and Benjamin Hall, a percussionist and drummer. Registration is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, August 5, and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, August 6. The fee is $30.
Students age nine to 15 are encouraged to audition for the sessions. Classes will be conducted Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Pistarckle Theater in Tillett Garden. For more information, call the Pistarckle Theater at 775-7877.

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