Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 17, 2018

Summer campers perform Saturday at Sondheim

More than 80 campers spent the week learning from theater icons
Jul 20, 2018
Dozens of campers have avoided the heat this week by learning about the arts this week at the Sondheim Performing Arts Center.

When Fairfield Arts & Convention Center director Rustin Lippincott needed someone to take the Evelyn Gamrath Summer Camp at the Sondheim up another notch, he called on someone he met 28 years prior at a show choir camp. He also called the person who was the accompanist at the first summer camp four years ago. Little did he know the call to Allen Chapman and Vicki Jacobson would bring along Chapmans daughter, Anne and Jacobson’s husband, Lynn, and the Summer Camp would have the “Dream Team,” known in choir, choreography and speech/drama circles as nationally recognized leaders in fine arts education.

The Chapmans and Jacobsens put their more than 100 years of combined experience to work for the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center and created dialogue to accompany song selection from the hit musical movie, “The Greatest Showman” and the Broadway musical “Barnum,” as well as set pieces and costumes.

It was now time for the Evelyn Gamrath Summer Camp at the Sondheim to turn into a three ring circus, aptly named Under the Sondheim Big Top. The camp, which welcomed 81 camper, ages 8-14, from across southeast Iowa beginning Monday for five days of singing and dancing culminates with a final free show, performed by the campers, under the Sondheim lights, Saturday at 3 p.m.

“Opportunities like this summer camp are becoming more and more important, and rare, in the development of today’s youth,” said Allen Chapman, who has taught at Fort Madison High School, Holy Trinity High School, Southeastern Community College and Western Illinois University. “Smart phones and other technology have made many positive contributions to the mind, body and spirt development not interesting. For eight hours per day, these 81 kids are stars in the making, interested in learning the songs, lines and placements, and us four are honored and thrilled to be impacting their lives.”

The summer camp concept, Lippincott said, was derived from the absence of the theater company that opened the building.

“The summer internship program that put forth three musicals was popular and occupied the summer months when traditional theater programming sees heavy competition from outdoor activities,” said Lippincott. When it went away, a gaping hole presented itself but Fairfield Arts & Convention Center employee Ben Fry and Lippincott identified “How to Eat Like a Child” as the inaugural summer camp play. Fry, a musical theater graduate from Central College knew to call his New London High School choir teacher, Vicki Jacobsen, as she could help out and play the piano.

“We knew we had something special in the beginning,” said Lippincott. “We started with 30 kids and have grown to 81 this year. Although we weren’t anticipating an increase of 30 campers over last year, the Chapmans and Jacobsens adapted and there is an energy on stage that has never been present in previous camps; it;s infectious energy, you can’t help but become energized. We have had discussions on how we can make the camp even better next year. You’ll see some changes coming to the summer camp but the core values of creating an environment for youth people to have fun, learn singing and dancing concepts and grow as young people, even forging new friendships will continue to be the main focus”

“It’s been a great experience to be at the Sondheim Theater,” said Vicki Jacobson. “We’ve done these camps, although not for nearly 15 years, in other venues, but none were dedicated theaters so the experience for the campers, to have four experienced people, high school and college assistants, professional technical crew and the professional environment of Arts & Convention Center, is dream for the campers but also for Allen, Anne, Lynn and me.”

For some campers, the daily trip to the Evelyn Gamrath Summer Camp begins before 7:30 a.m. as hometowns of campers include North Liberty, Waukee, Keokuk, Fort Madison; 22 communities represented at the camp.

“If you ‘build it, they will come,’ referencing Field of Dreams is an Iowa icon, known throughout the world. We are building something special with the help of the directors, the Gamrath family, community, parents and campers. I can see this being an iconic theater camp for kids across Iowa and surrounding states.”

The Summer Camp at the Sondheim final performance is Saturday, 3 p.m. The show is free and open to the public with a free will offering being accepted.

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