Summer Drama Camp Returns with Disney’s “Cars”

Written by Meryl Zhang & Darian Liu, FCSN Voices Youth Reporters

Feature Banner by Megan Kellogg, FCSN Voices Graphic Artist

From July 13th to July 16th, FCSN organized its yearly drama camp for special needs students: a four-day program featuring three days of full-cast rehearsals culminating in a performance on the last day. This year, campers performed a production of Disney’s Cars

Final Performance

The FCSN drama camp program has had a long history. Created 11 years ago by Ms. Anna Wang, founder of FCSN, the camp gives special needs students a chance to star in a theater production of their own. Since then, drama camp participants have performed a wide variety of shows, including The Lion King, Madagascar, The Jungle Book, Finding Nemo, and other Disney classics. 

Actors dressed in costumes

Despite being only four days long, the camp involves much more behind-the-scenes preparation than meets the eye. Months before the camp started, FCSN staff were already hard at work. Director and scriptwriter Kathy Hebert said she had “watched the movie first, then started [writing the script] in May.” Scriptwriting took 3 to 4 weeks. Next, the “pit crew” (nicknamed for their role in mid-rehearsal costume repairs) started making costumes and props in June. By the end of June, costume design and scriptwriting were finally done.

Director Kathy Hebert

Two weeks before the rehearsals, camp organizers held online auditions for casting. “[Ms. Hebert] gave [prospective student actors] a sample script…a smaller version of the script, [featuring] a few lines for each character” as audition material. Shortly after the auditions, Ms. Hebert assigned roles and distributed scripts to the cast. With all preparations in place, the camp was ready to officially start. 

By the second rehearsal, students were already able to complete a full run-through of the play, complete with two original dance routines by Ms. Wang. Though the students had only learned the dance moves the day before, the routines went smoothly during the run-through. Students were also able to try on their costumes for the first time and use them during rehearsals, thanks to the help of student volunteers and the pit crew. 

On the last day of camp, the students ran through one final rehearsal before the show. The rehearsal went remarkably smoothly, reinforcing all of the students in their roles. Then, after a short lunch break, it was time for the final performance.

Final rehearsal

The final performance had a large audience, nearly filling up all of the seats in the church. With Cars-themed decorations hung up around the entrance and around the seats, there was a clear sense of excitement emanating from the audience for the performance that lay ahead. 

The performance began with the opening scene of Cars, having video clips on both sides of the performers to provide context. Starting out with only Lightning McQueen, played by Greg Hebert, on stage, the actors all readily moved on and off the stage depending on what scene it was. The only thing as impressive as the actors’ performances were their dancing skills, as a creative adjustment to the script of the movie allowed for multiple dance scenes in which all of the actors would get a chance to be on stage and do a choreographed dance. 

Volunteers construct the cars behind the scenes.

After an hour of this combination of acting and dancing, the play reached its end in the same way as the end of the Cars movie, with Mater flying off in a helicopter. As the play ends, the cast line up for their bows as the audience provides a round of applause, fitting for such an amazing performance. “They were perfect,” says director Kathy Hebert, and everyone in attendance would be inclined to agree.

Overall, the drama camp was not only a resounding success, but it also was a great opportunity for the FCSN students to really show off their capabilities. “I think it’s important for them to do stuff like this, and show off talents they usually can’t in a normal setting,” says parents of Evan Gelesic, who played Mater. The drama camp was truly a phenomenal showing from the FCSN students.

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