Theater hosts annual youth workshop

BROWNSTOWN — Stage basics, movement, projection, diction, facial expressions, characterization, improvisation, choreography and singing.

Props, costumes, makeup and technical aspects.

From onstage to behind-the-scenes skills, 97 boys and girls ages 6 to 18 spent last week learning it all at Royal Off-the-Square Theatre for Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre’s annual summer workshop.

There also was a workshop with a professional mime and a chance to audition for a summer musical.

The sessions were led by a team of experienced volunteers with backgrounds in acting as well as working with kids and teens.

This year’s workshop was led for the first time by Kristina Charlton, although she has helped with it for several years.

“I want them to, of course, have a good time, but it’s all about building their confidence — making friends, being comfortable with people but building their confidence and learning to work as a collaborative team,” she said.

“For our teens, my husband (Shawn Charlton) did a lesson one night that your talent means nothing if you’re a jerk,” she said. “It is true in all things, but this is a team just like any other team, and you have to work together. Some people have more lines than others and things like that, but we’re all for the same end goal. It takes everybody, and they have to learn that themselves and learn to have each other’s backs and just build that confidence together.”

The first day of the workshop included games and working on props and costumes. The second day, Tammy Lewis from Tammy’s Dance Studio in Brownstown taught choreography. The third day, Georgiann Coons taught music, Brinna Sharp led a makeup lesson and other volunteers coordinated games.

On the fourth day, campers could audition for Disney’s “Finding Nemo Jr.,” which will be presented July 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30 at the theater.

Charlton chose that show and will direct it, too. She has the task of filling the 40 members of the cast.

“We tell them that … they physically audition on Thursday, but you start auditions when you enter this building on Monday,” she said. “Your behavior, your participation throughout the week mean everything. We are watching all week.”

This past Sunday, there also was an open audition for those who didn’t attend the workshop.

“This is a musical, which I’m very comfortable with and just makes it more fun really,” Charlton said. “I’m looking forward to a large cast. That opens the possibility of some new faces into the building, and I have a new friend of the theater, her name is Alexis Ruddick, that is costuming for me, so she is already hand-making fish costumes.”

Most of the staging will be done with projected images, she said.

“We have some new tech happening with our new LED system and then these scenic projects that we get to use through Disney,” Charlton said. “We want the whole audience to feel underwater.”

Myles Calhoun, 11, and Gabby Hall, 12, were among the workshop participants.

Both said they auditioned in the past and didn’t make the cast, but they hope the experience gained at this year’s workshop and other experiences they’ve had will help them earn a spot in “Finding Nemo Jr.”

“I think it helps them gain a little bit of confidence not only on the stage but off it, too,” Hall said of youth having an opportunity to learn about theater and auditioning. “I think it’s a good chance to make some fun friends who are into the same kind of interests as you.”

Calhoun was in the “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” cast earlier this year.

“It helps kids gain confidence, and it’s just a good experience what it feels like to practice and what it feels like to be onstage,” he said.

This was Hall’s second year attending the workshop.

“Last year when I was 11, I started getting into musicals and stuff, and I really, really loved it,” she said. “Then my mom found out that there was theater camp, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to go.’ I came back this year because I had a lot of fun last year.”

Calhoun also attended football camp the same week as the theater workshop, so he’s getting a variety of experiences this summer.

“This is really fun,” he said of the theater workshop.

Registration opens for the workshop in the spring, and the link is published via email, social media and online at