Summer Spotlight brings kids together for fun and theater arts


After a year-long hiatus, the Department of Theater and Dance’s acclaimed Summer Spotlight was back this summer.

Some 77 children had the chance to take part in the Summer Spotlight creative theater camp from July 11 to 16 and the week before, 40 children took part in the “Mini Spotlighters” camp for 4 to 7 year olds or COMICAMP. Thirty high school students are expected to participate in the next intensive summer courses from July 18 to 24.

“They can’t just sit at home and be on screen and have a normal, healthy, happy childhood,” said Tori Averett, president of Theater and Dance. “I had not considered the value of what we offer in terms of the health and well-being of children and young people. This thought really stimulated me.

For the kids at this week’s Drama Camp, however, the stress the faculty felt in hosting a summer program amid COVID-19 concerns went unnoticed.

“The best part for me is the repetition,” said 10-year-old Chris Frigge. “Before, I didn’t like to play, but I’ve gotten to grips with it now and it’s fun.”

To the casual observer, none of the kids seemed to care about protocols or masks, even though the adults did.

“It was weird with the COVID stuff,” admitted Averett, who forged a partnership with Charles Henderson Child Health Center pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Dawson to come up with a plan to make Summer Spotlight safe.

“What stood out to me the most was when Dr Dawson said that the health of young people is not just about their physical health, and although COVID is scary and we are doing our best to keep our children in healthy and safe, all of them being isolated this time is just as unhealthy as their exposure to viruses,” she said.

“The good thing about all of this is that we’re so happy to be back and the kids are happy to be back. We are sad that not everyone who wanted to come came this year due to limited numbers, but we are happy to be back,” said Averett.

Ada Cellon, 10, said without hesitation that “lunch is my favorite part of the theatre”. She added that she learned a lot of stage terminology and was excited to be able to do something with other kids.

It was a sentiment Mary Clark Brown, also 10 and a six-year Spotlight veteran, echoed.

“It’s my sixth year and I’m loving it. I’m really enjoying the experience of making new friends and learning trades that you don’t usually learn,” she said. “It also helps me with my singing and dancing.”

Averett said nearly 80% of attendees this year are like Mary Clark, comebacks.

“Parents tell us how much their child looks forward to coming to Spotlight all year, and many of those kids will tell people they ‘go to school at TROY’ because they take so much ownership of the program” , she said.

Dawson Tidwell, a junior from Spanish Fort, worked with a group of Spotlighters. He said that for him, the camp had been a very educational time.

“I had a great group and learned a lot about teaching that I didn’t know about,” he said. “I’m glad I had this chance to be involved and for the kids to not only learn how to play, but also what it takes to put on a show.”

Ethan Prendergast, 11, focused on set design and construction.

“I loved helping plan and make props. If you mess up, there’s nothing really wrong. You can just work from where you are,” he said. You can create from where you leave off.”

A photo gallery of the week is available here. Click to see photos of the showcase.


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