Jessica Lyons Hardcastle

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Monterey County Weekly

Kayti Ramirez, an 18-year-old
freshman at Santa Clara University, started attending Ariel Theatrical’s camps
the summer after her sophomore year at Santa Catalina High School. She was cast
as the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio and then went on to become a camp counselor
to the younger kids.

“At the beginning of each day we’d
get together and Miss Gail would say, ‘Remember, whether you’re cleaning
toilets or wiping a 4-year-old’s nose or helping on stage, it’s about something
much bigger. It’s about character and building community, having
self-discipline and integrity.’ That translated to my life, schoolwork,
relationships with my friends and family.”

Miss Gail is Gail Higginbotham,
Ariel’s founder and artistic director who started the nonprofit more than 25
years ago when she moved her young family to Salinas. “What really lurks in the
bottom of most children’s hearts is the desire to stand on a stage with a
costume and lights on them and have people clap for them,” she says.

Ariel offers three, one-week summer
theater camps where kids and teens take classes every day, separated into age
and skill groups, focusing on singing, acting, movement and other performance
skills. Each camper signs a code of conduct, in which she pledges to be
courteous and respectful, own her mistakes and not make excuses. Toward the end
of the week they start putting together a recital, which they perform for
family and friends.

“The theater part of Ariel is the
modality by which we have them here, but the reason for Ariel is to help give
them their best shot at creating a principled and productive life, the skills
they need to make choices that are positive [in order] to succeed,”
Higginbotham says.



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