Camp Munroe circus show doesn't clown around

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | August 15, 2018

Image with caption: Performers gather onstage for the finale of

Performers gather onstage for the finale of "Camp Munroe's Greatest Show."

The Camp Munroe Theater Co. returned to the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Omaha on Aug. 9 to present its fourth production, "Camp Munroe's Greatest Show."

The performance featured 27 actors, more than any previous production, said Erin Bentzinger, director of the camp. Michael Crawford, Ph.D., director of recreational therapy, said the audience for the performance was the largest ever, as well.

See a photo album from the event.

The Camp Munroe Theater Co. is a collaboration between the Munroe-Meyer Institute Department of Recreational Therapy and WhyArts, an arts organization based at the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Engagement Center.

The performance was the culmination of a three-day theater workshop for children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities - a workshop, Bentzinger noted, that is getting more and more popular with its actors.

"It's something that they're looking forward to each season. The kids are remembering 'When I was on the stage last time,'" she said. "They are looking forward to it, and when applications come out, they want to sign up right away."

Thursday night, lions roared, jumped and mixed cookies; acrobats walked a tight rope; clowns played pranks; and performers demonstrated feats of strength.

The collaboration continues to be an effective one, said Carolyn Anderson, director of WhyArts.

"The artists are used to working with the staff, and they already know a lot of the kids," she said. "And also, it's the second year in this space. So the whole system is just working together.

"The MMI staff has been tremendous, and the WhyArts and MMI people all respect each other," she said. "It just works better and better. We do lots of planning beforehand to make it simple and efficient."

Bentzinger expressed her appreciation to the Scottish Rite, a longtime MMI supporter, for continuing to provide the performance space.

"It's nice to have the green room and the space to prep, but having a full stage with wheelchair accessibility is really helpful," she said.

Parents Yenni and Ricardo were on hand to see their son David, a returning camper.

"He loved the experience," Yenni said. "He's always saying he wants to go back. And it's a good opportunity for more exposure to other kids.

First-time camper Mary Clare wowed her father, Kevin, in her role as the human cannonball.

"It was fantastic," Kevin said. "The kids are certainly inspired to show their talents, and the camp lets them shine."

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