By Chris Kieffer
For the past couple of weeks, 53 middle and high school students have worked hard to create a play from scratch.
Tonight and tomorrow, they will showcase their labor during the 2013 Summer Scholars on Stage camp at Mississippi State University.
When the group stages its original production – titled “Tales form Dimension 13” – its number will include seven campers from Lee County whose admission was funded by an educational endowment.
The Toyota Educational Endowment Fund provided money this summer for students from Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties to attend various educational summer camps at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University. The endowment was created by a $50 million gift from Toyota to support education in the three counties that collaborated to attract the automaker.
“We thought it was important to directly help the students,” said Mike Clayborne, president of the CREATE Foundation, which administers the endowment. “We thought it would be a good fit to focus the first year on camps at Ole Miss and
Mississippi State, and we hope to consider expanding the opportunity in the future.”
That included the residential Scholars on Stage camp, which began on July 7 with a one-week writing camp in which 24 students gathered to develop an idea and a plot for the play. The following Saturday night, they were joined by the rest of the campers, and production was in full swing.
“It is really a lot of hard work, but every single thing we have done has been so rewarding,” said Noah Cox, a rising senior at Tupelo High.
Roles were assigned after campers participated in a talent show and an audition. Next came daily rehearsals in drama, vocal music and dance. Campers remained on campus last weekend.
“I expected to have fun, but I didn’t realize how much I would learn about acting and about myself,” said camper Barrett Gillis of Tupelo.
Their family-friendly musical comedy is free and open to the public. It will be shown tonight at 7 and Saturday at 1 p.m. in McComas Theatre on the university’s campus.
“Our camp is a complete experience,” said director Joe Ray Underwood. “We encourage our students to learn who they are and value their potential as young scholars. That has been the story of our success for the past 32 years.”