Eight children stood on wooden crates and looked down toward their teacher as they practiced “power stances” to learn stage presence Saturday in the basement of the old YMCA building.
A girl mirrored Dawn Anderson Coates’ Wonder Woman pose with hands on her hips and feet planted wide.
“If you were Harry Potter, how would you stand knowing you’d defeated the dark lord?” Anderson Coates asked a boy as she made her way around the room to each student.
Saturday was the first session of the Casper Children’s Theater’s Little Carolers Camp, a class to prepare carolers to perform during the theater’s upcoming production of “Gift of the Magi.” The 4- to 8-year-olds in the Carolers Camp will join a cast of older students on stage to sing carols before the show and during scene changes.
“The play is the cake, and then we, as the Christmas carolers, are the icing on top and the sprinkles and the candles,” Anderson Coates told the participants at the start of Saturday’s session.
“We add that special touch to make the ordinary extraordinary,” she said.
The camp offers an introduction to theater and teaches basic skills including stage presence, stage direction, independence and confidence, Anderson Coates said after class.
“Confidence is key,” she said. “I want to see them be on stage and own it.”
Stage presence begins with standing tall and proud to be in their spots — taking up as much space as they want, Anderson Coates told the class participants. The stage they’ll perform on is a big space.
“You guys get to perform at Kelly Walsh High School, on their stage,” she said.
The kids paused a moment and began to yell in excitement.
“It’s a big kids’ stage,” one girl called.
They’ll wear white shirts, black slacks or skirts and be decked in hats and jackets and other outwear, Anderson Coates told them.
“You guys are going to look like Charles Dickens Christmas carolers,” she said.
But first, they’ll spend a few weeks learning the songs, singing and stage skills and, eventually, choreographed hand gestures.
Anderson-Coates first showed them on Saturday how to sing from their diaphragms to project their voices. The kids later sat around Anderson Coates to learn the lyrics of their carols. She explained some of the words in songs like “Deck the Halls” — like a yule, “a fancy, good smelling wood they would put in on Christmas Eve, and it would make the whole house smell wonderful,” she said.
Anderson Coates led the students through talking, then singing the songs along with her and to music during Saturday’s class.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have gone out on stage, bright lights, a lot of people in the audience,” Anderson Coates called later in the session. “There you are in your space, and you hear this.”
An instrumental intro to “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” played from her computer.
Their quiet voices grew louder as they finished the first line.
But Anderson Coates wouldn’t be able to hear them from the Kelly Walsh Auditorium.
The group started again louder, though more chaotically, as some of them almost yelled the last “Happy New Year.”
“We’ll work on rhythm later,” Anderson Coates said, sharing a grin with a few parents watching.
Then they followed along with Anderson Coates’ voice for one more try, this time louder and more on the beat.
“That is what I wanted to hear, my lovelies,” Anderson Coates said. “My goodness, that was a big difference.”
After a few more songs, class ended with a repeat of an exercise early in the session: a lap around the room – the only way to burn off the energy, Anderson Coates said. The students pretended to be animals, a few crawling, one girl barking as she ran circles around the room.
The first session was a chance for them to get to know one another, and next time she’ll show them more vocal and physical warm-ups before they work through the songs, she told them. In the meantime, they could practice by listening to them over and over.
Jasely Bosco, 6, said she’s a little scared about the play, because she hasn’t sung very much. But she had fun in class and wants to go to more rehearsals and be part of the show, she said.
“Because my mom is going to watch and my Nanna,” she said.