hopes to have you singing, “Oh, what a beautiful mornin', Oh, what a beautiful day!,” with its summer production of “Oklahoma!”
The camp will run this summer Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for three-weeks, starting July 23 and concluding with two performances on August 3 and 4. For children interested in being a part of the summer’s production, there are still ten spaces open.
Founded in 2006 in Studio City, byr, Rising Star Community Theatre has been making musicals in Studio City for children ages 7 to 16 for six years now.
Meurer said she selected the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” this summer in order to appeal to both boys and girls.
“One of reasons picked this show is because of subject matter,” Meuer said. “I hoped cowboys and ranchers might be more interesting to boys as well.”
Meurer said that while theatre can sometimes appeal more to girls then boys, taking part in a production is just as rewarding for both genders.
“Boys tend to lean more towards sports than theater, but with all the physical activities that we do, I think it’s certainly comparable,” Meurer said.
Meurer initally decided to create the Rising Star after her daughter expressed an interest in musical theatre. Meurer signed her up for a different summer musical theatre program, but found herself at odds with the philosophy of the program.
“I felt like they weren’t taking into consideration that they were just kids, that they had no experience, no point of reference for what they were doing,” Meurer said. “It felt to me like [the program] was treating them too much like adults. They’re just kids.”
It was then that Meurer decided to create a camp of her own, which she hoped would offer a gentler environment for children.
“I felt like there needed to be a place where these kids would be treated with respect,” Meurer said. “A place that would be nurturing but would also teach them.”
When Rising Star first began, it was a nonprofit group for children who want to explore the musical theatre world.
“My dream was to be able to offer a program that was free, so that any kid who was interested in being in a part of some kind of a musical production would have the opportunity, even if they didn’t have the funds, to do it,” Meurer said.
Meurer managed to keep the camp free for students for the first two years through fundraisers and donations. While the program now charges tuition to cover expenses, Meurer said she tries to make the camp affordable for all and tries to offer scholarships to children when she can. Her goal is to give any kid who has an interest in musical theater a place to grow and develop.
“Through theatre, I see kids find their way to becoming more self-confidant, more able to speak up on the stage and in life,” Meurer said. “The friendships they create and the atmosphere we establish makes them feel comfortable and maybe take that additional risk, step out a little more then they’ve been able to do in the past.”
Meurer said children at Rising Star have responded positively to the program.
“I remember the first production, we were backstage and I had parents back there helping. One of the parents came up to me and said, ‘I can’t believe nobody backstage is screaming at the kids,” Meurer said. Meurer recalled being able to say to the mother, “We don’t need to scream at the kids, they’re getting everything done.”
For Meurer what makes putting together the products so worth it is the growth she sees in her students over the summer.
“It’s so incredible when you see a kid come in who really won’t do anything in the beginning and then watch them change into somebody that can play a starring role. Having seen so many shy kids come into our programs and really blossom, I just think that’s not an accident it,” Meurer said.
Meurer said to put on the productions every summer she has been very fortunate to have a wonderful staff backing her up.
Her crew includes Rob Meurer, a composer, lyricist, musical theatre writer and performer who serves as the Musical Director. Brenda Parise, a professional dancer is the choreographer and the very detail-oriented Cynthia Helmerich to serve as the Stage Manager. In addition, Rising Star is also backed by a very supportive Board of Directors.
One day, Meurer said she hopes to establish a performing arts center in the Valley.
“We hope to establish a really wonderful performing arts center for kids,” Meurer said. “We’ve got some wonderful places in downtown Los Angeles for kids who aspire to some type of performing arts. I know there are dance studios in the valley places to take acting classes but not a real performing arts center and that’s really what my goal is.”
For now though, Meurer said she is happy to just encourage kids to act.
“If you don’t have somebody to believe in you, support you, then you often fall short of what you’re able to do. I feel like that’s my job to be that person who believes in them," Meurer said.