SPAE Through the Years!
Leland and Gray’s Summer Performing Art’s Explorations
was founded by Claire Zukas and Karlie Kauffeld with the endless support and help of their English teacher and Theatre Director, Ann Landenberger in 2008.
The girls, having just finished their junior year of high school saw a pressing need for performing arts opportunities for the youth of Windham County. They began with their first summer in the Townshend Elementary
School gymnasium with 10 campers and a short, original adaptation of “Peter Pan.”
The next year brought almost double
the number of campers, space in the
Dutton Gym at Leland and Gray, and
expansion of our Staff to include Johnny
Pozzi. Local Artists were brought in to
lead workshops throughout the two
weeks specializing in various aspects
of the arts. We performed our adaptation
of, “Alice in Wonderland,” and just as the
curtain was to open- the power went out
in Townshend. The SPAE community pulled
together to gather generators and hook up
tree lights to illuminate our kiddos.
The show went on!
In 2010 our numbers grew again. The need arose for a Counselor-In-Training position to be created for kids who had outgrown SPAE as a camper, but wanted to remain as members of our community. We adapted “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Johnny created amazing animations that were projected during the show to show the transformation of the children. We were excited to welcome Melissa Soule onto our team. More workshops were added including a lighting workshop led by Cassidy Anderson who then ran lights for our show, taking us that next step further.
“Coraline” was our show in 2011. We had a doublecast for the Real World and Other
World. The challenge was in somehow creating button eyes for all the characters in the Other World. This year featured a giant puppet for Mr. Bobinski the circus mouse trainer, and a song where we opened the lid of the piano and scratched on strings with thimbles and dragged chains across them. 2011 was also unique in that Tyler Gervais made a documentary of our program. And in this year, finally, Abby Wicker hopped on board the SPAE train!
In the weeks leading up to SPAE 2012 Claire and I spent many hours writing 20 pages of an adaptation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” before realizing we hated it and deciding to scrap the idea altogether. What we found instead was “Robin Hood.” A combination of Mel Brooks’ “Men In Tights,” the Disney version, and the old fashioned tale, we created a script for our campers. And in our version, Robin is a girl. When Robin and her people take on the castle, we had a STOMP battle choreographed by Ron Kelley. What fun. In this year we also created SPAE After Hours which were a series of workshops offered by staff in any area of the arts that would happen after our SPAE day had ended. We offered poetry, monologue delivery, character development, vocal coaching, sculpture and painting.
And our most recent production in 2013 was “James and the Giant Peach.” This year our enrollment maxed out at 37 campers. Suddenly we were needing to think on a much larger scale. Maddi Etman became the first Camper-to CIT-to Staff, Cate Kelley came in to build a giant rhino puppet, Abby designed a rainbow, we had sharks from Boston, seagulls who were petrified to fall out of line, and of course, a flying peach. We had workshops in movement, music creation, sound design, lighting design, set and costume design, puppet making, and more. Our CIT staff had evolved to include opportunities to block scenes, and teach and run theatre games. The program had grown to a size we never imagined possible. Campers had come from New York, Massachusetts and… FRANCE. Our hearts, were full.
Abby encouraged Emily and I to read Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth before SPAE 2014. We fell in love with the story immediately. While we had to cut a TON from the story but also find ways to add substantial characters, this was one of our most exciting shows. It included interacting with the audience, an amazing car built by Tino Benson, another incredible puppet constructed by the Kelley’s, and piles and piles of word play. With an incredible group of CITs and more workshops than we’ve ever offered before, SPAE 2014 took the program up to yet another level of professionalism and we offered our campers something they’d never forget.
Abby, Emily, and Karlie returned for SPAE 2015 to the lead in the creation of a staged version of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” Intent on delivering Seuss’ message strongly, the three decided to present the story IN THE ROUND. That’s right, there was audience seated on all four sides of our incredible 5-8th graders. The Lorax came out of a trap door, the Swammy Swans were gymnasts, there was an in-house pit band, and a group of 37 cast members. Our staff consisted of the three directors, ten counselors, and much help from our SPAE family. In 2015 we held the first SPAE Community Contradance in the Dutton gym, called by Andy Davis with a great band. It was a roaring success.