After a 15-year absence, a beloved musical theatre enrichment program returned to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education.
Hosted by theUA Little Rock Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education, “MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience” provided a unique opportunity for high-ability and gifted students to learn about musical theater, stagecraft, and civics June 26-30 at UA Little Rock. It was funded by an Academic Enrichment for the Gifted and Talented in the Summer grant.
“To us, this program was an exciting opportunity to bring a very missed student enrichment program back to campus,” said Dr. Christine Deitz, program director. “The Jodie Mahony Center was beyond thrilled to offer this program again to Arkansas students.”
Program participant Margaret Rood, a rising ninth-grader at Malvern High School, spent much of her life dreaming of becoming an actor.
Growing up in the small town of Malvern, Rood didn’t know other aspiring actors.
When UA Little Rock hosted a musical theatre program for seventh- and eighth-graders in Arkansas, Rood jumped at the chance to get a taste of acting life during“MT Stage: The Hamilton Experience.”
“This was my favorite thing to do all summer,” Rood said. “Musical people are a very small niche in my hometown. It was great to be surrounded by like-minded people.”
After participating in the camp, Rood plans to pursue acting and theater opportunities in Little Rock to give her more experience before college.
During the program, students attended civics and musical theatre history classes to learn about the history behind the Broadway play. Students studied aspects of Greek theater, Shakespeare, and modern theater. In civics class, participants discussed immigration, citizenship, and the Bill of Rights.
“You could see the talent, passion, and commitment of these children in their eyes from the moment they came to campus,” Deitz said. “It reminded me of why I came into teaching.”
At the end of the week, participants performed music and choreography inspired by the Broadway hit, “Hamilton: An American Musical,” during a June 30 student showcase in University Theatre on the UA Little Rock campus.
Gabbie Stokes, a rising ninth-grader from Ozark, was thrilled to play the characters of Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette.
“I have never done theatre or drama before,” Stokes said. “This camp was the highlight of my summer.”