For the first 50+ years of Skylemar, we had the most wonderful drama director who was adored by all: Craig Gerhard. He had a way of making the theatre “cool”, and even the most unlikely were willing to give the stage a try. As a builder of confidence, Craig inspired many to pursue careers involved with public speaking.
When he passed away, we thought there could never be another drama director strong enough to carry Craig’s torch. It’s a tough job to fill at an all-boys sports camp. There were a few who did their best, and the program continued. But not much compared...until 2012, when along came Suzie Hepker. It’s as if she was sent by Craig.
Suzie is the goddess of the Skylemar stage. Extremely talented in her own right (she’s an incredible singer and dancer), she’s a phenomenal theatre director who understands and celebrates Skylemar boys. Not only does she miraculously produce two musicals each summer, but she also runs Evening Activities, birthday parties and a million other things around camp.
Here’s what’s miraculous -- Suzie does it all! It starts with her promoting auditions and keeping them casual. You simply sign up for a small, medium or big part. From there she takes care of the casting, directing, choreographing, costuming, set design, scenery …. and basically anything else.
Best part of Suzie is she keeps it fun. Her patience is heroic, especially with a cast of very short attention spans. She limits rehearsals to who’s in a specific scene and understands that an intercamp game might take priority for a lead actor. Somehow, she puts it all together at the dress rehearsal – the one and only time the show is done from start to finish before the performance. Then, voila! It’s opening night!
Tonight’s performance of “Newsies” was terrific. Lots of hard work and dedication was put in by Sawyer, Ethan V, Nolan B, Owen S, Luca F, Hayes, Charlie L, Jagger, Elie D, Cooper E, Eli W, Palmer, Max P, Teddy S, Jonathan F, Keith O, Xander and Kyle Y. We’re so proud of these guys!
What Suzie and the audience understand is that a Skylemar performance is really geared towards the performers. When they have fun on the stage, we have fun in the audience. We get a kick out of the actors giggling... or when they forget lines and someone whispers the cue, forgetting that he’s on a microphone. It’s ok if we can’t hear or don’t quite understand the story. We’ll clap, cheer and whistle just the same.
In fact, watching the audience is fun in itself. Overall, they’re respectful and do pay attention. But after all, they’re boys. And they’re brothers…
So, the little guys up front pop up and down throughout. One needs a drink... another, the bathroom. A few are asleep. One does log-rolls on a blanket. Many climb on counselors or the older guys. Sometimes we see the older guys eating seeds or candy, which they’re not supposed to, but it’s ok once in a while to let them get away with something innocent.
Through all of this, Suzie perseveres with a smile. She, and the cast of “Newsies” are our much-loved Skylemar stars.