Westminster's Theater Without Limits camp is designed to give students of different learning styles, including those with physical or learning disabilities, a taste of the theatrical life. This weekend, they will join other community actors in a performance of "The Sound of Music."
"What's really neat about the camp is that it's not just a camp for children with learning disabilities. It's not just a camp for kids who are challenged. It's a camp where we accept everybody," Suzi Eldridge, artistic director said. "We have campers who are performers, and we have kids here with Down syndrome, so they are modeling and working together and learning to work as a team."
The performance is being hosted by Theater Without Limits, an organization that runs both a theater troupe of experienced actors and a week-long theater camp for students in the community. Every year, Theater Without Limits hosts a theatrical production where the 16 camp students have an opportunity to share the stage with actors from the troupe. Director Deb Carson said the campers will participate in some of the ensemble numbers of the matinee production of "The Sound of Music."
During the show, the campers will join the rest of the cast in songs such as "Do-Re-Mi" and "Edelweiss," acting as backup singers. While practicing in camp, they take the roles of the main characters themselves and act out several of the show's key scenes with Eldridge and counselors, utilizing the lessons they've learned. Counselor Rose Hahn said she loves working with children because they bring so much enthusiasm to their singing and acting.
During a rehearsal of the song "Let it Go" for their performance Friday, several of the students and counselors belted out the hit song from the Disney film "Frozen." Eldridge said they always light up when given the freedom to really project.
"If you could just bottle their energy, you'd have something really special," Eldridge said.
Throughout the week, the campers start their day with morning improvisation activities before their structured lesson. They finish the day by rehearsing their numbers for "The Sound of Music" as well as songs for an in-house performance for parents Friday.
Both the troupe and camp were created last year as a way to raise money for the North Carroll Community School.
"Both of my sons attend here," Eldridge said. "When we were looking to raise money, I figured since I'm a music teacher, and that's my passion, why don't I try and put a show together. I expected it would just be a little thing and the parents would come, but then it grew and grew."
Carson said last year they had to make do with about 10 actors for their performance of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Finding success with that show, Carson said word spread to other actors in the area, allowing them to put together a larger show this year.
"Last year we did 'Snoopy,' which was very basic and very simple, we had blocks and a dog house and that's it," Eldridge said. "Deb came to me at the end of last year and said ‘What about the "Sound of Music?"' and I said ‘No way.'"
Soon, with the help of friends and family, Eldridge said they were able to build a set, procure costumes and ready the production.
"The community really came together to help make this happen," Eldridge said. "My husband built stairs for us; we borrowed costumes from other theater groups. People from all walks of life came together to help make this happen."