Summer scholars produce play at camp

news_education_greenBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – For the past three weeks, William Johnson and 55 other students have written, produced and staged a musical.

The high school students and recent graduates are participating in the annual Summer Scholars Onstage camp held at Mississippi State University. Their original play, “Partlynormal Activity,” will be staged this weekend.

“I’ve learned a bunch,” said Johnson, 18, who graduated from Tupelo High School in May. “…I’ve learned a lot about acting, how to be out on stage, how to deal with nerves and how to fix problems that show up so the audience doesn’t know there are any problems.”

Johnson is among 10 campers from Lee, Union and Pontotoc counties whose camp experience is funded by the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund. Created by a Toyota endowment to boost education in those three counties, the fund covered tuition for public school students to attend several summer camps at the state’s community colleges and universities this summer.

“I’ve made some really amazing friends,” said Mary Clair Kelly, 17, a rising senior at THS. “I’ve loved learning new things from experienced people, like the director, being with everyone and having a great time to put on a show. We work together toward one goal, to have the show.”

This year’s show is about a haunted hotel in three acts, set in the 1920s, 1970s and present day. It will be shown on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in McComas Hall on the MSU campus. Performances are free and open to the public.

A group of 22 campers began the week of July 6 to come up with an idea for the play and to write the script. They were joined by 34 others the following week, and they began to put the production together.

“Our camp is a complete experience,” said camp director Joe Ray Underwood. “We encourage our students to learn who they are and value their potential as young scholars.”

Johnson did not previously have an interest in theater, but was convinced to attend by his mother, uncle and brother, who had all attended previously. Now, he will look for opportunities to participate in future theatrical productions. Plus, he said, his lessons go beyond the stage.

“A lot of the stuff I’ve learned here, like dealing with nerves or just making friends, can carry over,” he said.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com