A challenging summer theatre camp for youth is now a permanent fixture at the Marigold Cultural Centre.

The Spotlight Youth Theatre was created by the Cantabile Society of Truro approximately 10 years ago. It brought 30 kids who were already interested in theatre together for a three-week camp. At the conclusion of the camp, a high quality show featuring the students would take to the stage at the Marigold Cultural Centre.

On March 6, an official agreement was reached between the Cantabile Society and the Cobequid Arts Council, which oversees the Marigold Cultural Centre. Moving forward, the camp, now called the Marigold Youth Spotlight Theatre, will be the sole responsibility of the Marigold Centre.

“In the past, the Cantabile Society chose the play being performed, the staff who worked the show and the pricing,” said Farida Gabbani, executive director of the Marigold Cultural Centre. “Now, it’s up to us. We’ve taken it over and now all the responsibility falls on us.”

With auditions scheduled for May, planning for this year’s camp, being held July 1 to 22, has already begun. Jennifer Johnston, a Cobequid Arts Society board member, has accepted the volunteer producer position.

She confirmed a director – Emily Robertson, a third year Sheridan College student and Spotlight alumna – has been hired. Robertson will also handle the choreography. Sarah Glinz, a local voice teacher, has accepted the position of vocal director.

What’s even more exciting is a play has already been chosen.

“We’re going to be doing James and the Giant Peach Jr. which was only released to middle school aged kids late last year which means it’s hasn’t been done around here,” said Johnson. “It’s adapted from the Roald Dahl book. The music is amazing. I’ve been looking for the right opportunity to do this play. It’s a challenging show which makes it perfect for Spotlight.”

While the Marigold Centre strives to get everyone interested in the arts, Johnson admits the camp is more geared toward those who already have some experience.

“We typically see kids who have been part of their junior high musical, taken dance lessons or have some prior experience and understand the processes a bit more,” she said. “We’re looking to elevate participants to the next level. It’s kind of like a boot camp for theatre students.”

Under Cantabile, both Johnson and Gabbani say the camp was extremely successful. However, a variety of reasons led them to approaching the Marigold about taking it over.

Gabbani says the Marigold is excited to carry on the tradition moving forward and could look at possibly expanding in the future.

“I think, if anything, we have a chance to reach out to more people,” she said. “There was absolutely nothing wrong with the previous setup. We’ve always handled the registration and of course provided them the venue for the camp. So the Marigold was already home to the camp. It’s really not a major change for us.”

Johnson, well-known for her role in the musical theatre scene in Colchester County, admits it was tough to contain her excitement when the opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve always been a musical theatre dork. It’s all I’ve done,” said Johnson. “I took voice lessons and performed in my junior and high school musicals. I went to Queen’s University and earned my drama degree. I realized when joining the board I haven’t really done anything else. I was excited to learn other things. Then we received the proposal and I just couldn’t stay quiet. It was a great opportunity for the Marigold and I knew I could help bring it all together. I told them I was totally willing to take it on. It was the right time for us.”

The Marigold Youth Spotlight Theatre does have a tuition fee. Those applying, which Johnson says has primarily been local children, will audition for one of the 30 available spots. They’ll be expected to perform a 30 second monologue or a poem as well as part of a song.

Johnson says she’s already started spreading the word, which includes visits to local schools in search of performers between 10 and 18 years old.

“I’ve always loved this program,” she said. “It’s so challenging for the kids. It’s not easy to learn a full show in three weeks. I’ve always believed that the more you give children to do the more they’ll do. We just need to provide them with the right motivation. This is an enhanced level of training and by the end of the camp they will have been exposed to a new show that they can put in their repertoire. It’s a new storyline, different acting styles and costuming under a different director and vocal director.”

For those interested in learning more about the camp or wanting to book an audition, email marigold.spotlight@gmail.com.

A competition is also in the works for this year’s production. Johnson says they’re looking for someone to assist them in designing the peach.

“If anyone has any ideas about how to make a giant peach come to life on stage and fly to New York City, we want to hear from them.”