Embracing the Spotlight
Little did Julie and Frank Dunn know that when they enrolled their quiet, shy, then 6-year-old daughter Madison in a variety of themed Day Camps at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, they had premiered a rising star. One day in the Lynne & Howard Halpern Drama Camp was all it took: Madison found a stage on which to shine and since summer 2015, she has performed in an astounding 20 MJCCA shows. “MJCCA Day Camps was definitely the catalyst for Madison’s acting bug, and thanks to the talented and amazing counselors, she has grown her confidence and roles over time,” Julie shares.
“The JCC introduced me to theater,” explains Madison, now 13. “I realized how much I enjoyed being on stage and becoming different characters.” In 2016, she participated in two different shows, but that wasn’t enough, Julie recalls. Every summer following, she registered for two sessions of both shows offered, so she performed in each production twice. In 2018, she landed her first speaking part with an acapella solo. “That was a pivotal moment because it made me realize that theater was more than just something I enjoyed,” Madison reveals. “It was something I wanted to do for a very long time.”
She has since been involved in a children’s theater, productions at her school, and a private acting troupe, but the MJCCA’s drama department is home. “I grew up in the MJCCA theater program,” she reflects. “Every year my skills got better and each role was more challenging than the one before. The directors believed in me, trusted me, and shaped me into the performer and person I am today, just like a family would.” Madison now intends to share her passion and experience with other budding thespians, first through the MJCCA Day Camps Staff-in-Training program, then as a drama camp counselor.
“Being part of these experiences furthered Madison’s growth not just in musical theater but in life: working as a team, supporting and respecting different personalities, believing in yourself, thinking on your feet, learning from mistakes and helping others to do the same, taking ownership, learning to adapt, balancing work and fun, and learning how to handle both high and low moments with grace,” Julie raves. “The MJCCA theater department instills these [skills] without explicitly talking about them. The directors offer compliments, but also create moments for cast members to offer shout-outs to each other. It’s such a supportive environment, and we are so grateful to have found this ‘home away from home’ for our daughter. Being part of this community has changed us for the better.”
The directors believed in me, trusted me, and shaped me into the performer and person I am today, just like a family would.Madison Dunn