Childrens’ creativity unleashed on stage

Kids create a musical in one week at camp

Hudson Reid

A group of kids in the Capital Region are using their imaginations and creative spirit to create an original work of musical theatre as part of a unique summer camp dubbed Musical in a Week.

The week-long program is the brainchild of professional musician Paul O’Brien, who already hosted one such camp earlier this summer, for children aged four to nine. The upcoming camp is geared towards kids between the ages of eight and 12.

At Musical in a Week, O’Brien spends a week guiding children through the process of writing and staging an original musical. But it’s the kids themselves who come up with the content.

“The children decide for themselves what they want to do,” O’Brien said. “There’s not a designated part for them to play. I want to empower them. It’s about expressing themselves in their own voice.”

O’Brien’s background as both a teacher and a musician gives him a unique perspective when it comes to dealing with children. Though the task of coming up with an original show in the span of just five days seems daunting, he says once they get started, the kids really take the concept and run with it.

“They create the characters. They create the storyline,” he said. “The subject matter can be anything from politics to bullying.”

O’Brien, who also teaches guitar and performance from his own studio when he’s not on stage himself, came up with the musical-in-a-week concept after leading performance workshops at schools in the UK, Germany and Canada. The current model evolved from a project he worked on at St. Patrick’s school in Victoria.

“I went to each class and wrote a single song with each class,” O’Brien explained. “As you can imagine, writing a musical with 400 children is nearly impossible.”

With a smaller group, O’Brien said, it’s easier to create a full show, and the kids get to participate on a larger scale.

Feedback from the first camp has been overwhelmingly positive.

“With so many performance-based music programs, it’s rare to find opportunities for children to participate in the creative process,” said Kathy Alexander, whose six-year-old daughter attended. “This camp celebrates the creativity and expression of children.”

O’Brien said he never ceases to be amazed by the kids’ limitless imaginations and their ability to put together an entertaining show in such a short timeframe.

“I literally turn up on Monday morning with these children with no idea what’s going to happen,” he said. “By the end we have a completely contained musical.”

Musical in a Week runs from Aug. 15-19 at St. Michaels University School, 3400 Richmond Rd. Cost is $250 per child. For more information, please visit www.smus.ca/life/extension/holiday.

editor@oakbaynews.com

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