Campers returned this summer for the ninth year of the Spark! Youth Camp, hosted by Alberta Avenue Community League from July 18 to 22. 

Thirty kids between the ages of eight to 14 participated, learning skills on the performance and storytelling side or the technical and design side of theatre production. 

This summer’s production was lead instructor Katie Cutting’s first year at the program’s helm. Cutting helped overhaul the camp from a theatre program with an in-person performance at the end of the camp, to a program centred around producing a film performance. 

“The performance kids, they write and star in their own story. Throughout the course of the week, they write it and by the end of the week, we’ve filmed it and then it’s up to me to edit it to their specs,” Cutting explains. 

“Then on the other side, the tech side where I spend most of my time, myself and the tech instructor take the kids through building sets, props, learning how to use cameras, all of the stuff that they need to be able to make a short film.”

This year’s camp started off similar to last year’s camp. Campers arrived on the first day, ready to dive into the world of filmmaking. Cutting and the two assistant facilitators, David Rae and Amy Dass, had prepped three different ideas to pitch to the kids. 

“On Monday, the performance students sat down in their groups and then they all kind of wrote a scenario for the different options that we presented. And they all came back using the exact same one,” Cutting says. 

She continues: “They wanted to use a fancy Victorian castle and some very high society stories. So from that point, the tech side, we started working on a set right away.” 

While the tech and design campers worked on making their Victorian fantasy come to life, the performance campers created their characters and worked on their scripts. By the end of the Tuesday session, things were falling into place perfectly. 

And then, says Cutting, disaster struck. 

“What makes this very interesting is that I got COVID,” she explains. “And I tested positive Wednesday morning, just as we’re coming right into the peak of all of these things that we’ve got to do.”

With Cutting on the sidelines, Rae and Dass, along with the program teacher assistants, flipped the camp on its head and started afresh with a new concept. 

“What we ended up with was a variety show, set in the castle that we’d already started to design. And it’s very much like an ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ kind of thing,” says Cutting. 

“Between each segment, we go back to a house. So the host introduces the first segment, and we go off and we have an adventure. And then we come back and forth and back and forth throughout the story.”

Despite the hiccups along the way, the campers completed their film and premiered it at the league on Sept. 11. 

“It was all performed by and written by our own campers, with just the lightest touch of adult interference to try and make it happen better for them,” says Cutting.