By Laurelle Walsh
Kids are hard at work having fun this week at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp.
In the midst of a weeklong drama camp session, 16 youngsters are working together under the tutelage of teacher Megan Fox Hicks painting a backdrop, crafting costumes, studying lines and learning the songs and choreography of Horton Hears a Who, a play based on the Dr. Seuss story of the same name.
“The show this year is extra tricky,” said Hicks, who is running the camp for the second summer in a row. “The kids are learning and singing six songs and then dancing to a seventh song. The kids put in a lot of hard work to make the show a success.”
A performance on Friday afternoon (Aug. 8) for family and friends will mark the culmination of the youngsters’ effort, and allow them to show off their newly polished acting skills.
“For some of the kids, this is the first time they are reading music,” said Hicks. “For some, speaking a little louder is the goal. For others, especially those that have acted before, we add some character and work on performing more. For all of the kids, I expect them to do their best. As long as they do that, it has been a success.”
Hicks, who lives in Puyallup, comes to The Merc twice a summer to direct drama camp. During the rest of the year she teaches drama and English at Kalles Junior High School, and oversees the drama and musical theater clubs at the school, where her students produce a play and a musical each year.
“I’ve been performing my whole life,” said Hicks, whose not-so-secret passion is tap dancing. “If I could open a theater company, every musical would have at least four tap dances in the show,” she said. “Dancing was my foundation.”
She has performed in countless musicals, starting with Playing the Palace in seventh grade, followed shortly after by Big, the Musical at Tacoma Musical Playhouse (TMP).
“That was my first community theater production. Fourteen years later and I still do shows at TMP,” she said.
“It is important to be involved of all aspects of theater to become well-rounded,” said Hicks. “I’ve played violin in a pit for a show, directed, choreographed, music directed, acted, designed and built sets, costumes, lights, props, etc., and of course been in the audience. I love watching musical theater and I love being a part of a production,” she said.
The part of Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street would be her dream role, she said.
Her introduction to the Methow Valley came in 2011, when she played the part of Lucy in The Merc’s summer production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
“Playing Lucy was really fun,” she said. “I usually play the brats in shows, and this was no exception.”
Hicks assisted at The Merc’s drama camp the first time while she was in the valley that summer. This summer she has been assisted by theater interns from Seattle University.
Her secret to success with kids is to have fun, she said. “We start the day with theater games to get to know each other and become more comfortable being silly in front of each other. The kids are passionate about theater, work hard and love being at camp,” Hicks said. “Coming back and seeing the kids grow is a pleasure.”