Ponte Vedra Beach native organizes theater camps during her summer break


A Ponte Vedra Beach native and rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University is helping to organize a series of theater camps in Jacksonville for kids during her summer break.

Emily Suarez, a recent graduate of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts who grew up near PVPVRawlings Elementary School, has collaborated with four other recent graduates of the Jacksonville-based performing arts school to form Shortstack Theatre Company, which is working to teach the next generation of budding, local stars by producing the kind of camps they know kids will enjoy. The Shortstack members, who are all enrolled in theater-related BFA programs at colleges around the country, are teaming up with The 5 & Dime Theatre Company to hold the camps at its location in downtown Jacksonville.

“We’re building every aspect of it, and they’re just really holding our hands through it and helping us get to where we need to be with it all,” said Suarez, “which is really wonderful of them to give us this opportunity and to trust us so much.”

Suarez explained that the members of Shortstack are building upon years of relationships with the founders of The 5 & Dime, who also happened to be interested in incorporating an educational component into their theater company.

“They approached us, and we liked the idea,” said Lee Hamby, the managing director of The 5 & Dime, who was also Suarez’s first musical theater teacher when she was in fifth grade. “From the ground up, they’ve been working very hard to get this ready.”

Suarez and her cohorts at Shortstack are offering three one-week camps at The 5 & Dime over the next month. The first camp will take place July 10-14, providing kids ages 5-10 the opportunity to learn about drama and develop acting skills. Shortstack will then offer two camps for rising sixth to tenth graders, including an acting camp July 17-21 and a musical theater camp July 24-28.

The camps range in price from $150 to $175, with discounts available for families that sign up multiple campers. Suarez noted that those older participants signed up for one of the two camps can sign up for the other camp for $100. She also said campers can receive $25 discounts for each friend they refer that signs up for a camp.

Suarez, who is serving as managing director and co-artistic director for Shortstack, grew up attending theater camps throughout her childhood and credits those experiences for inspiring her to pursue theater professionally. Her hope is that Shortstack’s camps will provide similar inspiration to the kids participating.

“I really found during my very first summer camp when I was 10 years old that it’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” said Suarez, who noted that more information about the camps can be found at http://www.the5anddime.org/education/. “I would just love to see that happen for someone in one of our camps. I couldn’t imagine doing more for somebody than what was done for me.”