Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Babler disposes of bone

Donna Babler of Niles tosses an incriminating bone to keep her secret from Calvin Diamond of Dowagiac

Amari Gaston, Savannah Sears

Amari Gaston of Dowagiac and Savannah Sears of Marcellus as two of the Stellas

Griffin portrayed by Ely Davis of Niles

Ely Davis of Niles is your (g)host, Griffin

plays an ogre with an accent

Carter Mikel of Marcellus plays an ogre with an accent

Gwen Lucas screams

Gwen Lucas of Niles screams in one of Gravestone Manor's seven skits

Girl with a bouquet Glen brought

Sage Gordon of Dowagiac accepts a gift bouquet from a vampire

SMC ETS Theatre Camp Stages Ghoulish Comedy at Beckwith June 28-29

Published on June 25, 2024 - 2 p.m.

Southwestern Michigan College’s Educational Talent Search (ETS) and Dowagiac’s Beckwith Theatre teamed up to present a free two-week Summer Youth Theatre that attracted 38 participants from across the area.

Camp culminates with free public performances June 28 at 7 p.m. and June 29 at 2 p.m. of the ghoulish seven-skit comedy, “Gravestone Manor.”

A low-stress theatre introduction, the camp aims at students entering grades 6-12 with Ryan Murray returning as director.

Even with a large cast, a few actors are doubling up on roles, such as Marcellus seventh grader Payton Courtney, who plays Funny Stella and Johnny, the announcer for the Monster Date game show.

“I’ve done a camp like this, but not this one, before,” she said. “Theatre has always been one of my favorite things to do. Juggling two parts is actually not that hard. The more lines you learn to voice the characters, it gets easier as you go. Johnny, I make him a little more energetic, like the ‘Price is Right’ guy. Stella is crazy and her jokes are not that good.”

In the future, she thinks about becoming a police officer or a comedian who can do voice impressions, like her Mickey Mouse. The oldest of three plays soccer, wrestles and plays flute in band.

Calvin Diamond, drum major of Dowagiac’s Chieftain Marching Band his upcoming senior year, has participated in these camps since fifth grade and expects to teach music in the future.

Diamond portrays Glen, a vampire dating the daughter in a family of werewolves.

Last semester he auditioned and was accepted to sing in SMC choirs.

“I’m going to start at SMC, then head to Western,” said Diamond, who plays a variety of woodwind instruments, including saxophone, flute and oboe.

Marcellus eighth grader Trent Allen, 13 in September, is experiencing his first camp from the safety of the booth as sound and lighting technician.

“I have stage fright. I’d rather be backstage. The technological aspect, such as sound effects, interests me,” he said, headphones slung around his neck. “I like messing with electronics and coding.”

Dowagiac cast members include Lainie Kaniuga, Calvin Diamond, Brady Frazier, Nicki Thompson, Ashe McLeod, Amari Gaston, Hunter Steinman, Sage Gordon, Madeline Steenbeke, Issy Hertter and student staff member Hayley Jones.

Cassopolis: Yaris Rodriguez, Madeline Miller and Lailahna Peake.

Marcellus: Payton Courtney, Savannah Sears and Carter Mikel.

Edwardsburg: Steven Solarek, Jayden Bishop and Tyler DeGroot.

Niles: Ely Davis, Donna Babler, Lily Babler, Anne Babler, Zosia Olivia, Gwen Lucas and Maxx Simpson.

Stevensville: Lia Prouty and Izzi Prouti.

The stage crew consists of Tuxson Park, Marcellus;  Baylee Bauman, Niles; Shara Bullock, Niles; Zhonnica Skorupa, Cassopolis; Phoenix Krugh, Cassopolis; Lexi Howell, Edwardsburg; and Trent Allen, Marcellus.

Alicia Savage, a 2001 SMC graduate who co-founded Savage Bean Coffeehouse and Theatre in Cassopolis, gave Murray notes midway in rehearsals leading up to the two performances.

“Amazing run-through,” Savage said. “I can’t believe it’s your fifth day together.”

Murray’s own assessment is that “every year has gone well, but this year it’s going even better than previous years. We’re having pizza today because you guys earned it!”