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Youth theater camps look hopefully to the summer

As uncertainty looms due to social distancing surrounding COVID-19, performing arts organizations are on hold until further notice. Maui youth theater camps remain optimistic that their summer musicals will commence as scheduled. Theatre Theatre Maui, Maui Academy of Performing Arts and Maui OnStage have begun open enrollments that will culminate with performances of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” “Disney Moana JR.” and “DreamWorks’ Madagascar: A Musical Adventure JR.” in July.

The Lahaina-based TTM has provided theater opportunities to west side youth for more than 25 years. I asked Kristi Scott, director of “Willy Wonka,” how long she has been spending her summers with TTM and why she returns.

“I believe ‘Willy Wonka’ will be my 10th or 11th camp. I’ve watched many of these kids grow up since kindergarten. There are so few theater programs available to west side students during the school year and it’s great to be able to bring them a program during the summer,” said Scott.

I inquired why TTM should prepare for the theater camp in spite of the turbulent situation for performing arts organizations. “Endless days of nothing to do can lead to boredom, listlessness and in some cases, bad choices. There are so many benefits to doing theater camps. There is always something new to learn and do in camp, and there is nothing like sharing creativity with other people. I think we will all need to hope for some positivity and normalcy this summer,” Scott related.  

David Johnston, executive and artistic director, and Hoku Pavao, assistant artistic director of the Maui Academy of Performing Arts, shared their thoughts on preparing for youth camp.

“I suppose I’m a cockeyed optimist, but I think we’re all preparing to come back with a new awareness of community. Art brings people together and the world is going to need that after this,” said Pavao.

“Our educational programs are on pause,” said Johnston. “This will subside at some point. This virus is causing us as a society to reassess ourselves. It’s a great chance to move past divisiveness and to shift our way of thinking towards working together. This is a great opportunity to reinforce that with the kids, working together towards a common goal,” he added.

” ‘Moana’ is all about connecting to the unknown and journeying farther than one believes one can go. I felt this was the journey MAPA needed to take,” expressed Pavao, who will also direct “Moana.” Because “Moana” has a smaller cast than previous MAPA youth shows, Johnston suggested double casting the leading roles. “It makes the experience equitable. Every kid gets to have an excellent educational experience,” Johnston said.

Dejah Padon, director of “Madagascar,” also commented on why youth camps should begin their preparations.

“It is important to keep moving forward, especially during times of uncertainty. By signing up for future events you are inspiring a strong human need to have hope.”

I asked what the most rewarding aspect of youth camps is.

“I would have to say it’s the process. When the youth experience the process of putting a play together, using creativity, imagination, collaboration, teamwork, time management, accountability and self-confidence they are building valuable skills that will continue throughout their life,” Padon related.  ” ‘Madagascar JR.’ has over 20 parts and it is really a fun show. We try to find musicals that involve a lot of fun characters. This enables us to give each youth participant a chance to have their moment to shine.”

• TTM’s “Willy Wonka” camp is for students entering grades 4 through 12 and takes place 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays June 8 through July 16, with performances July 17 through 26. Tuition is $399 per child (if paid before May 15 or $425 if after) with payment plans and financial aid available for qualifying families. To register or for more information, visit www.ttmwestmaui.org.

• MAPA’s “Moana JR.” camp is for students age 9 to 18 and takes place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays June 8 through July 16, with performances July 17 through 26. Tuition is $895 per child with payment plans and scholarships available for qualifying families. To register or for more information, visit www.mauiacademy.org

• Maui OnStage’s “Madagascar JR.” camp is for students ages 7 to 15 and takes place 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays June 8 through July 17 with performances July 18 through 26. Tuition is $650 per student with sibling discounts, scholarships and payment plans available for qualifying families. To register or for more information, visit www.mauionstage.com.