For Your Family: Actors Garden summer camp

August 13, 2012

For one group of children in the western suburbs, end of summer means gearing up for one of the biggest performances so far in their young acting careers.

For four weeks, a group of 7 to 15-year-olds spent every day at Dominican Universtiy rehearsing, creating, and growing at the Actors Garden summer theater camp.

"We have 65 children who come and learn how to sing, dance, put on a show. They learn how to paint Greek vases because this year we're doing a piece about Greece,'" said Gigi Hudson, Actors Garden artistic director.

The popular camp has long been a part of the western suburbs near the Oak Park-River Forest area, led by theater veteran Hudson. Many of her students come back year after year.

"I like the people, and they're practically like family," said 12-year-old Quentin Sanders.

"I really like the art projects that we do," said Mari Yamashita, 9. "We're making vases, and that I'm really interested in."

From painting Greek vases, to doing shadow puppets, to wearing a wig with snakes, the children learn to do whatever it takes to put on a show.

"I've always been a loud speaker, and now I just get to belt it out. There's nothing not to like about it," said Molly Tracy, 12.

The music and story are written every year specifically for the young actors. Everyone auditions. Everyone performs. Some have dreams of being on the big stage one day, but even for those who don't, it is a chance to shine nonetheless.

"Even if you have a small part, four always have one moment where you feel great and you shine on stage, and everybody has that chance," 13-year-old Benny Paris said.

"The first day they get here, they have to audition. Some of them are so scared to stand up there," said Hudson. "By the end of camp or first week, they're singing and dancing as loud as the most confident kid who's been here for years."

Monday, August 13 starts their last week of rehearsals. This year's show is called Off to Olympus. Of course the kids would love to have an audience. So, if you're interested in seeing the show this weekend, here are the show times:

Friday, August 17th, 7:00pm
Saturday, August 18th, 5:00pm
Saturday, August 18th, 11:00am
Saturday, August 18th, 2:00pm
Sunday, August 19th, 12:00pm
Sunday, August 19th, 3:00pm

Tickets are $6.00 and can be ordered in advance and online at

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