Theatrical campers bring young spirit to Oceano Melodrama

Alyssa Deanna Gore, a 9-year-old from West Covina, is attending summer camp at The Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville in Oceano. She is visiting her grandparents, Don and Dee Gore of Shell Beach.

Alyssa is one of 40 campers, ages 7 to 17, who come from as far away as Texas.

Now in its 18th year, Camp Melodrama is a four-week session each summer, created to provide theater arts instruction for young people. Six counselors, made up of working professionals in theater arts, are all working actors at the camp.

Eighty hours of instruction include dramatics, improvisation, singing, dance, diction and voice. Participants are grouped into teams for choreography, acting and vocal arts.

There is also a technical aspect of the camp. The students make their own props and help with building the set. The campers present two performances at the end of the session.

This summer, the campers are performing a musical version of “Alice in Wonderland.”

“I love it,” said Caitlin Lowry, 15, from Texas, who plays the White Rabbit. This is her first time at Camp Melodrama.

Chris Jensen, 11 of Orcutt, who is attending the camp for the fifth year, said the camp is “very fun.” Chris, whose grandmother lives in San Luis Obispo, is appearing in “From Rags to Riches, or, ‘I Will Not Pay the Price You Ask.’ ” His brother is also attending the camp.

Chris plays the White King, who is always falling asleep. He has had to memorize an amazing number of lines. “Chris is one among the many talented students we have,” said Renee Van Niel, Camp Melodrama producer. She is also the resident costume designer.

The camp appeared chaotic to the casual observer during a recent visit, with children running this way and that, up on the stage, behind the stage and through the seats. But they were clearly all having so much fun.

And once the rehearsal performance began, all campers were completely engaged in their own roles.

Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 805-489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.

There was a tea party. The students sang several songs, including “A Very Merry Unbirthday to You.” Alyssa danced with three other girls and also performed in a solo piece.

Caitlin announced, “The queen is coming.” The Red King, played by Joe Madrigal, shouted, “Off with her head!” to Alice.

There are six Alices in this production; Alyssa plays Alice No. 3.

In the play, they confront a bad queen and a good queen, played by two girls who switch back and forth. The two girls came up with this idea.

Adrian Balbontin of San Luis Obispo is the director of Camp Melodrama. Tim Seawell is the stage manager. Kat Endsley and Alex Sheets are diction and voice coaches. Crystal Davidson and Von Lewis are the choreographers. And Steve Freitas and Kraig A. Kelsey are the acting coaches.

For more information about Camp Melodrama, contact campmelodrama@gmail.com.

Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 805-489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.