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Published: Monday, 7/29/2013

Perrysburg youth theater kept alive by camp director

City stepped in with funds after area arts council folded

Ashley Keane performs as Little Red Riding Hood with Connor Phlegar as the Baker during the Perrysburg Youth Summer Theater performance of ‘Into the Woods’ on Thursday. Ashley Keane performs as Little Red Riding Hood with Connor Phlegar as the Baker during the Perrysburg Youth Summer Theater performance of ‘Into the Woods’ on Thursday.
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When the Perrysburg Area Arts Council folded this last winter, the hearts of a group of students sank as they wondered how they would spend their summer without theater camp.

“It is such a big part of my summer. I get to see my friends every day, it was a huge scare,” Emma Hayward said.

So the 14-year-old Perrysburg High School student was relieved and excited when she found a pamphlet for the camp and that this year’s play was Into the Woods, her favorite musical.

The City of Perrysburg kept the funding intact for the Youth Summer Theater Musical. Tim Lake, who has been the camp’s director and instructor for the last eight years, had to take over the administration side as well to keep the six-week summer camp for 10 to 15-year-olds in business for its 24th year.

Funding and time constraints led to the arts council’s demise.

“It was really worrisome,” Mr. Lake said of the potential loss of the theater camp. “With this not being here it obviously would hurt after investing so much into it. And it hurts the community and kids. After 24 years of this camp I’d hate to be the last guy to do it.”

So Mr. Lake, a Toledo Symphony stage manager in the camp’s off-season, kept it alive. From 9 a.m. to noon starting June 17 through last week, the students met every weekday to work on their vocals, practice auditioning, and rehearse. The camp ended with two performances of Into the Woods Wednesday and Thursday last week at the Commodore Building’s auditorium.

There were four volunteers, a person working the lights, and music director working beyond the scenes during last week’s play who were all previous campers. The music director, Edward Bean, is in his third year at New York University studying music.

“I met him when he was 12 for this camp, and he’s kept coming back,” Mr. Lake said. “That’s really cool.”

Mr. Lake said he is thinking about adding a camp for older students in the afternoons next year, or a program during time off over the holidays.

Anya Kress, a 16-year-old from Perrysburg who attends the Toledo School for the Arts, would love if she could continue to bring plays to life for Mr. Lake. She spent six years in the camp and the last two volunteering and helping.

“It sounds cheesy when people talk about their soulmate, but Tim is the soul director for us,” she said. “For a lot of us this is our whole summer. That is why I still help. I don’t know what to do without it.”

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