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PHS grads return for Camp 56

PRINCETON – When the kids hit the stage Monday for Camp 56’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” two Princeton High School graduates will be helping to show them the ropes of putting on a play.

It will be Kirsten Andersen’s second year at camp.

“I’m back again this summer because I had such a wonderful experience last year,” Andersen said.

Both Andersen and Gwen Holmes will be working as AmeriCorps volunteers with the camp.

The camp is run by Learning Stage, which is the education committee of the Princeton Theatre Group. Learning Stage’s Amber Harper said she learned of the value of AmeriCorps volunteers when she was superintendent in the Leepertown School District.

“I was fortunate to find young, energetic, passionate individuals, college bound or recent college graduates, who are ready to work,” Harper said.

AmeriCorps volunteers receive a living allowance of $2,087 and an education award for $1,132 in exchange for 300 hours of service. Harper said the Learning Stage’s sponsoring site fee for each volunteer is $1,100, which makes the volunteers a great bargain. A grant from Church Women United helped with this year’s decision to add the second position. 

Andersen, who graduated from PHS in 2008, said she became involved with Festival 56 when she came home for summers while in college.

“The first summer I was involved, I was one of the locals cast in the chorus for ‘The Sound of Music,’” she said. “The next summer I had a much more active role in the Festival: I was not only cast as Jaquenetta in Shakespeare’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost,’ but I also was the electrics intern.”

Andersen said last summer was her first summer involved with AmeriCorps. 

“I heard about the Camp 56 position from Laura Brigham and applied to AmeriCorps with the specification that I wanted to work the camp in Princeton,” she said.

Andersen is looking forward to this year’s camp. Last year the camp focused on trying to give the campers an understanding on everything from performing to dealing with lighting and props.

“This summer the focus is going to be a bit different,” she said. “I really want to expose the kids to different modes of performance in an effort to let them see how creative they truly are.”

Andersen said there will be a lot of different improvisation games. 

“At the end, without giving too much away, we’ll have a project that the campers will create themselves from the ground up,” she said. “I’m incredibly excited about it!”

Harper, who graduated in 2009, has been involved with Festival 56 since she was a sophomore in high school.

“I played the part of the Nightingale in ‘Once Upon A Mattress,’” she said. “I had always been involved in theatre, but this was my first taste of what a big production could really be like.”

Harper said she decided  to work with AmeriCorps this summer because she thought it would be a great opportunity to combine her degree in music education with her love of theatre.

“I will be able to teach the participants in Camp 56 about something I am passionate about and have enjoyed throughout my life so far,” she said. “In the two weeks that we work with these kids, I hope that they learn a great deal about the hard work, talent and fun that go into a production.”

Holmes, who will begin her teaching career in August at Kewanee Wethersfield, said that, as a music teacher, she hopes the campers will have a better understanding of their own voices and how to use them properly in a musical theatre setting.

“Camp 56 will be a great experience for all involved,” she said.

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Camp 56 is a full-day performing arts camp, held in collaboration with the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education. The camp will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 17-28, and is open to youth age 8-18.
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