Summer Children's Theater Workshop is like summer camp set to music

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., May. 20, 2013
The Colchester Summer Children’s Theatre Workshop is a chance for children of all ages and talents to get a taste of all aspects of life in the theater while making new friends and creating a memorable summer experience. The 2011 production was the popular ‘Schoolhouse Rock.’ Auditions for the 2013 program are the first week of June. Courtesy photo, used by permission of the CCT. - Contributed Photo

It’s not easy finding just the right production for a cast of 100, but that’s part of the challenge of Colchester Community Theatre’s summer workshop for children - the goal of which is to give kids a great summer experience and a real taste of life in the theater.
This is the 16th year for CCT’s Summer Children's Theater Workshop, which began with a group of about 30 youngsters. Now, the program has to set a strict limit of 100.

Past productions have included “Nowhere to Hide” – a story about the effects of bullying - and the popular “Schoolhouse Rock.”

There are two general criteria when it comes to choosing a musical for the program, said Wallis Johnson, vice president of production and one of the program’s founders. “One is that we have between 80 and 100 children, so we can’t pick a show with a cast of 12. And we choose a production that we can use as a teaching opportunity” about something meaningful to the young cast, who range in age from 7 to 17.

Of “Nowhere to Hide,” Johnson said, “The author did a nice job in the way the subject of bullying was presented, tastefully – and it’s a topic that’s foremost in our schools across the nation.”

The production this summer will be “The Little Mermaid (junior edition),” which Johnson will direct.

Auditions are the first week of June. Johnson stressed that any child who auditions, regardless of ability or past experience, can be in the program – auditions are merely to help assign roles.

“Every child who auditions gets in, unless there are more than 100 – then the names will be put in a hat and we will accept the first 100,” Johnson said.

The program is meant to be a fun and low-pressure introduction to all aspects of theater, including building sets and working with sound and lighting. “We want to get their feet wet; they go through the whole process, from auditions to applause,” Johnson said.

“It’s just a lot of fun.  The kids make a lot of great friends and they learn a lot,” she said.

The cost of the program is $150 per child ($170 for non-residents).

“I realize that may seem like a lot, but it’s a two-week program, they have a snack every day, they work on craft projects to take home and they get a T-shirt. Compared to programs in other towns, the price is actually much lower,” Johnson said.

Some financial assistance is available, she added, since the program is under the umbrella of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department. Parents can contact that department for more details.

Some children who have participated in the summer programs are now studying dramatic arts in college and continue to perform in community theaters, as well as return to coach children in Colchester’s summer workshop, Johnson said.

To participate in this summer’s program, a child must attend an audition: Sunday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m., or Wednesday, June 5, from 6 to 8 p.m., at St. Andrew Church, 128 Norwich Ave. in Colchester. To be eligible, the child must be entering grades two through 12 this fall. Parents must bring sheet music or recorded instrumental music and the child should be prepared to sing.

The workshop will be held at the Bacon Academy, from 9 a.m. to noon, July 8-19, and the performance will be held at 2 p.m. on July 20.
For more information, contact Wallis Johnson at 860-267-1023 or Laura Brown at or visit the website at

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