Permian Playhouse sets showcase

With its circus theme, the Permian Playhouse’s spring break camp has ignited the theater dreams of the small group of students attending.

Camp Director Brian Serrano said 16 youngsters attended the camp this year, with its theme of “Under the Big Top.” Traditionally, the camp has 40 to 55 students, but with the nice weather many of his regulars have gone out of town.

Additionally, summer camp this year will be The Lion King Jr., so Serrano said he suspects a lot of parents are saving their funds for that. The summer camp, which usually goes for a week, will be longer this year – from June 5 through June 30, he said.

The Kaleidoscope Company, the teenage acting troupe, hosts the camp. A showcase is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the playhouse.

The plot to the story is a three-ring circus. Serrano said the students are divided into five groups – the ringmaster, a group of clowns, a group of lions, a group of bears and a group of elephants.

“The script is they’re having issues,” Serrano said. “The clowns are causing problems, so it’s how do we resolve that and let the show go on. It’s really cute. It was actually written by our assistant acting teacher, Azlyn Hernandez. She wrote that script. She is a freshman at New Tech Odessa and has actually done a phenomenal job writing the script. Our student director is Jon Spruill, a junior at OHS and they’ve just made it come alive.”

Because there are fewer campers, Serrano said the script had to be redone. He added that what was lost in numbers didn’t impact quality.

“From day one, the quality of kids we have has just been phenomenal,” Serrano said. “Normally, you’ve got about a fifth of the group that is wallflower shy. Every kid on day one was excited, energetic taking the stage and that was really neat to see. What my Kaleidoscope Company, teenagers who run the camp, noticed is they’re able to do so much more one-on-one work with these kids since they’re small in number.”

For the spring break camp, Serrano said he and Lori Gregory-Evans, his co-mentor with the Kaleidoscope Company, step aside and let the students take a leadership role. 

“It really allows us to start seeing and sharpening their skills beyond just acting into a more well- rounded theater professional,” Serrano said.

Hernandez took advantage by penning her first script. This is her third year with the Kaleidoscope Company.   

“I had a lot of ideas for the show. When they said that we were doing a circus theme and then when they said we would have a chance to write it, I jumped at it. … It was fun to think of different jokes I could put into the script. It didn’t actually take me that long,” Hernandez said. Spruill helped her with edits.

Hernandez said it was exciting to see the play come to life on the stage. She added that the camp is going well.

“I feel pretty good about it because we’ve already gotten pretty far with the kids. Usually at this point in camp where we are now is usually where we are on Friday,” Hernandez said.

Spruill, 17, has been involved in Kaleidoscope Company for about five years. Like Hernandez, he is not acting in this production.

“It’s small, but there’s a lot of talent,” Spruill said of the group of students at camp. “I see tiny versions of a bunch of KC (Kaleidoscope Company) kids. I expect them all to come audition for us one day.”

Eleven-year-old Gonzales, elementary school fifth-grader Harley Chavarria and 10-year-old fourth-grader Ben Baize, who is home schooled, play the ringmaster and a clown, respectively, in the production.

Chavarria said what got her into camp was the idea of being on a stage and having bright lights on her.

“But after a while, that wasn’t my favorite part anymore. My favorite part was actually the part where we would dance and we would actually do the little small plays; skit things,” Chavarria said.  

Baize, who has participated in West Texas Talent competitions and skateboarding, said he thinks he’ll do well in the showcase and wants to try theater again.

Chavarria said she has been to Hollywood to pursue acting, but will have to wait to go back until she gets her braces and glasses off. She said that wouldn’t be until she was 13.

Serrano said the theater camps are used as a way to recruit and feed the playhouse’s theater school.

Education Director Roslyn Ross offers semester-long schools for first and second graders, third and fourth graders and fifth and sixth graders from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

All the age groups will have a showcase at 6 p.m. May 4 at the Permian Playhouse. The play is a comedy titled “The Lost Half Hour” and has a cast of 25. The cost per semester is $125 and there is a price break for siblings.

“The Lost Half Hour” is about the adventures of Bobo, Ross said.

“Bobo is not the brightest bulb on the tree,” Ross said. “He is taken advantage of quite often and easily by other people, especially the main princess and her court. … We follow him on his adventures. He meets strangers who have lost their temper and ask him to help find it …”

It is narrated by Mother Time, Ross said.

“In the end, he becomes very, very clever and very smart and it all works out in the end. After he slays the dragon he wins the princess and they live happily ever after,” she added. 

Registration and inquiries for the summer camp opens Monday. Lion King Jr. will be limited to 60 people, Serrano said.

It is for children between the ages of those who have finished first grade through those who have finished sixth. But due to licensing, Serrano said 10 to 15 spots for students who have finished seventh, eighth and ninth grade will be available.

Hours for the summer camp are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and the cost is $150 a week or $500 if paid in full upfront, Serrano said.