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Theater Spotlight
JCC Kaleidoscope Creative Arts & Science Camp

A Theatre is a Theatre is a Theatre...

Children's theatres are not all alike. The member organizations in CBACT vary widely, from urban semi-professional theatres to small all-volunteer community theatres. Some theatres are led by professional directors with full artistic staffs; some are led by parents and board members. Some have their own space or their own theater; some rent space at local churches, dance studios, and schools. But no matter how different CBACT theatres might appear on the surface, there are similarities across all children's theatres which tie them together.

JCC KaleidoscopeOn the surface, CBACT member theatre JCC Kaleidoscope Creative Arts & Science Camp, located at the Jewish Community Center in Newton, couldn't be more different from other CBACT theatres. First off, Kaleidoscope is an 8-week summer camp for children entering kindergarten through 8th grade. The camp has a strong theatre component, but kids who participate also do other activities as well. Camp Director Betty Lehrman says that while younger campers experience a variety of music, dance, or theatre every day, they also do visual arts, swimming and sports activities. Older campers get to participate in a musical, and also choose from classes like Glee (show choir), Improv, Awesome Band, Stage Combat, Zumba, as well as classes in arts, science, swimming, and sports.

Well, that sounds pretty different from other CBACT theatres. I think I can say with certainty that no other CBACT theatre offers both swimming and Zumba.

JCC KaleidoscopeBut Kaleidoscope does offer theatre, and lots of it. Lehrman's staff includes a drama teacher, a music director, a choreographer, a costumer, and a technical director, and kids have opportunities to learn from each of these professionals. The younger campers (K-3rd) take a story—from a picture book or from a folktale—and craft it into a show with music and dance, and perform it at the end of each four-week session. The older group (4th-8th graders) spends four weeks rehearsing and performing a classic stage show. This summer, the older kids will perform Once on This Island and Beauty and the Beast.

So Kaleidoscope is a camp but it’s also a theatre. But it’s a theatre that’s part of a Jewish community organization—what about that? “You might think that this is unique program in that it's related to a religious organization,” Lehrman explains, “but in fact it has many of the same issues as other theatres. Yes, there challenges that are unique to us--not many theaters have to worry about supplying only kosher food for snacks—but other challenges are completely analogous.”

JCC KaleidoscopeJust like other theatres, Kaleidoscope has struggles relating to space: there are storage issues for sets, costumes, and props; problems with old equipment like lightboards and soundboards; a less-than-ideal stage with little wing space and no fly space; and challenges relating to sharing an auditorium that serves many functions for the organization--meetings, rehearsals, storage, shows, workshops...everything.

“Because we are in a shared space, we have to work around other departments’ schedules,” Lehrman says. “But my attitude is always ‘we'll make it work’. We have to be flexible and creative and think ahead, and have a sense of humor so we don’t feel overwhelmed. After all, we are working together.”

When it comes down to it, Lehrman feels that her experience at Kaleidoscope is not that different from teaching and running a theatre in other places she has been. “I get kids who are shy or fragile and don't want to run around outside, but I also get kids who are passionate about theatre and that's great. For me, the vision is to support every child so that each person has a good experience, and really gets to enjoy all the activities, and gets to connect with other kids and their counselors.”

Sounds like a CBACT theatre to me.

For more information about Kaleidoscope Creative Arts & Science Camp, contact Betty Lehrman or visit their website.