DECATUR — Desiree’ Hooper loves to perform. She just never did so in front of anyone.

“In my room, in the shower, by myself,” said the soon-to-be Eisenhower High School freshman, laughing.

This summer, she’s overcome her reluctance to showcase her talent through Students at Millikin Academic Summer Holiday, or SMASH Camp. She’s in the theater group, and the young thespians will offer their first production, “Express,” at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre, Millikin University’s student theater, 1033 W. Wood St.

Tickets are available at the door starting 30 minutes before the show. Tickets cost $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors.

Campers decided to name the show “Express” because they’ve been learning about expressing themselves, said Abbey Dougherty, a Millikin music student assisting theater graduate Kaylie Honkala with the camp.

Meridian High School freshman Nikki Cromwell wrote a skit called “I Got Away” about a murderous ghost in a school, while other students will perform in a string quartet, do a step routine, sing, dance and act in short plays.

“I’ve learned a lot about cooperation with other people and how to run a production,” said Savannah Shaffer, who will be in seventh grade at Johns Hill Magnet School in the fall.

Though Honkala and Dougherty have the training, the youngsters were there to learn and did all the work, Dougherty said. The idea was for them to learn every aspect of running a theater company, from ideas to writing scripts to holding auditions and rehearsals, setting ticket prices and putting on the show.

“It’s really a student-driven camp,” Dougherty said. “They come up with all the ideas of what they want to do. The second week we had a music concert, and the week after that we had a Shakespeare week.”

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, Honkala said, and that also was a decision made by the youngsters.

“This is a step up from what I usually do,” said Alexis Willian, who plays the ghost in Nikki’s play. “I like to sing in choirs, and I just love to mess around with friends and act, but this is a giant step up from what I normally do.”


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