PITTSBURG — Young actors shimmied, kicked and twisted to Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” as it echoed through the halls of Memorial Auditorium.
On Monday, the young actors started their two week journey of eight-hour long days practicing lines, learning choreography and preparing blocks at the Just Off Broadway Theater Camp.
The production is a musical called “All Shook Up” based on Elvis Presley tunes.
“All Shook Up” is about a town who has a mayor who isn’t too fond of handholding, kissing and music. Throughout the musical there are traditional Shakespearean plots, Just Off Broadway Theater Camp Director Greg Shaw said.
Eighth grader Sophie Casper is in the ensemble and has two speaking parts as townspeople, which are dynamically different from each other.
“One townsperson helps the mayor who does not want music — the mayor’s buddy,” Casper said. “The other wants to be free.”
Another actress, Pittsburg High School freshman Addy Campbell will play a character named Lorraine who falls in love with the wrong guy.
Shaw said the camp was made for sixth through 10th graders who may not have as much of an opportunity to be in a full-scale show during the school year.
Upperclassmen also benefit from the camp as camp counselors, most are “camp alumni” who were in the camp when it first began three years ago.
All of the backstage work is completed by high school students — technology, stage building and more.
Pittsburg High School Senior Cassie Hurt-McLarty was covered with black paint after painting jail cells as part of the set.
“Two years ago I was in the camp,” Hurt-McLarty said. “Being a councillor gave me an opportunity to work backstage — I’m usually on stage during shows.
“It gives me appreciation of what techies have to do to put on a show.”
Shaw said sixth through eighth graders get a different perspective when learning from their upperclassmen, rather than their teacher.
“Sixth graders learn from ninth and tenth graders,” he said. “They get real examples from young people — not just the teacher.”
Campbell said dancing and acting is new to her, but she succeeds with the guidance of those around her.
“They have been really good about guiding people,” she said.
Like sports, Shaw said, theater is a collaborative effort where actors learn life skills which help them in other areas in life beyond theater.
“They learn life skills in theater, it is a collaboration which teaches them to allow others to have success and be okay with that,” he said. “The show can’t be a success unless everyone puts work into it — their skills come together to make it work.”
This is Casper’s third year in the camp, she said she enjoyed the learning environment filled with fun and singing.
“I love theater, I like being a part of something fun and meet new people,” Casper said. “I have fun singing, dancing and acting.
“I learned to have fun instead of worry about parts.”
The musical “All Shook Up” will premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 19 and there will be a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 20. Both are at the Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are available at the door for $5.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.