Kids Take Over Local Theatre For Summer Months

By: Lindsay Shively Email
By: Lindsay Shively Email

Summer camp might make you think of tents and bugs...but how about theatre? One community theatre is helping tiny thespians grow in Topeka.

The helen hocker theatre wasn't always set for stage. It was originally a poolhouse and it was turned into theatre. "As we've gone on, it turned into a combination of theatre and education so there's a dual mission," says Jo Huseman, director of the summer shows.

It provides a place for Topekans to grow as thespians, but the kids take over in the summer months.

"I have highschool, 14 to 18 year olds, and the little kids are in this building and the other kids are in the amphitheatre," Huseman said.
"So it's show after show after show."

In fact, kids only get two weeks to perfect their shows in the summer.
17-year-old Charlie Stock is one of the many kids that grow up in this program, he's been coming back for more than a decade.

"I tell everyone it's such a great experience and they should try it but they say i'd lose my summer! But I say, 'its not losing a summer, it's gaining a lot of friends and a lot of fun."

Huseman says many of the kids come back year after year. "I've been here since before God so i'm getting the grand children and children of kids i've had. Most of my camp staff has grown up through this program."

"This is my first year being camp counselor so i'm coming full circle," Stock says. "It's great, I never thought I'd end up being a counselor. It's great helping kids like I was helped at their age.

"It's fun to watch them come in to their own," says Huseman. "We say don't try to be like so and so, find your own style and it's really fun to watch them."

"I was a really shy kid but it really brought me out of my shell," adds Stock. Because joining the program is free, many of the kids give do volunteer projects.

"We want to give back to the community because they don't get charged, so we give back in volunteer ways like battle of the bands, etc." says Huseman.

Both Huseman and Stock agree the program helps prepare kids for life, "It's amazing to see what they do. We have kids in NYC, we have a priest...who knew? But they do amazing things. They don't all stay in theatre, but a lot do and they do well. It's fun to see them come home with the three kids you didn't know they had."


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