When the Tidewater Players’ Juniors theater summer camp presents its production of “The Addams Family” this week, it will be a curtain call of shorts for Dickie Mahoney, the longtime director of youth programming for Havre de Grace’s resident theater company.
Mahoney, who helped launch the juniors theater camp 16 years ago, is now the president of the Tidewater Players organization, and will be stepping back from his role organizing youth programs like the summer camps.
“I love to see the kids succeed,” said Mahoney, a former teacher in Cecil County. “I do push the kids hard to get them where they need to be for the show, I love to see them come out on top at the end. When the kids have pride in themselves and gain confidence, that’s what it’s all about for me.”
Twenty years ago, when Mahoney joined Tidewater Players, they were only doing Tidewater Teens, with older kids practicing over the summer with a performance at the end of August. He pushed to do programs for younger children during a shorter period.
“When we started summer camps, we knew parents were looking for child care but also to get their kids involved with different things to do,” Mahoney said. “I said we can meet more of a demographic. We can do more with the younger kids who really need something in the summer.”
Tidewater Juniors was born and over the years has expanded to offer roles for children ages 5 to 12.
“It’s probably my favorite camp of all the summer, it’s just a great community,” said Emma Bomboy, who is also participating in a number of sports camps this year. “Everyone is so friendly and you just have a lot of fun.”
This year’s two-week camp at Havre de Grace’s Cultural Center at the Opera House will wrap up this week with performances of “The Addams Family: Young@Part” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, along with a 2 p.m. matinee showing Saturday. Tickets are $10 for all seats and can be purchased at tidewaterplayers.com.
It isn’t the first time the Juniors group has performed “The Addams Family” — a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre that has been the subject of numerous television shows and movies since the 1960s. “The Addams Family” musical debuted on Broadway in 2010, and the Tidewater Junior performed it about three years ago, Mahoney said.
While the Tidewater Players continued summer camps last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people than usual participated and the group took a financial hit. They still had costumes and set pieces from “The Addams Family” performance a few years earlier, so it was something they could do with limited funds but still have the actors and their families enjoy, Mahoney said.
“But more importantly, this show, there’s something about this show,” Mahoney said. “All ages love it. Kids love it, teens love it even more, everyone loves this show — and it’s just silly nonsense.”
Mahoney said they try to pick shows for the Juniors group where younger, less experienced actors can be part of the smaller ensemble.
“We level the choreography, so for our smaller actors it’s at their capabilities while we can still push our [older] actors,” he said. “Even our choreography, we try to make it so it fits all talents and all genres.”
Titus Lyttle, who will play Uncle Fester in this week’s shows, said he enjoys the camp and the pressure of performance.
“I like the stress that musical theater gives me, I don’t know why, but performing gives me a good kind of stress,” he said. “I really enjoy like all the adrenaline.”
For Mahoney, it will be a different sort of stress with it being his last Juniors show. Passionate about theater, as a high schooler more than two decades ago, he worked at a young people’s theater program at Cecil College in Elkton and realized how much he enjoyed working with kids.
“When I put kids and theater together, it was magic,” said Mahoney, now 41.
He enjoys being able to put the children in a position to be successful on stage. “The kids do the hard work, I just give them the tools,” he said.
Because of the fast-paced nature of the summer camps — youth have little more than a week and a half to prepare for their performance — there can be some bumps along the way, but Mahoney is a big believer that “once you give a kid a chance, no matter what their age is, they rise to the occasion.”
When its time to perform, he doesn’t focus on the hiccups.
“What I focus on is the kids and how they look and how they feel. Because you can see, at the end of the show when we come out for curtain call and they’ve got those huge smiles on their faces and they just look so excited and their families are cheering for them, it’s just a feeling you just never know until you’re there,” Mahoney said.
“The pride and the confidence the kids have at that moment, after they’ve done the show, their parents are cheering for them and I tell the kids, this is the one time in your life that 201 people are on your side and that’s it, that’s what it’s all about.”
If you go
What: Tidewater Juniors present “The Addams Family: Young@Part”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Cultural Center at the Opera House, 121 N. Union Ave., Havre de Grace
Tickets: $10 each and can be purchased at tidewaterplayers.com