Campers create play during MSU camp

Writing instructor John Bateman leads a group during Summer Scholars on Stage. (Submitted photo)

Staff Writer

Campers in the Mississippi State University Summer Scholars On Stage program are learning all the aspects of writing a play during the three-week camp.

Writing instructor John Bateman said the first week is writing camp, and the next two weeks are production camp. Campers can either participate in all three weeks or only the production camp.

Bateman said the campers stay in the dorm and spend around 14 hours each day writing and working on their play.

Bateman said during the writing camp, the students will work on songwriting, script writing and set design and production. He said the campers are split up into three groups, and each group is then responsible for one act of the play.

Bateman said, from there, the songwriters also split off and write music to accompany the play.

“Once the writer’s camp finishes, we have a complete, three act script with music,” Bateman said. “The songwriters will continue to work on the music, and the production campers show up on Saturday, and production camp starts on Sunday. That’s when they have auditions for the parts.”

At the end of the three-weeks, the campers will put on their play at 7 p.m. July 13 and 1 p.m. July 15 at McComas Hall.

Camp Director Joe Ray Underwood said the performances are free, open to the public and suitable for all ages.

Bateman said this year’s production is science fiction and fantasy themed, along with being a comedy and a musical.

“What they’re all exploring is the idea that on Friday the 13th, there’s a tear in the universe,” Bateman said. “The performance this year falls on Friday the 13th, so they loved that idea and ran with it.”

Underwood said during the intermission of the play, Elizabeth Hood will be inducted into the Hall of Fame for her contribution to the Summer Scholars program.

“Every year we recognize somebody, and this year we are recognizing the family of Elizabeth Hood,” Underwood said. “She was a really outstanding writer, actor and performer.”

Before her death, Underwood said, Hood graduated from Starkville High School, played in the Georgetown Symphony and worked on the writing staff for Victoria’s Secret in New York.

Underwood said Elizabeth Rheinfrank, a friend of Hood and mother of one of the campers, will accept the Hall of Fame induction in honor of Hood.

Bateman said regardless of what the campers’ futures hold, he feels the skills they learn during this camp will help them in their careers.

“They will learn how to have a voice, and how to advocate for an idea that they have,” Bateman said. “They learn how to work with other people and being able to articulate a creative idea with
support. Regardless of what profession you’re in, being able to articulate an idea and the thought behind it in a story is an important skill. It is a tremendous opportunity.”

Bateman said the camp also allows the high schoolers to build their self esteem because regardless of what they write, it will end up stage, which rarely happens in the theatre world.

“We really just want the kids to be creative and express themselves,” Underwood said.