Monday, July 11, 2016

Broadway or Bust

The halls of Currituck County Middle School are usually dark and quiet during the summer. But, last week, voices rang out, feet danced across the stage and classrooms were aglow as a group of more than 30 girls gathered for Broadway or Bust, a musical theater day camp for Girl Scouts held at the school. The volunteer-led camp was organized by Mary Elysse Santa, a Girl Scout alumna from Moyock who is home for the summer from Western Carolina University.

Mary Elysse leads the "West Side Story" group in song rehearsal.
Each day of camp consisted of two sessions—younger girls in the morning and older girls in the afternoon—culminating with a combined session on Friday prior to a musical revue presented by the campers. The campers practiced vocal warm-up exercises at the beginning of each camp day before breaking up into three groups. The groups were responsible for learning lyrics and choreography, designing the set and fashioning costumes for a musical number. The numbers, which were chosen by Santa prior to the start of camp, each came from a different decade, starting with the 1940s. Highlights of the musical revue included songs performed by the campers from “West Side Story,” “Peter Pan” and “Hairspray.”

“I really wanted to do this camp because it was an opportunity to focus on musical theater, which is something I don’t have a lot of experience with yet,” Jennifer, a 13-year-old Girl Scout from Currituck, said.

Lauren makes a cast of Alexis's nose during a
special effects makeup master class.
In additional to preparing for the musical revue, Santa ensured that the camp was also an opportunity for girls to explore the wide range of roles in theater. They learned technical skills, including lighting and theater photography. They also took part in master classes, including one with a professional makeup artist who led girls in a hands-on workshop in special effects makeup. Santa also arranged a video chat for the campers to meet with Jane Jourdan, founder of Fit for Broadway, a blog dedicated to celebrating Broadway, fitness and health.

“In most communities, music education doesn’t start until students are nine years old, usually in the fourth grade,” Santa said. “It’s been proven that girls can start learning and retaining things much earlier, as young as six or seven, and we’re proving that this week with our youngest campers performing a Peter Pan number. I wanted to run this camp because it is important to provide extracurricular arts programs for students, a subject people often forget about.”

Santa started taking music and theater classes when she was seven years old, and performing has been a big part of her life ever since. In 2014, she used her talents to earn the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts, by completing a project that brought live music performances to a senior living facility in Currituck. Broadway or Bust was another way for Santa to share her love of music and theater with others while providing an extracurricular arts opportunity for local Girl Scouts.

For more information about opportunities with Girl Scouts, visit