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ART BEAT: Lionheart ends summer with camps, 'Velveteen Rabbit'

Special Photo. Maggie Nicholl, left, will portray the Teddy Bear in Lionheart's "The Velveteen Rabbit" through Sunday. Maggie is assisted by director Tanya Caldwell.

Special Photo. Maggie Nicholl, left, will portray the Teddy Bear in Lionheart's "The Velveteen Rabbit" through Sunday. Maggie is assisted by director Tanya Caldwell.

Lionheart Theatre has been active this summer with drama camps for kids of all ages, but it’s not too late to get in on the action. Two more weeks of camp will be held the week of July 25-29 at Lionheart’s facility at 10 College St. in Downtown Historic Norcross.

The two camps being offered are Drama and Music Camp for ages 7-13 and Advanced Musical Theatre Camp for ages 11 to adult. The camps are held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the younger group, and 1 to 3 p.m. for the more advanced set.

Also in the works at Lionheart is a production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” which opened Thursday and runs through Sunday. Performed by children, teens and young adults, this heartwarming children’s classic tells the story of a stuffed rabbit that is loved so much that he comes to life.

One of the young actors participating in “The Velveteen Rabbit” is a great example of how Lionheart’s drama camps and classes can benefit young people in many ways. Maggie Nicholl, a rising third-grader at Greater Atlanta Christian School, will portray the role of Teddy Bear. Maggie’s Mom, Nan Nicholl, is very pleased with how her daughter has taken to the stage.

“For a little girl who has a great sense of humor and is full of creativity and imagination, drama has helped her to share her personality outside of home,” Nan Nicholl said.

Maggie wasn’t always so outgoing. “Although Maggie is very fun-loving and outgoing at home, in public she would feel anxious and shy when approached by new people and situations,” Nan Nicholl said.

“I had heard about the Lionheart camp led by Sean Casey and thought it might be fun for Maggie and her sister Gigi, who is 14.”

Maggie attended her first camp in 2010. “I never dreamed it would influence her in such a positive way,” Nan Nicholl said.

“The camp has such a relaxed, home-spun feel that it’s almost like playing in the basement. Mr. (Sean) Casey has a real flare for making each child feel that they are contributing to their production no matter how small. I think Mr. Casey treats each child as if they are a star already. I was amazed when Maggie stood on stage with ease and told a joke,” Nan Nicholl said.

After two more drama camps, Maggie is now a featured actress in “The Velveteen Rabbit.” The experiences she has had in drama camp have made a visible and positive difference in her young life.

“As a mother who is always looking for ways for my children to gain self-confidence, the drama camp has been a great help. I have noticed Maggie now making eye contact with others, her voice becoming stronger, and she is becoming more outgoing. But most importantly, she’s had fun,” Nan Nicholl said.

“The Velveteen Rabbit” will be performed today at 2 and 7:30 p.m. On Saturday it will be shown at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, it will be performed at 2 p.m. The ticket price is $10 for all seats.

A portion of each admission is donated to the Norcross Cooperative Ministries. All shows are expected to sell out, so to ensure a seat, visit www.lionhearttheatre.org or call 678-938-8518. Group rates are available.

To register for summer camps, download a registration form at the theater’s website, call Sean Casey at 404-314-0668, or email him at casey196@bellsouth.net.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.