Summer camps are a dime a dozen but there are none quite like the 5 & Dime Theatre Summer Camp in #DTJax. Hosted by the theatre company that recently put down roots in Downtown, it is a true hands on and well-rounded learning experience in all things theatre. The camp spans from age 5 all the way through tenth grade, each week dedicated to a specific age group so that content can be altered appropriately. Youngsters play theatre-related games and learn the basics while the older crowd works on honing their craft and building on what they already know. The third round (July 24 – July 28) is designated specifically to musical theatre, giving campers the opportunity to expand their love for musical theatre through musical song and dance numbers and solo work. Every age group puts on a performance on their final day to show off what they’ve learned.
I had the opportunity to pay the 5-10 year old group a visit this week and while the games were wildly fun and thoroughly educational, the most impressive thing that I encountered were the instructors. There were 5 instructors for the class of 16 children which is a pretty incredible and rare ratio when it comes to summer camps. This made for a much more organized environment conducive to learning; the campers all receiving individual attention and instruction. And though the instructors have the patience of experienced elementary school teachers, they are all theatre students at well-respected universities – they’re the real deal.
Though I was only there for a short time, the thing that I liked most about what I observed was that the instructors encouraged the campers to be brave and “perform” alone in front of the crowd, to cheer each other on, to respect each other and to be polite while others are on stage. The instructors also stressed theatre etiquette. Multiple times, they asked the campers, “What do we do when someone comes off stage, regardless of their performance?” and everyone yelled, “We clap!” and started clapping.
I got to ask the campers and instructors a few questions, here’s what they had to say:
Q: What has been your favorite part of summer camp so far?
A: Playing games
A: Making sock puppets and masks
A: Arts and crafts
Q: What is the coolest thing you’ve learned so far at summer camp?
A: Learning about theatre
A: Theatre etiquitte
A: The history of theatre
Q: Do you guys want to do summer camp again next year?
A: A loud, roaring “YES!”
Q: How long have you guys been acting?
MacKenzy: I have been acting since 4th grade, Alec has been acting since 6th grade and Avery and Nathaniel started in high school.
Emily: I’ve been acting since about 5th grade.
Q: What made you guys want to teach summer camp here at 5 & Dime rather than somewhere else?
MacKenzy: I think because we have learned so much from the Jacksonville community and this is our time to give back.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching summer camp?
MacKenzy: I just love seeing how excited they get to come back. When they leave with their parents, they’re like, “No we don’t wanna leave!” and that right there just makes everything doable and worth it.
Emily: Yeah, seeing how excited they get is definitely the best part.
Q: Name one thing that you like about Downtown:
MacKenzy: Everything is local and the arts and theatre seem to be appreciated here. That’s one of the best parts about being at the 5 & Dime is that it’s Downtown.
Emily: You don’t find a lot of chains here. Everything here is very much like locals just found a nook and started a business and you find that on every corner.
Q: If you could change anything about Downtown, what would it be?
MacKenzy: I wish it was a little cleaner.
Emily: Get rid of the one-way streets.