For a few days only, the Addison Improv will be trading in mixed drinks for chocolate milk, as they host a camp teaching children everything from card tricks to one-liners. Two entertainment camps will be held this summer, one July 15-18 and the other July 29-Aug. 1. Each feature two instructors, magician Mike Williams and comedian Dean Lewis, as they guide children ages 8 through 12 in different entertainment skills.
For the cost of $149.99 per child, the camp will teach young performers magic (both close-up table magic and illusions designed for the stage), juggling, improvisation and stand-up comedy. Each day, lunch and snacks will be provided, and yes, they'll be mindful of any allergies or dietary restrictions.
“Originally we wanted to do a stand-up comedy camp,” Addison Improv general manager Sean Traynor says. “But a lot of kids might be intimidated by, ‘Oh it’s a stand-up comedy class,’ so what we did was we said, ‘Let’s make this a kind of all-encompassing variety camp.’ So that’s what we branched into.”
Traynor wasn’t sure what to expect for their first class but was pleasantly surprised to see that 16 kids showed up for the three-day camp. The idea of teaching children has long been in the works for Improv's management, and now that the summer camp has proved successful, they plan to start a new series of sessions for winter break, expanding the series of classes from the Addison location to the Arlington Improv as well. The Arlington club is considered a logical next step for the expansion of the camp, both because of its location and the appeal of the Black Dog Pizza Arcade for the younger participants.
For Williams, teaching children magic and juggling in such a short time frame is a challenging but not impossible task. He approaches juggling instruction the same way he was taught as a kid in school gym class. Each student begins with light scarves that fall slowly, passing one back and forth until they’re able to maintain three in the air at the same time. After learning the pattern, the student will then begin to work the same process with bean bags. While it might sound complicated. Williams has been impressed with the results.
“It really depends on how much concentration and practice the student is willing to put in to learning this skill,” Williams says. “But I’m happy to say that after two days at this first camp, about half of the kids are juggling three scarves consistently, and the rest are already juggling three bean bags or on the verge of reaching the three-bean-bag goal.”
For Lewis, teaching stand-up comedy isn’t a new experience, as the majority of comedians in Dallas have attended his long-running class. The adult sessions introduce format and structure to joke writing, from which comedians can filter their ideas and come up with their own material. Even though his students are too young to pay for a comedy club’s two-drink minimum, Lewis doesn’t find his approach any different.
“Working with kids is a new experience, and it’s great,” Lewis says. “The structure I teach works just as well for a second-grader as it does for an adult, because no matter what age, we all have problems that can be used to create solid stand-up material. The kids are all very quick learners, and them just being themselves is fun to watch. I’m looking forward to their ‘sets’ on Thursday.”
The students' parents are looking forward to Thursday as well. After the three-day camp, the children will gather on the fourth day, making final adjustments before they showcase what they’ve learned for their family and friends.
“As far as the actual showcase, it’s probably going to be something close to an hour to an hour and a half,” Traynor says. “They’re going to go up, individually or as a group, and they’re all going to have their own little part of the show. They’re all going to be officially artists.”
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