Summer Camps 2015

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October Productions takes the stage

CHS theatre director of 37 years begins new venture

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By Elsie Lynn Parini
The Essex Reporter

John Coon is ending his 37th year as the Colchester High School theatre director, but it is just the beginning of his new theatrical adventure. He and his fiancée, Grace Shumski, are launching October Productions — a company that will provide “quality theatre that you can afford to watch,” Coon and Shumski made sure to emphasize during an interview last week.

October Productions will offer a four-week theatre camp held at The Barn at Lang Farm in Essex from June 22 through July 24. There will be a beginners’ session for children ages 9-12 in the morning; and a more advanced session in the afternoons for campers ages 12-18. The four-week session costs $400. At the end of the four weeks, there will be a free production of a play performed by the campers. Coon is hoping to put on “The Crucible” in late summer, but nothing is set in stone.

Coon, a resident of Jericho, grew up in Essex Junction. He credits the late Peter Allendorf, Coon’s social studies teacher at Essex Middle School, for sparking his interest in theatre. “There was an assignment,” Coon recalled, “and you could either write an essay or do a play.” Coon naturally selected the play, and was hooked.

Coon had his first experience directing plays as a sophomore at Essex Junction High School because his theatre director quit, leaving the students to direct the remaining plays. Since then, Coon has been a professional actor, a drama coach and has directed plays for countless organizations, including St. Michael’s Playhouse. This year, he is concluding his 140th play at Colchester High School.

“I’m one of the most qualified theatre directors around,” he said with a modest recognition of how many years he has in the profession and how many plays he has directed. But now that Coon is retiring from Colchester High School, he’s decided to direct himself in a new direction.

“I want to put the play back in theatre,” he said.

As October Productions grows, Coon hopes to expand the company into a variety of performance opportunities. He and Shumski — who currently works full-time as the director of marketing and sales at the Green Mountain Suites Hotel in South Burlington — are brainstorming ideas that include offering professionally arranged funeral productions, piano bar performances, ghost stories, murder mystery dinners, and performances for holidays and seniors.

“I say reach for the stars,” Coon said as if he were the lead actor in a dramatic moment. “And if you can’t reach them, stand on your tip toes.”

“This is his dream come true and we are trying to make that happen,” added Shumski. “We’re a good combo.”

The couple has plans on tying the knot this fall.

October Productions will be accepting up to 50 participants for the morning session and 50 participants for the afternoon session.

For more information contact 373-4644.

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No two days the same at Day Camp For Military Kids

A free day camp for military kids is planned for April 20-24 in Colchester, offering an action-packed week of exciting games, activities and hands-on learning projects.

Campers will participate in yoga and healthy cooking classes, build with wood and recycle trash into treasures. They also will spend a day with the Greater Burlington YMCA for games, art projects and other activities. Staff from the University of Vermont (UVM) Watershed Alliance will help them explore water ecology and the impact of invasive aquatic species on Lake Champlain.

Registration for the Partners of Military Kids Vermont April Vacation Camp is limited to 20 kids, grades 4 to 8, with a parent or guardian in the Vermont National Guard or armed services. Registrations will be accepted until April 15 or all spots are filled.

Sessions will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. Snacks will be provided each day, but participants are asked to bring their own brown-bag lunch and beverage.

To register, go to partners-of-mkvt-april-camp2015.eventbrite.com. To request a disability-related accommodation to participate, contact Stephanie Albaugh at (802) 656-0346 or stephanie.albaugh@uvm.edu by April 6. Information on where to meet will be provided with confirmation of registration.

The camp is sponsored by Partners of Military Kids Vermont in collaboration with UVM Extension 4-H, the UVM Watershed Alliance, Military OneSource, the Greater Burlington YMCA, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6689 Ladies Auxiliary, AmeriCorps and other organizations that support military children and families.

For more information, contact the UVM Extension 4-H state office at (802) 656-5433 or toll-free at (800) 571-0668.