Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Drama Camp--a Mountaintop Experience

I have to say that the Drama Camp has been one of the high points of this summer.  It has been some incredibly hard work, true dat...  But it has also been a wonderful experience mostly because of my amazingly dedicated, focused, and upbeat camp counselors who--get this--VOLUNTEERED their time to work with the young actors and actresses of the K-3 set.

The first good thing is that both camp sessions sold out.  At $75 for two weeks of half-days, it was a bargain.  And for what we gave, it was a steal:  a t-shirt, crafts, a snack, free play, theatre games, special presentations by guest actors, a field trip to the theatre, a framed photo of each kid, and a complete mini-production, complete with sets, costumes, and sound effects.  

The second good thing is that the framework of the camp was well set-up.  With me as overseeing director, two counselors assigned to each group (as director and assistant director), and two floating counselors to fill in anywhere they were needed, it worked very well.  I provided the structure, the content, and basically produced both plays, but it was the drama-teens who did the hands-on with the campers.  It ran SO much more smoothly than last year.  We worked a lot of the bugs out, expanded the camp from 15 to 20 kids, and broke the big group up into two smaller groups.  We came in every day with a plan; everyone had their assignments and for the most part, everything ran like clockwork, unlike last year when so much of what we did was 'what can do to fill the time until the end of the day?'.  We met each morning before the kids arrived to review the plan for the day; and at the end, we debriefed what was working and what needed tweaking.  In this way, it turned out to be not only a camp for the campers, but for the counselors as well, giving them experience in working with children, practice in being role models and on the job training in directing plays. 

 This is not to say that everything was perfect.  We learned that two weeks was not really enough time to produce the polished plays that we like to present.  The counselors were young and being theatre people, easily distracted (said the pot to the six kettles).  We did have to be flexible is the space we have, which could not support more than two groups of ten, each working on a play in a separate section of the room.  And we had issues, some larger than others, that needed hammering out each day. 

But the amazing third thing that worked and totally made the entire experience a high-point for me was my hard working camp staff.  They are truly to be admired for their dedication, their hard work, their patience with the kids.  There were amazing challenges in working with such youngsters, but their commitment to their craft, their desire to share their love of theatre, their patience, their faith, their good humor, their dedication never wavered, not once.  At the end of the first session, I asked who wanted to come back and five out of the six returned (the sixth had to go on vacation).

Aaron, Amanda, Charlie, Hannah, Jayme, Joe, Mitch.  My faithful, devoted camp counselors.  Working for nothing but the love of the game.  They remained undaunted and amazingly positive in the face of campers who were non-readers, had short attention spans, and possessed virtually no understanding of lines, cues, voice projection, or presentation, at all.  It was their upbeat attitudes, their dogged determination to join me at the ungodly summer hour of 8 a.m., their willingness to do the mundane and un-fun chores of mopping up spills, taking children to the restroom, cleaning up after crafts, sweeping the Dungeon and taking out the trash that kept me going.  At the end of every day, listening to them share stories of their interactions with the kids, the small theatrical victories, the funny stories, their laughing complaints, the touching moments, made my heart swell with love.  Knowing that we all had the common link, that love of theatre connects me to them and fills with love and admiration for these focused and dedicated young people.  

It was an amazing, uplifting experience, and I'm lucky, proud--and honored--to know them.  And I can't wait to do this again next summer.

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