OGDEN -- Twenty-six young actors have spent the month of June developing their characters, both literary and personal.
The group opens in a four-show run of "Tom Sawyer" tonight, but director Carolyn Stevens predicts some of the lessons learned will follow them throughout their lives.
"Theater teaches you about yourself and your character," said Stevens, who directed the class as part of the Youth Create 2013 summer camp, sponsored by the Ogden School District, the YMCA and a RAMP grant.
"Theater is a safe way to learn life lessons. Can you follow rules? How far can you drive yourself to reach your goal? Are you a whiner, or do you get in and work. Every aspect of theater teaches you about yourself and what you are capable of."
The students, ages 6 through 14, also learned stage techniques.
"They learned blocking, projection, movement and how to develop characters," said Joyce Wilson, also a teacher, as well as an Ogden School District board member. "I've seen a lot of kids come out of their shells. Some parents enroll them for that. We have students from various schools in the county, and I've seen friendships develop."
The show runs at 7 p.m. today and Friday, and at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday, at Mound Fort Junior High School, 1396 Liberty, Ogden. Admission is $5. The play is based on "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," the 1876 Mark Twain novel about a young boy's adventures with fence whitewashing, naive romance and buried treasure.
Liam Nelson, 10, of Ogden, plays the title role.
"I like the performing," he said. "I like the set changes less, and I don't like the costume changes or the makeup."
Liam shared his take-away lesson about playing lead roles.
"If you get picked for a bigger part, it's a lot more work," he said. "I'm in all but one-and-a-half of the scenes."
But Liam said he didn't really mind the hard work, and the theater games were lots of fun. He also gained some confidence.
"I feel less shy," he said.
Ogden resident Shannon Anderson, 9, learned some costumes are more comfortable than others.
"I play Jack, a school boy who hangs out with Tom and the other boys," said Shannon, sitting comfortably on the stage, wearing knickers and a shirt, her long hair tucked under a newsboy cap. "I would rather wear this than a poofy dress," she said, smiling and gesturing at a bench holding girls sitting primly in lace-trimmed dresses.
Ogden resident Mariena Barton, 11, rose from the bench and sauntered over.
"I play Amy Lawrence," she said. "She's a spoiled brat. It's a lot of fun. My brother says I stay in character 24/7."
Mariena also performed in last year's Youth Create show, "Peter Pan."
"I learned confidence, and I learned to talk loud," she said. "This year, I learned pronunciation, and I learned a Southern accent. I'm enjoying all the dresses, and it's been fun because I get to say mean things. The more you do, the more you learn."
Mariena talked her Ogden neighbor, 10-year-old Kate Allred, into taking the acting camp.
"I've made lots of friends, and I've learned to talk louder," said Kate, who plays a girl named Wilhelmina.
Mariena gave her friend a warm hug and a playful shake.
"Kate was in her own shell, and I had to grab her and break her shell," Mariena said.
Shannon said she had learned a lot about being on stage.
"I've made new friends, and it's been pretty fun," she said. "I learned about theater. I also learned I wouldn't want to be the main character. He has too many lines."