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reativity and imagination reign even in todays world of technology and its overuse by children. Picture this: Lady Gaga is disgraced at a concert. She runs away with Beyonce to a place called Boulderland, where she runs into her long-lost high school sweetheart who has been turned into a rock. The women are kidnapped by an evil doctor, who holds a vendetta against the flashy singer after not being called on stage at a concert. Lady Gagas love saves them and they get married. Lady Gagas saga, called Little Monsters, was the creation of a group of 10 middle school students through the Baltimore Theatre Projects Teen Summer Lab. The ensemble-based, performance-created theater camp exposes participants to different aspects of theater, including vocals, puppets, dance, beat-boxing, comedy and improvisation, as well as the technical responsibilities and requirements of putting on a show. During three-week camp, guest artists from a variety of theatrical disciplines, including choreography, singing, writing, dance, comedy, improvisation and performance skills, taught and performed for the campers. Camp Director Donna Sellinger, a full-time member of a national touring theater company, grew up participating in community and youth theater, and ultimately professional theater. She finds the camp an effective way to expose kids to the ins and outs of creating modern theater. The campers jointly wrote and performed in the play, designed the costumes and provided feedback on each others acting and dancing. The camp culminated in a performance of the play on the Theatre Project stage during Artscape. On the camps first day, Ms. Sellinger asked participants to show an item that personally inspired them. One camper brought a Lady Gaga compact disc; another showed The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein; and another presented his inhaler. They discussed what was inspiring and what they could do on stage. We started from the place of their inspiration and excitement, says Ms. Sellinger. Making theater from what is inspiring and exciting to them makes theater more exciting and interesting and relevant to their lives. The camp, Ms. Sellinger says, enables the participants to do things they cant normally do, like writing the play and assuming roles they wouldnt normally play. Its not about what the audience would like to see, but what theyd really like to make, she explains. Ms. Sellinger was pleasantly surprised by the campers, who were younger than she expected. I was continually surprised by how engaged they all were in the process, she says. Every person was really into it and cooperated and got along. To me that is the most unexpected. Ms. Sellinger encouraged the campers to be themselves and express themselves on stage and in their journal entries, meant to be shared with the group. Nathalie Axel, age 12 and a seventhgrade student at Pikesville Middle School, played an asparagus in one scene. In the opening scene, she was a backup dancer in Lady Gagas show. I enjoyed the dancing; the choreography was fun, she says. It was hip hop, jazzy, glamorous. Asher Kaye, also 12, played Rockman, Gagas long-lost love. The Roland Park Country School student has been interested in acting throughout his life. Through this camp, he says, he has learned plenty of skills writing plays, warming up, having the right mindset, acting, character development and displaying emotion. Its really good for young actors trying to get more skills, says Asher, who attends services at the Bolton Street Synagogue. This taught me a lot. Nathalie, who also hopes to be an actress as an adult, particularly liked the work on projecting her voice and playwriting. It was a great group of kids that worked together well, says Nathalie, also a member of the Bolton Street Synagogue. Ive only known them for three weeks but I feel like Ive known them forever. The Teen Summer Lab at the Baltimore Theatre Project will be offered again in 2011. For applications and information on spring audition workshops, e-mail office@theatreproject.org or call 410-752-8558. I
Linda Esterson is a local freelance writer.

LItTLe MONSTeRs
Creativity reigns at the Baltimore Theatre Teen Summer Lab.

On Stage
Linda Esterson Special to the Jewish Times Justin Tsucalas Photographer

Nathalie Axel (left) and Bronte Robinson (right) in Little Monsters.

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January 2011 iNSIDER/Camps 1

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