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Mom's guide shows parents how to teach fine arts themselves

A California mom who is coming to the Tampa Bay area for a theater camp has also written a field guide for parents on how to bring fine arts back into schools.

Her solution: Think of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and put on a show yourself.

Cindy Marcus was alarmed at the lack of fine arts in her son's school, and when the now 10-year-old's teacher asked her to come talk to his kids about her career as a Disney playwright (Lion King 2) and director, she did him one better. She offered to help the kids put on a show of their own.

She then set about getting other parents to volunteer their time and getting the students to use their creativity. In the end, they helped a grateful teacher broaden his classroom curriculum.

She chronicles her learning curve and that of the rookie parents, many of whom had never set foot on a stage, in Playdate: A Parent's and Teacher's Guide to Putting on a Play ($19.95, Meriwether Pub). It also gives tips on how to choose a play or write your own, design simple sets and costumes, plan rehearsals and recruit parent volunteers.

"I really believe this is an awesome thing for a parent to do. It really just takes someone who is patient and loves being with kids," Marcus said in a phone interview from her traveling theater camp in Missouri.

She sets up shop here at a summer acting camp July 12 through Aug. 1 at the Francis Wilson Playhouse in Clearwater.

It doesn't take a fine arts degree or film credits to boost a school's arts program, she said. The play experience led the parents at her school to set up their own fine arts program.

"We realized, we don't have a fine arts program and this is a blue ribbon school?" Marcus said. "Moms with no experience went to the library and got books on Van Gogh, came in and said 'We're going to learn about this.' And they would look at the pictures and the mom would share what she learned and then they'd have the kids draw a picture like Van Gogh."

It wasn't time intensive, she said. Parents would take turns and pick a subject they loved and teach one or two 30-minute sessions.

She Googled the term "theater games" for a quick guide to holding an improv class. They gave the kids the script to the classic Orson Welles radio drama War of the Worlds and let them perform an in-class radio show.

And don't forget that once you have an idea, the kids do most of the work with their own creativity.

"If you stay open you'll find the kids will take you on the journey," Marcus said. "All of a sudden you are transported to magical places with them."

Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at

Theater camp

Cindy Marcus and her husband, Flip Kobler, return for the fourth time to run the Teen Acting Camp at the Francis Wilson Playhouse, 302 Seminole St., Clearwater, for ages 11 and up.

Details: $400 for new students and $375 for returning students. Some scholarships are available for the three-week camp, which begins July 12. It runs weekdays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there will be three performances for the public July 31 and Aug. 1. Visit or call (727) 446-1360.

Camp bonus: This year, the camp will be premiering Mirror Image, a play written by Marcus and Kobler, with Dennis Poore composer. Pioneer, the leading publisher of plays for schools and community theaters, is publishing this play, so the kids in this camp will have their names in the book as the cast for the play's premiere.

Mom's guide shows parents how to teach fine arts themselves 07/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 3, 2009 4:30am]
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