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Students work hard in Summerplay

Five kids are trapped inside a board game and they must work together and make good choices to escape. Each decision they make will affect their success. While dealing with problems common to young people, such as friendship and divorce, the students learn valuable life lessons about honesty and trust.

In three weeks, 32 students in a USF Summerplay theater program wrote and rehearsed this play, Amazing Me!!!, which is scheduled for performance Saturday and Sunday. Students in the theater program spent the first week of class learning and adjusting to teamwork. Ideas were tracked to develop a storyline and a setting for a play based on the theme “choices.” The theme was assigned and they began writing a script through improvisation.

USF Summerplay is a program where university students work with local middle school and high school students to build on language arts skills and other subject studies.

In creating the play, students are both the actors and screenplay writers of the play. The lighting, stage cues and other technicalities are provided by technical director Beau Edwardson, project coordinator Michael Innocenti and Jean Calandra, a Summerplay director.

Another drama group of 8- to 12- year olds spent the week working on a skit that will be performed as part of the play. There will also be a musical number and a dance piece performed by students in those workshops.

Blake High School student Zack Dorn, 16, is in his eighth year of the program, and he’s noticed changes between the younger drama group and the teenage theater group.

“They treat us a lot more like adults; they don’t underestimate us,” Dorn said.

Tiffany Murray, 13, a student at Orange Grove middle school, agreed.

“There’s more freedom to express your ideas here,” Murray said.

Murray and Dorn said, while their favorite part of the program is acting, they also value the other lessons of cooperation, teamwork and responsibility they develop.

Gina Ferrante, a recent graduate, and Julian Noel, who will graduate this summer, acted as acting coaches for the students.

“We work with them as a group and take their weak points and good points and utilize them and get them to a place where they feel good about themselves and confident in their performance,” Ferrante said.

Noel said their main goal is to teach the students to be comfortable with teamwork and acting.

“As long as they have confidence, they can do anything,” he said.

USF Summerplay also specializes in studies on Web design, video production, Spanish through art, and drawing with color classes. The students’ work will be showcased on Friday at 2 p.m. in Theater II.

Friday’s exhibition will be presented like an art gallery. Also, a television will be set up for the video production group’s project, and a computer for the Web design class.

Preston Poe and Julia DeArriba, both graduate students in the electronic media sector of the art department, spent the three weeks teaching students in the video production group how to use digital cameras and the non-linear Premier editing system.

There are about 10 students in the class who met in the afternoon. For their project, they choose to make a public service announcement from a child’s perspective.

“They’re saying it’s not enough to talk to their children,” Poe said. “They must build a trust and maintain a certain kind of relationship with the kids.”

“It’s their message; they came up with it,” DeArriba said.

Melissa West, 13, a student at Rogers Middle School, said she was always interested in learning how films are created.

“When you watch a movie and see all those names in the credits, now I know what they do,” West said, “They teach us that here.”

West is also in the Web design class. Alex Berman, 12, a student at the Academy at the Lakes, is also in both classes.

“We’ve been building Web pages like a maze,” Berman said. “You have to figure it out using logic.”

The page is the class’ contribution to Friday’s exhibition.

Some of the artwork that will be displayed is from the drawing with color class.

Elena Cifuentes, a Summerplay teacher, said the students work with various means of media. In the class’ three-week duration, the students learned and experimented with the color wheel, drew origami figures, made self portraits and are now working on scrolls. The scrolls and portraits will be displayed on Friday.

Kristin Lewis, 13, who is home-schooled, said Cifuentes wanted the scrolls to be “surreal, almost dream-like, with a positive aspect, stuff that makes us happy.”

In addition, the students created the scrolls independently as a true representation of each individual.

Daniel Zychlinski, 13, a student at Most Holy Redeemer, said he learned how to “use and incorporate color in my art and how to express my feelings.”

The cost for the summer class range from $300 to $475.