Education and theater collide this weekend in the upcoming Capital City Productions' summer camp performance of "Schoolhouse Rock Live! JR."
The fast-paced musical teaches lessons with memorable tunes like "Conjunction Junction" and "Just a Bill" from the Emmy Award-winning 1970s cartoon series. The story follows Tom, a young schoolteacher who's nervous about his first day teaching. He tries to relax by watching TV and sees various facets of his personality showing him how to win over students with imagination and music.
Summer camp director Troy Donehue said the educational components of the musical's storyline pair well with the purpose of the camp, which has 20 children ranging from third grade through seniors in high school.
While this year's camp has been scaled back some because of the pandemic, Donehue said they try to give students a crash course in everything that goes into a theater production.
The two-week summer camp, now in its fourth year after having to cancel last year due to COVID-19, teaches children everything from acting, dancing and singing to set design and prop- making. In past years, they also introduced campers to more behind-the-scenes components of the production, like sound boards and lighting.
"I like to give actors a chance to help with the set as a stagehand to show you can't do a show by yourself — even in a one-man show, you can't do it by yourself," Donehue said. "Maybe someone doesn't want that pressure of having to memorize lines, but they can still be part of that theater family."
Because of the educational elements of this particular production, Donehue said camp staffers were able to incorporate a wide variety of lessons into their classes beyond just what goes on on stage. For example, younger campers built planets to be featured in one of the show's nine musical numbers. While constructing the props, they researched different planets' colors, sizes and distinguishable qualities. Also, birdhouses they built and painted will be set up in the lobby surrounded by numerous adjectives, a reference to the show's musical number about parts of speech.
"This show leads to being educational in many areas, but we try to do that with all our shows. We go with the flow of the kids," he said, adding numerous children return to the camp each year and sometimes offer suggestions for which shows to perform at the end of the two weeks — the planning process for which starts a year in advance.
In addition to rehearsing musical and dance numbers, older students take a stab at script-writing during the camp, and Donehue said they try to incorporate funny one-liners or inside jokes into the production, which tends to unite the group of students and give them a deeper sense of ownership of the show.
"It builds solidarity and promotes team work and camaraderie," Donehue said. "That's what I love about theater — it's a family outside of the biological family."
CCP campers will take the stage at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at CCP, 719 Wicker Lane. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.ccpjc.org or by calling the box office at 573-681-9612.