Ponte Vedra native sets out to produce kids' theater camps for second consecutive year


Emily Suarez, a Ponte Vedra Beach native, is organizing a series of theater camps for kids in Jacksonville this summer for the second consecutive year.

Suarez grew up near PVPV-Rawlings Elementary School and graduated from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Now, she is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and working with other college theater students to produce camps held at the 5 & Dime theater in Downtown Jacksonville. The group of camp counselors refers to itself as Shortstack Theatre Company, and its mission is to teach the next generation of budding, local stars.

Among the enhancements slated for this summer’s camps, said Suarez, is an increase in the number of weeks offered to kids. This year, the Shortstack team is holding five weeks of camps, compared to three last year. After receiving feedback from campers and parents, the group will now offer two weeks of the Flapjacks Theatre Camp for the youngest participants (ages 5-10) and two weeks of the Silver Dollar Musical Theatre Camp for rising sixth to 10th graders. In addition, the Shortstack team is refocusing the Hotcakes Acting Camp also for rising sixth to 10th graders so that it is more improv-based.

“We really just were able to take what we did last year and find all the feedback we could and make them better and more fun and see what more we could offer them,” said Suarez.

The Flapjacks Theatre Camp will be held July 2-6 and July 30 to August 3. The group’s most popular camp, Suarez said Flapjacks provides participants with exposure to theater and focuses on storytelling via the use of crafts and games.

Scheduled for July 9-13, the Hotcakes Acting Camp also incorporates games, said Suarez, but instead the camp focuses on quick thinking, becoming comfortable with impulses and following them. The improv-based camp concludes with a “Whose Line Is It Anyway”-style showcase.

The musical theatre camp, which will be held July 16-27, allows participants to participate in several group numbers, or solos if they’re interested. Suarez said a choreographer comes into the camp and teaches the group a big dance number.

Each camp includes about 12 to 20 kids, noted Suarez, and varies in cost from $200 for the Flapjacks and Hotcakes camps, to $425 for the Silver Dollar Musical Theatre Camp. In addition to the Ponte Vedra native, the camp counselors include five other college students enrolled in theater-related programs across the country.

Suarez encourages those in the Beaches community to look into the Shortstack camps, even if they are located far from their homes.

“I know parents can gravitate towards not driving their kids 30 minutes away to go to camp,” she said. “I always like to push that it’s worth it. … For me, camps are what sparked me doing this for the rest of my life and finding what I love to do.”

For more information on the camps, visit http://the5anddime.org/education/.