Theatre Arts Camp Junior

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

For the health and safety of all who participate in our summer programs, NIU will not be hosting face-to-face camps on any of our campuses this summer. If you have already registered, your fees will be refunded.

We may be offering some camp experiences online and more information on that will be forthcoming. Check back later for more information about online camp options.

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Grades 6-9 (grade completion)


Join us at Theatre Arts Camp Junior for a week packed with exciting theatre activities! Each day, you'll rehearse for a production and perform it for your family and friends at the end of the week. This year's theme is "Cosmic Connections!"

The other activities you'll enjoy include:

  • Daily workshops
  • Acting classes
  • Theatre games
  • Improvisation exercises

You'll stay in Gilbert Hall during camp.

For more information check out these resources:

What to Bring to Camp

  • Comfortable/sturdy closed-toe shoes required in classes
  • Shower sandals (optional)
    • Note: Flip flops are not allowed in classes and are only allowed in the residence hall
  • Umbrella or rain gear
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sweatshirt
  • Alarm clock
  • Water bottle
  • Sheets and pillowcase (standard twin size)
  • Towels, blanket, pillow
  • Small amount of money for souvenirs and snacks

Campers are encouraged to bring a favorite t-shirt, from a show they have been in, or that represents a favorite character or theme from theatre or film, to wear on Monday. Also, bring some 80's style clothing for the movie night party on Thursday.



  • Improvisation exercises: Learn how to think on your feet and warm up for the day's activities.
  • Acting scenes: Work on specific acting techniques and exercises.


  • Production rehearsals: You'll be assigned to a production and rehearse with the same group and director all week.
  • Workshops: You'll participate in a different workshop each day. You'll receive information about choosing workshops about a month before the start of camp.


  • Talent show (optional): Show your stuff! There's a three-minute time limit on performances.
  • Storytelling: Tell your own stories in this fun activity led by camp staff.
  • Film night: You'll love this camp tradition.


Early bird registration fee: $600 (postmarked June 1 or earlier)
Registration fee: $650

Returning camper and family discount: $25 (for campers who have previously attended Theatre Arts Camp, and the children and grandchildren of NIU students, staff and faculty members)

Camp fills quickly, so register early! You can register online or by mail. You'll pay a $100 deposit when you register (unless applying for a summer camp scholarship). The remaining balance is due on June 15.

Camp Staff

Our Theatre Arts Camp Junior staff is composed of talented NIU faculty and students, alumni, guest artists and area teachers. The ratio of campers to staff members is about 12:1. Staff members are assigned to each residence hall floor and accompany campers to all meals and activities.

Jessica Arends

Jessica Arends is from Paxton, Illinois currently pursuing her B.F.A. in Acting at Northern Illinois University. Her previous NIU credits include Euripides' The Trojan Women, Monica Murray in By the Bog of Cats, and Miss Prism from The Importance of Being Earnest. She was also involved in a student-produced show at NIU through The Third Onion in production of For Colored Girls where she played the Lady in Orange.

Nick Benz

Nick Benz is a trans-identified actor, educator, and theatre writer. Nick received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from Northern Illinois University in 2016 and is currently in pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Pedagogy and Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University. Nick returns to camp for their second year on staff having previously been a camper years ago. Nick has performed with companies such as Pop Magic Productions, Free Street Theater, and The Runaways Lab Theatre. Nick has been regularly published in Scapi Magazine focusing on issues of inclusivity and diversity in theatre. Nick's classrooms and teachings reflect a commitment to expanding who belongs in the theatre and how to cultivate diverse and accessible art forms.

Hannah Gilbert (head counselor)

Hailing from Horicon, Wisconsin, Hannah Gilbert completed her fourth year in the NIU B.F.A. Acting program in spring 2016. While NIU focuses on the Stanford Meisner technique, she was also able to train in the technique of Michael Chekhov, rooted in the techniques of Konstantin Stanislavski, at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia for a semester. Hannah has experience in Dialects, Verse Drama, and Movement. Over the past few years Hannah has been doing short films and voice overs, working in music, and getting her feet on the ground professionally in Chicago. She can't wait to return for her seventh year with Summer in the Arts!

