"It's really just seeing their excitement about the show and about what that final product is and knowing that it was them that did it," Sheppard said. "I give them tips on general acting things and where they should move on stage, but it's really their character that they develop on stage and their excitement and joy from what they've done. So for me that's the fun part.
"Being in middle school is kind of that awkward stage anyway when their confidence isn't that high sometimes. [Now they] go, 'Wow, in two weeks we did a full show,' and this one is a little bit longer than some of the other shows we've done before because it's two full acts. It's just really cool to watch their experience and be a part of their experience."
Along with music director Warren Kennedy, Sheppard currently is coordinating the Middle School Camp, which will culminate with the public production of "Wipeout!" on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. To be held at The Grand Theatre, the musical is set in California and centers around Mom and Poppy's Surf Shack that also serves as a teen hangout. When the owners cannot pay their rent, nearby beach developers want to buy their land and turn it into a parking lot. To prevent this scenario from happening, the teens rally and enter a surfing contest to hopefully win the needed funds.
The Middle School Camp is the first offering in The Grand's Summer Music Theatre Camps program. While the Senior Music Theatre Camp is at capacity, there still are openings for the Elementary Camps for grades two through four. A non-refundable payment of $150 is required at registration.
The Elementary Camp's first session is June 21 to 26, with a public production June 26 at 7 p.m. and the second session is July 26 to 31, with a July 31 performance at 7 p.m. The public also is invited to attend the Senior Music Theatre Camp's production of "Footloose" July 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. and July 25 at 2:30 p.m.
"We start out with the children when they've just finished second grade," said Terri Cox, program coordinator for The Grand Theatre. "A lot of them are looking for an outlet to express their talents and then some are not ready to be in front of others and this is a great way for them to learn to gain more confidence on the stage and speaking in front of other people.
"So we start out at the elementary level with a simple play where they do a lot of work together as a group with just small parts and then we develop more into characters and plot as they go to middle school. By the time they're in the high school camp, they're ready to really get into dancing and doing a full Broadway show."
For Cox, the summer camps have been a successful program for the Cartersville venue.
"This is our 21st year," she said. "We had our 20th anniversary last year and it's really been wonderful to see some of the children that started in second grade and have gone all the way up through the high school program, just to see them grow and develop their confidence.
"Many of them just really enjoy doing this. Some have gone on to make this their career; others want to do it as something they enjoy doing in their free time. I just love seeing them come back every year and how they change and grow."
Tickets for all of the Summer Music Theatre Camps' presentations are $5 and are available at the door or in advance by calling 770-386-7343.