Middle-school students leap into character roles this week, working on scenes, monologues and learning professional audition techniques in an “Actors Boot Camp” to prepare for the spring production.

Open to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Worthingway and Phoenix middle schools, the boot camp began Oct. 23 and runs through Friday, Oct. 27.

The musical Peter Pan Jr., is the spring production, with performances at 7:30 p.m. April 20 and 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. April 21 at the McConnell Arts Center, 777 Evening Street.

Tickets will be sold online through the MAC website and at the door.

Music teacher Jacob Reed said the boot camp is an opportunity for students to hone their acting skills and prepare for auditions, which will be in January.

“At the middle-school level, any student who auditions is allowed to participate in the musical. No one is turned away or cut,” Reed said. “We just use the audition to determine which part or role the student will be assigned.”

He said students love being at the MAC.

“The students are thrilled to be in a professional theatre,” he said.

Reed said the boot camp is a feature of the Worthingway Arts Program.

“We started WAP in 2011 as a way to provide more after school arts activities for Worthington students,” he said. “As a music teacher and musician myself, I know firsthand the powerful and positive impact arts experiences can have on the life of a student.”

He said the program has produced “Fiddler on the Roof Jr.,” “Bernice Bobs her Hair,” “The Little Princess,” “Annie Jr.,” “The Sound of Music,” “Music Man” and “Cinderella.”

Worthingway Principal Nathan Kellenberger said 40-50 students are expected to participate in the musical.

“I value any opportunity that allows a student to connect with our school and find an interest that he or she may want to pursue in the future; whether it be an athletic team, ski club, or one of our academic clubs,” he said. “We put a premium on providing opportunities for our students.”

He said the boot camp is a unique opportunity.

“Mr. Reed and his staff provide a safe and supportive environment in which students can grow artistically,” he said.

“It is an absolute pleasure to see our students put aside the stress of the day to do something they truly enjoy.”

Besides Reed as producer of the musical, staff members this year include director Chris Leyva and choreographer Megan Overly.

Leyva is a playwright, theater director and author. He was the recipient of the CATCO and Greater Columbus Art Council Playwright Fellowship with his play Books & Bridges.

Overly is a Worthington parent and actor who has choreographed for Columbus Children’s Theatre and performed in local productions and in New York City.

Reed said the goal of the arts program is “to engage students in life-enriching arts experiences.”

“We provide a safe and fun environment for middle school students to explore acting, singing and dancing,” he said.

Reed said participating in the arts can “empower students to change the world.”

“Through the arts, students can imagine a better world, nurture the creative expression necessary to begin that change and develop the innovative thinking and collaborative teamwork necessary to see that change through,” he said.