Bryant Hayes

Bryant Hayes is an actor and musician from Del City, Oklahoma. Mr. Hayes received his B.F.A. in acting from the University of Central Oklahoma and his MFA in acting from Northern Illinois University. Recent theatre credits include Black Beauty Festival (Victory Gardens Theatre), Antony & Cleopatra (Oklahoma Shakespeare), Our Lives in Letters (Chipola Center for the Arts), and The Importance of Being Earnest (NIU).

Izzy Hepker

Izzy Hepker is from the local area of Sycamore, IL. She is in her third year in the NIU B.F.A. Acting Program and during her (spring 2019) trained at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. From very early on, she was passionate about acting and has been involved in local theatre groups for over 10 years; Izzy was also one of the youngest people to be invited to and participate in the Gately/Poole Acting Intensives. While at NIU she has had the opportunity to have the roles of Helen of Troy in Trojan Women, Maya in Intentions, and Cecily in The Importance of Being Ernest. She is excited to continue her studies, participate on the stage time, and work on writing her own play about Mental Health.

Kendra Holton (director)

Kendra is a faculty member at NIU. Learn more about Kendra on her faculty profile.

Daniel Kies (head counselor)

Originally from South Florida, Daniel Kies has a master's degree in acting from Northern Illinois University and a bachelor's degree in musical theatre from Palm Beach Atlantic University. He also had the opportunity to study playwriting and solo performance abroad in London. Daniel is a company member with the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival, where he has performed in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, and Much Ado About Nothing. Recent credits include Horst in Bent, Adam/Samantha Turner in Boy, El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Jim Curry in The Rainmaker, Lloyd in Blue Stockings, and Hanschen in Spring Awakening. This is Daniel's third year with Summer in the Arts at Northern, and his eighth year of working various summer camps. His passion to be a theatre artist and educator comes from his love for storytelling and collaboration. Learn more about Daniel on his personal website.

Chris Kurszewski (tech)

Chris Kurszewski is an NIU faculty member. Learn more about Chris on his faculty webpage.

Bethany Mangum-Oles

Bethany Mangum-Oles is an NIU faculty member. Learn more about Bethany on her faculty webpage.

John Morefield

John is an exceptional musician and accompanist. He has worked with the theater camp for several years and is excited to be back!

Jessie Roark (co-head counselor)

Jessie Roark graduated with a M.F.A. in acting in May of 2019. Prior to her NIU journey, Jessie lived in Oklahoma where she was a company member at Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and received a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of Central Oklahoma. Personal favorite roles include Hermia/Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Ash Greyson in echoBOOM, Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, Tess Moffat in Blue Stockings, and Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest. After graduation, Jessie plans on moving to Chicago where she is a company member at MUSE Theatre Collective. Jessie is an actor dedicated to story-telling and opening eyes to lives and worlds that they may never have even considered before stepping into the theatre to share the space with the creative team. She deeply believes that theatre is a sacred space where we can move and be moved.

A general overview of the camp schedule is below. View or download the detailed 2019 schedule.

Date and Time Activity Location

Sunday, July 12
2-3:15 p.m.


First, take your luggage to Gilbert Hall. Next, go to the nearby Music Building to pick up camp materials. Free parking is available in front of Gilbert Hall and in the lot south of the Music Building.

Sunday, July 12
3:30 p.m.


Terrace behind Gilbert Hall

Parents are welcome at this orientation session with camp directors and staff

Sunday, July 12 to Friday, July 12

Camp activities


Friday, July 17
6:30 p.m.

Final performance

O'Connell Theatre (Stevens Building)

After the performance, pick up your luggage from Gilbert Hall.