BY JOHN GREEN, Contributing Writer
---- — CHATEAUGAY — During the summer, it’s common to hear about a neighbor or friend’s child going away to camp.
Oftentimes a trip to camp involves being in the wilderness but, for Megan Nemier and Alex Lamica, camp has a different definition. The camp they run doesn’t center around a lake, dirt or fresh air, and the only thing that remotely resembles a tree is the hardwood stage.
Director and producer Megan Nemier, who established the Chateaugay Theater Camp, said she feels the program is good for younger children and teens who want to try acting.
“It gets them together, which produces stage chemistry,” Nemier said. “It helps with their acting skills. It’s just like anything else, sports or music, anything you do you have to practice, including acting. It gets them together to practice, and the more they practice acting skills, (then) the better they become at it.”
The camp, which is in its fifth year, was designed to get children from Chateaugay and its surrounding areas interested in theater. Students spend their time working on skills such as improvisation, stage combat, accents, musical theater and monologues.
Once the two-week camp, which ran from June 24 to July 5, is over, all of the students perform a play at the end of the summer. This year’s two-act play is being held tonight and Saturday night at 7 at the Chateaugay Town Hall Theatre. The group will be performing “Dr. Evil and the Basket of Kittens” by Brian D. Taylor. The play is a dark but funny farce that highlights the eternal battle of pure evil against innocent and fuzzy goodness.
“Every year, what I do is I look at the number of kids I have, the genders I have and then the age,” she said. “I have a great company called Pioneer Drama that I go to. I have a catalog, and I just kind of match who I have with what plays are available. This was a new play this year, and I thought it sounded really funny, and I thought the kids would respond to it.”
This year, 22 students ranging from 10 to 16 years old participated in the Theater Camp.
“A lot of these kids are potential musical stars in the making,” Lamica said. “What this camp does is help them see their potential. When they get up to the musicals (in high school), they’ve already got a solid foundation to work on.”
For Alex Hoit, 14, and Morgan Lamica, 14, who are both going into ninth grade at Chateaugay Central School, acting is something neither of them had done until they joined the camp four years ago. Both students caught the acting bug once they started, and they’ve never looked back. For Hoit, being up on stage in front of a large crowd is a feeling like no other.
“The adrenaline you get on show night, it gets your blood pumping and makes you want to do it again,” said Hoit, who was dressed as the infamous Dr. Evil.
With all of that excitement and energy, sometimes the students forget their lines, and that can be a scary feeling. Although both Hoit and Lamica say they have practiced their lines over and over, they know that even if they don’t forget their part, it’s inevitable that someone is bound to forget something. In the event of that happening, Lamica said, you just have to trust everyone around you.
“You’ve got to have faith in your other stars to help you and hope that they can save you,” she said. “Really, you’ve just got to try and come up with something to say if no one else does.”
After the play, students who participated in the musical-theater workshop at this year’s camp will also perform Broadway numbers from “Les Miserables,” “Oliver!,” “Grease,” “Wicked” and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Since Nemier and Lamica are the only two people running the camp and the performances, they both agreed that it is sometimes hard to not get frustrated. However, once the shows are over and the kids are on stage taking their bows, all of those frustrations just disappear, Nemier said.
“All of the frustration I felt (and) all of the irritations that I sometimes felt, it just goes away,” she said. “You get to know them as if they are your family, and you’re just so proud of them that they worked hard and achieved what they wanted to.”
Tickets to see the play are $4 for students and senior citizens, and $5 for adults. All of the money raised from the two performances will go toward funding next year’s camp.
“The characters are zany, the kids are dressed up in all of these costumes, and they look ridiculous. They’re having fun up there,” he said. “It’s fun to watch.”