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Students act, dance their way into summer at UWS

Kristoff, left, played by Nathan Sunde, and Sven, played by Bonnie Newman, run through a scene as they walk through the seats of the Manion Theater in the Holden Fine Arts building on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus on Monday afternoon. (Jed Carlson/

Dancing like there is no tomorrow, singing high notes and acting out famous movies on stage are a few ways students choose to spend their summer.

About 26 students in grades 6-12 signed up for a two-week summer theater camp at the University of Wisconsin Superior.

“This is one of the best summer theater camps in Superior,” said Naomi Lear, a 10th grade camp participant. “You learn a lot about theater and yourself.”

Director of University Theater for UWS Cathy Fank has led the camp for eight years. She began working on the camp in January. That is when she started recruiting and getting the word out, before people began making summer plans.

“I like to start right after school gets out, so the students have the rest of their summer for family and other activities,” Fank said. “It is a fun and affordable jam-packed two-week experience.”

The students typically begin the camp at 12:30 p.m., with physical and vocal warm ups. Robby Steltz, the camp choreography teacher, had the students practice their dance routine for Friday’s play.

“These kids are so talented,” Steltz said. “Some of these dance moves can be challenging, but they caught on pretty quickly. I was very impressed.”

On the last day of camp, the students typically put on a performance. In the past, they re-enacted “Snow White” and “Wizard of Oz”. This year they present a play called “Frozen in the Northland,” a take-off on the Disney movie “Frozen” and the stage play “The Snow Queen”. After the winter we had, Fank says it was only right to have a winter-themed play.

“After the winter that we had — “Frozen in the northland’ seemed very appropriate,” Fank said.

The students wrap up the day with a variety of theatrical workshops. These 45-minute workshops consist of dancing, singing, vocal training, costume shop, video production, scene study, props, stage make-up and lighting.

Recent UWS theater graduates, Gabrielle Ford, Ashley Kelleher and Jayden Larson were leading acting and musical classes. The students took an hour to two hours rehearsing their lines for “Frozen in the Northland.”

“The students memorize their scripts in two weeks. It takes a great deal of effort and practice, but it comes together every time,” Larson said.

“It’s exciting to see them grow as actors during these two weeks,” Ford said. “Some of the students can be kind of shy at first, but after a few days of rehearsing and workshops their confidence starts to build up.”

UWS Technical director, Sue Wedan, was teaching a few students how to build props. They were working on constructing a door, painting windows and decorating banners.

“This gives them a chance to get hands-on experience and see what really goes on behind scenes,” Wedan said. “It’s a lot of work, but students are able to learn the whole process.”

During their break, a handful of students were already talking about attending camp again next year.

“I’m definitely planning to come back next year. It’s the highlight of my summer,” Lear said.

“This is my third year attending the camp and I absolutely love it,” said Audra LePage, a 10th grade camp participant. “I like meeting the new students every year…by the end of the two weeks, we are all friends.”

Camp students perform “Frozen in the Northland” at 7 p.m. Friday at UWS’ Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center. The event is free.