STARKVILLE, Miss.--An annual three-week Mississippi State camp at which junior and senior high school students write, produce and star in a three-act musical comedy is celebrating its 30th year.
The university's Summer Scholars program involves two residential camps for gifted and talented seventh-12th graders. The experience includes a one-week writers camp, followed by a two-week production session.
Since 1982, some very creative young people have worked together to develop and perform their work at two McComas Hall main theater shows that conclude the experience.
Titled "Don't Panic! (or "How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse," this year's presentation begins at 7 p.m. Friday [July 20] and 1 p.m. Saturday [the 21st]. As always, the events are free and open to all.
Seventeen campers took part in writers' camp, while 41 make up the production segment. Though a majority of this year's group is from the Golden Triangle area, others have come from Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Michigan.
Involving a 30-year high school reunion that coincides with a zombie apocalypse, the 2012 storyline includes elements of Agatha Christie-style mystery, with numerous nods to Summer Scholars' three-decade history.
The storyline's central idea was inspired by the supposed Dec. 21 "end" of the A.D. 800 Mayan calendar, as well as related apocalyptic predictions, said Joe Ray Underwood, camp founder and MSU professor emeritus of counseling and educational psychology.
Over the years, the "On Stage" Summer Scholars program has earned a reputation "where lasting friendships, inspirational staff, outstanding teachers, and meaningful experiences combine for very special memories," Underwood said, with obvious pride.
Additionally, he noted how the experience always has emphasized the well-being of each student through a careful blending of academics, recreation, and personal and social development.
In addition to a very positive summer experience, the participants always will have memories of having created a unique entertainment product for public consumption, he explained.
Each member is able to contribute, whether by helping with the writing process, performing a role or song or helping the production succeed as one of many necessary stagehands behind the scenes.
Campers often find the experience to be so positive that they return to participate in subsequent years.
Many of the staff members often are former campers. Among the 2012 staff is a resident of France who participated four years ago while in the U.S. as a Rotary Club high school exchange student.
Underwood said Summer Scholars currently is being sponsored, in part, by the university's Lorena J. "Rockie" Smith Endowment for the Performing Arts, a grant from the Mississippi Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information about Mississippi State University, see www.msstate.edu.