In the limelight: New direction for MCT opens up the world  of theater for campers 

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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It’s after a rehearsal and new Matchbox Children’s Theatre Executive Director Angela Sedgwick Perry is going through notes with her actors.

It marked the end of the Teen Camp and with a performance that was held on Saturday, July 29, for friends and family, the summer season came to an end for MCT.

And it couldn’t have gone much better.

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“Way better than we ever hoped it would,” she said as the players from the Teen Camp took their leave of MCT’s new location at First United Methodist Church. “Before this Teen Camp, we had two youth camps: Pirates and Mermaids and then Superheroes and Villains. It was a blast. A lot of new names came in the door, a lot of returning faces. It’s one of those moments where you rejoice in the child being sad to leave.”

When Sedgwick Perry took over, MCT was committed to a revamping of not only how it provided shows, but its overall programming as well.

The camps were a major component of that. The staff and volunteers behind MCT wanted to take a deeper dive into what it meant to be a part of theater, which can help children in a variety of ways including developing speaking, communication and expressive skills.

“We did just recently change our mission statement to include, ‘while delivering theater education excellence,’” Sedgwick Perry said. “That is really what fits into this template and the idea of it. We are taking theater education to the next level and being more involved in what we do. It’s really about how we can educate these kids further about all aspects of theater.”

This final camp, which included seven teen actors, showcased this by taking an immersive approach into what makes a show a show. Those steps included composing and putting on a show after the three weeks were up. 

It also had the participants take an active approach to all other aspects of what makes a show a show. This includes elements like lighting, make-up, dance, costumes and more, and it started from the very beginning when the students picked two areas to specialize in, along with a bonus area — dance.

It was a rigorous approach to theater.

“They see the intensity of what goes on in preparation,” Sedgwick Perry said. “For these teenagers, it’s not all about learning lines and getting on the stage, but what makes theater, theater and taking it to the max level.”

Thirteen-year-old Moyra Voigt was one of this year’s participants in the Teen Camp. A veteran of the Ellis Middle School stage with hopes of taking to the high school stage, Voigt said the camp has been an exciting addition to the summer routine.

“I very much enjoyed the Teen Camp,” Voigt said. “I thought it was very fun to do because we got to pick a lot of the stuff we got to do and it was very self-controlled.”

Taking part in the various aspects of theater proved to be a confidence building experience for Voigt.

“A lot more confidence in my acting and my singing especially,” she said. “I’m pretty confident with acting, but singing in front of people, I’ve always been iffy about. Also, the skills behind the scenes.”

Sedgwick Perry agreed that the three-week camp was intense, but in the end it also showed what participants are capable of when this much is put into the camper’s hands.

“It’s been pretty intense because in the world of theater, you usually have a couple months to learn a show,” she said. “They have two weeks to create a show and put it on. To see how they responded to that challenge, especially when so much of that is within their control, has been amazing. It’s been a total surprise and amazingly rewarding to see them grow and respond to it.”

There’s not much of a break for MCT as they move toward fall, winter and eventually spring programming. Campers will perform on Saturday of the Austin Artworks Festival, which will be held Aug. 26-27.

Then comes the annual Halloween Warm-Up, which has moved up to Sept. 29-30, a leap up from its annual presentation in October. However, Sedgwick Perry said that’s not the only big change in store.

“I would love to tell you what we’re doing, but I’m going to keep it a surprise,” she teased. “We’ve dialed (MCT) down to a winter and spring show, so now we can put that bigger energy toward Halloween Warm-up to make it bigger and better than ever before.”

Sedgwick Perry promises the show will be more encompassing featuring a new story, some more props and haunting surprises and of course fun jokes.

“Even the tour guides will all be in on it,” she said.

There will also be more programming at the Austin Public Library as well as more going on throughout the community including a season announcement coming soon.

At the end of the day, this summer’s programming takes an important step toward what the future can include.

“It’s given us a lot of good testing to see what has worked in this new format and what we can do even better,” Sedgwick-Perry said. “It’s just going up from here.”