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Clowning and crazy toes kick off WildCat theater camp

Erin Alburger, 11, (right) acts as part of an exercise in the "Clowning" class during Randolph's WildCat Theatre Conservatory in Lynchburg on Monday. (Photo by Autumn Parry)

Erin Alburger, 11, (right) acts as part of an exercise in the “Clowning” class during Randolph’s WildCat Theatre Conservatory in Lynchburg on Monday. (Photo by Autumn Parry)

By Jessie Pounds, News & Advance
Reprinted with permission

Crazy toes, friendly elbows and greedy fingers all got a chance to act out during a clowning class at Randolph’s WildCat Theatre Conservatory on Monday.

This is the fourth year for the summer camp program, aimed at kindergarten through 12th-graders. The two-week camp typically offers classes in theater nuts and bolts, improv, acting, voice and movement, and musical theater. For the first time this year, students are trying out clowning.

Camp director Mace Archer, a former Randolph theater professor, now works at a college in Portland. He returns in the summer to run the program.

“I said, ‘I’d love to come back — I like people in Lynchburg,’” he explained.

Camps like this, he said, build confidence among those who participate and can be a good recruiting tool for the college.

Erin Alburger, 11, participates in a staring exercise as the students learn how to become clowns during Randolph's WildCat Theatre Conservatory in Lynchburg on Monday. (Photo by Autumn Parry)

Erin Alburger, 11, participates in a staring exercise as the students learn how to become clowns during Randolph’s WildCat Theatre Conservatory in Lynchburg on Monday. (Photo by Autumn Parry)

“I really like how nobody here is judgmental,” said Andrew Robertson, a rising fifth-grader at James River Day School, who participated in the clowning class Monday afternoon.

The instructor for that class is Summer Olsson, a multi-disciplinary performer and clown, also from Portland.

After the first week, she plans to hand out red noses to her campers, but she wants to take some time for them to learn about the craft and get warmed up before adding that element.

“It’s considered a mask — the smallest of masks,” she said. “Putting a red nose on doesn’t make you a clown, just like putting on a costume doesn’t make you an actor.”

Some clowns wear noses and some don’t.

Famously, she said, the characters of Jerry, George and Kramer on the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld are a classic clown trio: Jerry the leader, George the somewhat-silly second and Kramer the wacky third.

On Monday, she led the group of rising fifth and sixth graders through an exercise where each camper was assigned a body part and an adjective, such as crazy toes, and asked to act out what that might look like. After a bit, she asked the campers to consider how the wayward body parts might affect the rest of the body to which it is attached.

Rising fifth-grader Elise Guard grasped at thin air with her “greedy” fingers, pretending her whole body was being tugged along behind unwillingly.

“This is my third year coming and I love how all the teachers are so fun,” Elise said. “They just make this camp awesome.”



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