Local woman represents "royalty" of children's theater


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Princess Maggie. At least that's how the kids at the Osage Summer Theater Program refer to Maggie Blake.

After telling a mythical story during snack time about how frogs became small creatures, the camp kids truly believed she was royalty.

Working with a children's theater is something Blake never pictured being involved in, but she was pleasantly surprised with the program.

"After this experience, working with children is kind of a really fun thing to do because you get to play, imagine, and really get to see the kids develop from theatre," she said. "I'm kind of venturing off that way and it's really exciting."

The theater major started her career on stage in high school, where she was originally interested in stage management.

But after auditioning for her first play and getting the part, acting became her true passion.

In her four years at the UI, Blake acted in 10 plays and was also a stage manager. Last semester, she performed in The Cherry Orchard and Hamlet.

During her remaining months at the UI, Blake was the assistant costume designer for the play Jenga, is currently costuming a new play called Sidewinders, and she is looking forward to auditions for the New Play Festival.

With all of that on her plate, Blake is also continuing to promote the Osage Summer Theater Program around campus.

The ideas for this summer's plays are already in the works, and Blake hopes to add an intern to the program as well.

She hopes that students from the university will jump at the opportunity to become apart of this summer's camp.

"We are hoping to involve more people, more kids, and more of the community to come out and see our shows," Blake said.

Currently, all of the kids participating in the camp are on stage for the final performance, but in the future, Blake hopes to add the different theater components, including lighting and scenic design to the program.

She also thinks it would be a wonderful thing if the program could start to include musicals along with the straight plays.

But Blake's involvement in this program wouldn't be possible if it weren't for her friend and UI alum, Maggie Jones.

Jones wanted to create a program in her hometown of Osage, Iowa, because there weren't many theater opportunities available.

"I wanted to create an outlet for young kids who didn't want to play sports because that's what I would have wanted," Jones said.

When Jones ran her idea past Blake and another friend, UI alum Theresa Augsburger, they immediately jumped on board.

"She is very professional and personal at the same time," Jones said. "The kids are so willing to learn from her and everyone wants to be her friend."

Not only is Blake great with the kids, but for Augsburger she is also a great partner to have in this project.

"[Blake] is one of those people who you just love right away because she has a really strong presence that is very grateful," Augsburger said. "She has this wonderful kindness to her and working with her in Osage is so phenomenal because she can work with the administrative portion and she is a ball of energy with the kids."

The day camp has kids ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade and each of them participates in a different play, depending on their age group.

This past summer, Blake, Jones, and Augsburger, helped the kindergarten group write their own play called Super Pigs.

During this experience, Blake was surprised at how responsive the younger kids were to the projects they were introduced to.

"It was interesting that our younger kids were really able to catch on to the more abstract ideas," Blake said. "Of course they wanted to play and eat snack, but most of the time they were really focused and ready to be there."

With graduation quickly approaching for Blake and the possibility of Los Angeles in her future, her involvement with the Osage Summer Theater Program is something she still wants to continue.

"We hope to keep it going as long as we can, but we also hope to inspire community members to take charge and provide that for the community," Blake said. "This might be a nice way for communities to put the theater components back in [to their schools]."

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