Summer arts program spotlights Bay area youth

When Jean Calandra began the USF SummerPlay program 11 years ago, there was only one theatre class offered to 16 students.

This year, 175 Tampa Bay area youths, ranging in age from 8- to 17 years-old, will participate in the three-week summer arts program that offers 10 classes in subjects that include the youth theatre class, creative writing, spanish through art and TV production.

Each class will showcase their final projects in the Theatre II lobby during the theatrical production of “Secrets, Wishes and Dreams” this weekend at USF Theatre II.

According to Calandra, students involved in the Theatre Project are the creative force behind the production.

“The kids in the theatre department come up with their own ideas,” Calandra said. “They are the writers, designers and performers in the show.”

The participants attend one of the classes daily for three weeks, and while there is a fee that ranges from $250 to $450 depending on the course, scholarships are offered to students.

Calandra said some SummerPlay alumni have given back to the program by providing scholarships.

“A couple of students who were involved with the program for 10 years have now finished college and have their own businesses and now provide scholarships for students,” Calandra said.

The program is self-funded and does not receive money from the state or the university, although the university does provide the space for the classes.

And while the university does not provide money for the summer program, many of the instructors for the program are USF faculty or graduate students.

Ed Tillman, production supervisor and adjunct professor for the school of mass communications, has been involved with the SummerPlay program for the past five yearsThe 19 students in his TV production class brainstormed for the concept of their 15-minute video.

“They come up with the idea and I give them guidance along the way,” Tillman said.

Their video project this summer will be a Saturday Night Live type of sketch comedy, Tillman said.

Tillman said all the T.V. production students will receive a copy of the video with a five minute blooper reel added to it.

Along with the final projects of the other classes, such as the works of the photography class and the fine art works, in the lobby of Theatre II this weekend will be a television and VCR showing the T.V. production project.

“The project takes a lot of work and the kids are bright,” Tillman said. “I see some potential – whether they will choose to do it later on, interests can change over the years – but I do see some kids with a keen interest in television production.”