It's amazing, sometimes, the things kids can create out of thin air.
Take, for instance, the nine children on stage at the Hamilton Playhouse Tuesday afternoon.
Participants in the Hamilton Players Summer Theatre School Workshop, the aspiring thespians are given only a few slips of paper, each containing a simple cliche.
"Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash," said one; "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," read another.
Within minutes, the young actors are improvising and even blocking short dramatizations that reflect both the literal and implied meanings of the phrases.
One student challenges his other group members to small bets, which he inevitably and humorously loses, only to admit that he can't pay up. In the other group, a girl actually becomes mute when she tries to demean her friends.
At the end of the week-long workshop, the students will present a production of their own creation - entitled "That's What They Say" - that is inspired by those cliches and others like them.
"They have one intensive week to create the show, and they're really creative," said Director and Education Coordinator for the workshop Denise Rose. "The teachers come in with some ideas and some guidelines and we have goals and a curriculum, but the kids create the show."
With three different age groups ranging from kindergartners to high school students all doing their own separate productions, it's been interesting and entertaining to see what they come up with, said Rose.
"It's kind of amazing," she said. "The kindergartners are so funny; I don't think like they think."
For Arielle Rhodes, who is teaching the sixth, seventh and eighth graders, the whole concept is a great way to bring out the students' natural creativity.
"It's fantastic idea to have a title for a show that is that open-ended. There's going to be quite a hodge-podge but everything has that one cohesion," she said. "There's a lot of talent in this group; a lot of kids who have been in plays before. So, they help bring it out in each other."
The groups also do other activities such as improvisational games that help get the kids thinking both creatively and dramatically.
"It's an improv class, so you just have the basic stage ideas behind it ... and then they make it their own," Rhodes said.
For Rose, exposing children to the theater and the world of performing arts is crucial for a number of reasons.
"First, as a theater, it's important to develop their love of theater and their appreciation of the performing arts. Second, our society is becoming very risky and I think it's important for kids in this age to have something that develops self-esteem and communication skills and gives them a creative outlet under responsible supervision," she said. "If we can accomplish both of those goals under the one umbrella, that's fabulous."
A big part of the success that they've had at this summer's camp, Rose added, comes from the motivation and commitment of the camp's teachers Rhodes, Kristine Butts and Sarah Windsor.
"We have an amazing group of teachers and we've always been very lucky with the leaders of our camp but ... Wow. With Arielle and Kristine and Sarah we feel really, really lucky," she said. "Teachers of that caliber you don't find every day. I've never seen the kids this engaged."
And, she said, getting that kind of involvement from both the teachers and the students bodes well for the Playhouse's future.
"If we can just keep infusing new blood on all levels - in the teaching and the acting and backstage - that would be ideal," Rose said, "because it is community theater and it should involve the whole community and not just one small section."
The students' productions of "That's What They Say" will be presented this weekend, July 16 and 17, at 7 p.m. at the Hamilton Playhouse.
Currently, the Playhouse is also accepting applications for the 12-week fall program in which students will create their own adaptation of Dickins' "A Christmas Carol."
For more information, contact the Playhouse at 375-9050.
Reporter Will Moss can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com