Theater camp back at the Grand in Elizabeth Borough

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For two weeks in July young people in the Mon Valley can channel their inner Kevin Bacon at the Grandstage Summer Camp, supported by the Mon River Arts production group.

Camp theme is "Back to the '80s" with a final performance that will feature songs from the movie "Footloose" and other numbers from the decade of big hair and neon colors.

This will be the 10th year for the camp that attracts about two dozen 8- to 14-year olds, said Lori Kolodziej, director and owner of the Grand Theatre, Second Avenue in Elizabeth Borough.

"I thought the kids in this community needed something to do," Ms. Kolodziej said.

So, even though she has no background in theater, she decided to use the 200-seat facility that was purchased by her family in 2000, to encourage young talent.

"I found my love for theater when they stepped on the stage," she said.

Jen Gorton, camp director and a Boston University vocal performance graduate, said the camp provides young performers the basics of combining the spoken word with music and dance.

"The camp is more for the new students who are just beginning in musical theater. They get one hour of singing, one hour of dance and choreography," she said.

The three-hour daily sessions also include theater games and classes in acting techniques. At the end of the two weeks, students will know basics, such as the difference between stage left and down stage; the proper way to put volume in their voice and take part in a production.

Kellee Cohlhepp, 19, a sophomore theater major at California University of Pennsylvania, said she still remembers -- and uses -- the breathing techniques she learned at the camp.

As she grew, Miss Cohlhepp often worked at the camp, assisting with choreography and script reading.

"It gave you a taste of everything without having the scary part of doing a whole show on stage," she said.

Cost for the camp is $250. Parents can inquire about financial aid by emailing

Many of the campers are also involved in Ms. Kolodziej's theater programs at the Grand during the school year. This spring those students, ages 8 to 18, performed "The Little Mermaid" and "The Music Man" to sold-out audiences.

Originally a vaudeville playhouse, the Grand Theatre was built in 1902. Silent movies and then "talkies" attracted local movie-goers. But, unable to compete with influx of large cineplex theaters, the Grand closed in the late 1970s and remained dark for nearly 20 years until it was purchased by the Kolodziejs. Today it is home to community theater and is available to local groups for gatherings.

The summer camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon starting Monday through July 12 and July 15-19. A performance showcase is set for 7 p.m. July 19.

Details: 412-628-1032 or 412-384-0504.


Laurie Bailey, freelance writer:


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