Norman's Sooner Theatre uses 'Annie Get Your Gun' to give acting ammunition to young performers 

e traditional musical," said SummerStage co-founder and co-director Melany Pattison. "We did 'Beauty and the Beast' last year and 'Willy Wonka Jr.' the year before. We want the students to experience all kinds of theater."

Pattison came to Sooner eight years ago with a dream to hold a summer camp for kids that would teach them about musical theater. She wished to give young performers an opportunity to take part in a full-scale production, during which the students would spend four hours a day, five days a week, learning lines, lyrics and dance steps. Pattison and Jennifer Baker, Sooner's executive director, have served as co-directors of the camp since 2003, when their first production of "Bye Bye Birdie" featured about 30 young performers aged 8-18.

Increased attendance in subsequent years led to the creation of two separate programs: SummerStage for ages 8-13 and Young Producers for ages 13-18. The Young Producers will stage "Thoroughly Modern Millie" from July 29 to Aug. 1.

The theater's marketing director, Stephanie Royse, said that Sooner staffers try to make the experience as well-rounded as possible. So, in addition learning the lines, songs, dances and stage terminology, the students in "Annie Get Your Gun" have also been learning the history behind the characters in the show, all of them based on real people.

"This is one of the best-behaved groups I've had. They want to be here and want to take in the whole experience of theater and grow in their talents," Pattison said. "All of the kids in this show are putting in a tremendous amount of effort, so we work hard to make sure that everyone has their chance to shine on stage, whether they're in the ensemble or in a starring role. We have double-cast the principal roles and our ensemble numbers to include lots of kids so they all have more performing time."

In addition to SummerStage and Young Producers, Sooner Theatre offers 20 camps throughout June and July, covering musical theater, acting, tap dance, Claymation, puppet theater and "? new this year "? improv.

With more children turning up for auditions for the limited number of roles in the summer shows, Sooner Theatre is adding two new production classes in the fall that do not require an audition to enroll. Those two classes will mount productions of "Aladdin Jr." and "High School Musical" in early 2011. "?Eric Webb

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