Wilton High School students are notoriously busy – from homework to sports to college applications, it’s a wonder they have time to breathe! Yet an amazing group of dedicated students finds the time each year to volunteer with Wilton Children’s Theater (WCT).

This fall, a group of nearly two dozen students, most of them WCT alums, are working closely with the show’s professional staff to learn and practice the basics of directing and choreography, as they help to coach and instruct the children during rehearsals. And these high school students are critical to the show’s success – during performances they run the lights, lead the backstage crew, move set pieces, and assist with props and makeup. Their energy and enthusiasm is catching – and together, the cast and crew develop a strong camaraderie that transcends their age gap.

Skip Ploss, director for this fall’s production of Disney’s Camp Rock, thoroughly enjoys working with the crew of student volunteers.

“The idea originally came a few years ago from a group of former Children’s Theater participants. During a rehearsal break for a Summerstage production, I was approached by the entire 10th grade contingent. They wanted to volunteer their time to work on the upcoming fall show, and I thought it was a terrific idea. From there, the program has grown and the kids keep coming back every year,” Ploss says.

Grace Kelleher, a WHS junior, has volunteered her time with WCT for three years straight. She first acted with WCT in  fifth grade as “Veruca Salt” in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and now serves as rehearsal assistant and stage manager for the school-year shows. Like many other WCT high school volunteers, she also performs in WHS theater productions, running with the other teen helpers directly from a Camp Rock rehearsal over to WHS for their own show rehearsals.

But, says Kelleher, it’s worth it to them. “I love how excited the kids get during the performances. Whether it’s their first or their last show with WCT, it’s so fun to watch them. I like having the responsibility backstage, and the opportunity to help the kids. We keep them calm when they get nervous, help them with cues, and remind them what props they need. It’s a great experience.”

Grace Lynch, also a WHS junior, has worked on four WCT productions. A dancer, Lynch works with the show’s choreographer to teach dance numbers to the children. “I love the open environment,” she says. “I think it’s a great way for both timid and outgoing kids to become comfortable in theater. My favorite part is the performances–I like watching and knowing that the effort we all put in together has led to a fantastic show.”

Erica Buse, co-producer for this year’s production of Camp Rock, is impressed by the commitment that this group of high school students shows.

“They come to rehearsals every week, even when they’ve got a heavy workload for school. You can see how much they enjoy theater and working with the younger children, and they serve as great role models for the kids. We really love having them as part of the production.”

Applaud all of Wilton’s students – both young and old – at Disney’s Camp Rock on Nov. 21-23. To purchase tickets, visit the Wilton Children’s Theater website.