The sounds of young voices coming together to sing 1950s hits “Yakety Yak” and “Rockin’ Robin” are familiar these days at the H.F.V. Wilson Community Center summer camp.
Tuesday morning, a group of boys sang “yakety yak, yakety yak,” and were next joined by a group of girls who caroled “don’t talk back,” while shaking an index finger at the boys. Together, the group of 20 children broke into dance as rock music rang out through the speakers of the center’s auditorium.
Lucinda Hicks, director of Ardmore Little Theatre’s education outreach program, says it was a typical practice for the campers, who are working to master the song for the upcoming play, “Back to the ’50s,” to be presented to their families, friends and the community later this month at Heritage Hall.
Since early June, Hicks has been working with more than 600 youth, split between the H.F.V. Wilson Community Center summer camp and Cities In Schools’ summer camp program. This is the first summer Ardmore Little Theatre, a non-profit theatre organization that entertains the community through live theatre, has partnered with the two youth organizations to introduce drama, music, dance and performance in the camps.
The program emphasizes creativity and active learning by incorporating fine arts lessons through play practice. The children, between the ages of 5 and 12, will showcase what they’ve learned at the upcoming play performances. In addition to singing their parts, Hicks says lessons center on understanding the lyrics to the songs from the 1950s era and discussing the culture and historic events during that decade.
“What I’ve been teaching is not just singing and dancing,” Hicks said. “We talk about the singers and their backgrounds. We talk about the culture of the 1950s.
“They are interested in how different things were, and they ask questions.”
Songs performed in the upcoming play include well-known 1950s hits such as “Yakety Yak,” “Rockin Robin,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Chantilly Lace.” Additionally, songs made famous by Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline will be introduced. The play includes the children presenting background on the songs prior to performances and sharing the cultural impact.
Hicks says poetry will be read, and a traditional Mexican dance will be performed to “La Bamba.”
The children were able to choose the song they perform in the play. When camp began, Hicks introduced 10 1950s songs to the children, who later made the choice, Hicks says.
“I wanted it to be something they enjoyed, and by picking their song, they would connect to the song,” Hick says. “We have discussed the songs and the lyrics. Many had heard the songs before, but now we have modernized the songs, and the kids love it.”
The H.F.V. Wilson Community Center campers will present the play on July 22-23, and Cities In Schools campers will follow on July 24-25.
The Community Education Outreach program is a new endeavor for Ardmore Little Theatre and began earlier this year as it was integrated into the after-school programs at H.F.V. Wilson Community Center and Cities In Schools, as well as at two alternative education programs of Ardmore City Schools. The program aims to introduce fine arts and performing arts lessons to youth, and was founded as a result to budget cuts in public education leading to reduced art and music education.
Hicks says the program will continue to reach the after-school programs and alternative education programs in the 2014-15 school year, with a possibility of expanding to Mannsville Public Schools.
“Hopefully, it becomes a long-term partnership,” Hicks says. “As long as we continue to have the community’s support, grant support and raise money through performances, then we can continue to offer this at no cost to the organizations.”