Ocala Civic Theatre to host performing arts camp

Registration is open for the Arts for All youth summer intensive workshop.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted April 12, 2024 | By Lisa McGinnes


Ocala Civic Theatre (OCT) is offering a robust experience for young people to immerse themselves in the performing arts by bringing back the popular Arts for All summer intensive.

Open to anyone age 9-17, the program gives students the chance to major and minor in two of four disciplines—drama, dance, art and music—plus take general classes in the other areas. Instructors will include teaching artists from OCT’s Academy plus guest artists from the community. The five-week day camp’s grand finale will be two productions presented for community audiences.

New this year, Arts for All Too will feature a less intense immersive to expose students age 6-8 to various techniques of live theater, from acting, movement and music to scene painting, lighting and props. The younger set will perform in a showcase presented after workshops conclude, and auditions are not required. Arts for All Too is limited to 20 students.

Registration for Arts for All is now open and is limited to 60 students age 9 and up. Although participants are required to take part in a placement audition, admission is not competitive and auditions will assist instructors in placing participants in their major and minor disciplines. Some financial assistance will be available for families who qualify for the Darrell G. Riley Memorial Scholarship.

Students interested in drama may audition with a prepared or provided 60-second monologue. Dancers will be taught a combination to perform at the placement audition. Musicians may bring sheet music and present a 30-second musical theater song, and artists are invited to bring any form of artwork created by them.

Both students and instructors loved the Arts for All program when it was offered from 1991-1995, said Greg Thompson, who came up with the idea to help the theater develop its educational opportunities for young people. Since he took over as OCT executive and artistic director at the beginning of 2023, he said people have requested repeatedly that he bring back the summer series.

“It focused young people in the community and gave them something specific to work on,” Thompson explained, noting that Arts for All “was meant to be the springboard toward having an education program,” which is now a robust slate of multigenerational classes and community outreach offerings known as The Academy.

“Arts for All really was a doorway for young people to come together, learn some skills, feel more comfortable, and be able to plug in and be a part of theater year-round,” Thompson said, adding that he conceived the idea after brainstorming how to involve more young adults in OCT productions.

Thompson revealed that six final performances will be held the last week of camp and will include two productions to be announced at the OCT Season 74 Reveal Party on April 15. 

“One of the shows is a musical,” he said, “and it’s probably one of the most famous musicals. The other show is arguably the most famous play in all of history, but it’s an interesting take on it.”

Local dance studio owner and former Arts for All student Brooke Loftis has good memories of the summer intensive as her “first taste of drama and art and music” to enhance her foundation in dance. She would go on to perform in OCT’s “Grease” as a high schooler and said being part of the three-person choreography team for OCT’s 2023 production of “Newsies” was “a full-circle moment, being able to work with Greg [Thompson] professionally after being a student of his” in Arts for All. She believes the summer intensive is valuable for performing arts students of any discipline.

“All the performing arts feed off each other, so when you’re looking at the different genres within performing arts, being able to act helps you become more expressive as a dancer,” Loftis explained. “Understanding music helps your musicality and it all just feeds off each other. I would definitely recommend Arts for All to students who are interested in the performing arts.”

Miguel Ferreira, who grew up in Ocala and graduated from Forest High School before attending a four-year university theater program, fondly remembers attending Arts for All for two summers as a student focused on music and dance then returning as an intern. The professional theater artist with Broadway credits, now based in Massachusetts, said the OCT program was “pretty foundational” to his career.

“It’s greatly shaped a lot of my work in my career from what I learned there,” Ferreira said. “Arts for All actually inspired an entire generation of theater artists. The whole vibe of it was really great. OCT at that time was a really special place.”

Returning to teach dance this summer after serving as the original Arts for All dance director in the 1990s, Lisa Hamilton, a former professional dancer who now teaches at The Dance Company of Ocala, remembers students being “so inspired” and said she was “really astounded at the things the kids could accomplish.”

“They were so excited to be there every day,” she said. “It really opened the door to all the performing arts and kids were trying things they’d never tried and it opened up a new world for them. It’s a chance for them to just focus on something they love all day,  and they can jump in and learn a lot about what it’s really like to be a performer—everything from backstage to props to pulling the curtain. It’s like a big team effort and everyone learns how to work together for the success of the show.”  

Nancy Atkinson, a retired Marion County Public Schools educator, remembers teaching music at Arts for All as “a complete joy” and noted that, more than 20 years later, she still keeps in touch with the other instructors and most of her students.

“The kids were so fantastic,” she said. “They were completely invested and so were the teachers. It was a great creative experience for the teachers as well as the kids.”

For registration and more information, visit ocalacivictheatre.com or call (352) 236-2274. Placement auditions will be held Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Arts for All classes for ages 9-17 will take place Monday-Thursday, June 10-July 18 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with no class July 1-4. Younger students age 6-8 may register for Arts for All Too classes, which will take place Saturday, June 15, 22, 29 and July 13 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Classes and performances will be held at Ocala Civic Theatre, 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd.

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