Day In the Life at theater Camp
(Note: this overview is for our camps for 7-11 and 8-14 year olds. Our high school theater program has a ~30-45 minute acting workshop followed by rehearsals and singing practice)
Quick Overview of the Camp Experience
Each day is an adventure at Inspirations Camps. We play drama games, sing songs, create skits, and rehearse towards our end-of-camp performance. We also balance the theater work we do with art, movement, and play.
For the first half of camp, each morning we start out as one big group for warm-ups and drama games, and usually focus on big-group number rehearsals for the combined camp until the morning break. In the second late morning session, the camp separates into age-appropriate theater workshops, rehearsals, and activities. In the afternoons, children can pick from several elective classes, including art, theater, and more. The second half of camp we are typically combined as one large group working on our performance.
first half of camp
Each camper is greeted when they arrive, and have a few minutes to get ready, put their things away, and chat with other campers and staff. The schedule for each day is posted so that campers can see what is happening that day. They are also able to sign up for that day's afternoon elective classes. Some campers take this time to run a few quick lines with each other.
Warm-ups / Theater Games / Full-Camp Rehearsals
We then launch into ~15-30 minutes of theatrical warm-ups, singing exercises, and theater games led by our camp staff. Students will get to exercise their voices through tongue-twisters, projection exercises, and singing games. We'll move our bodies through stretches, exercises, and games. After this we are ready to go for the day!
The first week of camp we devote some of our morning session to
exercising and enhancing each camper's theatrical expression
bringing the campers together into a cohesive team
getting to know the show for camp, and
We'll do a variety of theatrical activities, games, and exercises to see what theater can be, and have fun doing it. If you were a fly on the wall, one moment you might see us all practicing our sneaky walks; another a group exercise in pairs, where one person (acting) is trying to persuade the other to do something outlandish, a surprise topic we have given them. We might then ask them to do it again--this time in a made-up foreign language. You also might see us exploring how we move when we're feeling hot, cold, or itchy; and another the kids playing a game where they get to practice being the Best or Worst ____ in the world (waitstaff, zookeeper, cook, etc.)
After that we might rehearse a few of our big-group or full-cast scenes from the play involving all the ages, and this will typically take us into the morning break for snack and some recess / movement time.
Recess / Break
We work and play hard at theater camp, and it is nice to have some unstructured time in the day! At the close of the first session (typically around 10:45 am) we have a break for a snack and some quick outside time to enjoy the playground, take walks, chat, and/or play games.
Small-group Rehearsals and Singing Classes
We now divide into two-three groups. Depending on the day, the younger students might have continued drama games, rehearse the scenes and songs they have in the play, or creating their own drama skits that they later share with the larger group.
The older students will typically sub-divide into pairs, trios, and small groups to rehearse various scenes from the play, attend workshops designed to bolster their theater skills, or practice singing certain songs from the show. In the workshops, we sometimes invite campers into some brainstorming exercises for a scene in our play: say a character has a secret and is feeling pressure to share it. How might she carry herself in this situation? How would she walk and talk? What might be going on in her head, and how might this come out in her expressions? The best ideas for our performances can come from these sessions, as sometimes the group finds ideas for the character or scene that are amazing fits.
This takes us to lunch, where after our hard morning's work we enjoy a nice, long break from structure. We get to go outside, play, socialize, or read on the Portland Waldorf School fields and playgrounds. In 2014 one of our staff had a dog who joined us for some lively games of fetch.
second half of camp
The second half of camp the students come together to focus on shared rehearsals for our end-of-camp performance. Using all the theater skills we've learned as well as the rehearsal times we've already put in, we're ready to make our show shine!
The basic structure of the day is very similar to the first half of camp. However, afternoons are either devoted to rehearsals or special activities, determined by the camp staff as camp progresses to find the best fit for our group.
Morning Greeting / Warm-ups
Lunch & Recess
As rehearsals amp up, on certain days there might not be a formal morning snack-time, and students will take their snacks as the rehearsals allow. If there is an official meal break, occasionally the staff will work with several students during the official lunch/recess time; if that happens, those students will be given a lunch break either immediately before or after the usual lunch time.
As we get closer to the performance dates, we add
props and/or sets
make-up (dress rehearsals only)
Then we're ready to give it our all for our two end-of-camp performances, for which parents, siblings, relatives, and friends are encouraged to attend, to cheer on and support our campers--and see what we trust will be an amazing show.
A supportive environment
All the while, we seek to build trust and camaraderie in our group. Through careful mentoring, positive encouragement of each camper's contributions, leading by example via our staff, and trust-building theater exercises, we create an environment where each camper's individual ideas and expression are supported in an open, caring way.
If negative or overly-critical language should come up, the staff (and sometimes other campers) are ready to invite other ways we could communicate those messages. Example: one camper thinks another is acting differently than what she'd like to see happen in the play, and says,
"You're not doing that character right, you're messing it up!"
Sometimes the person who has said something like this immediately realizes her message came out in a way that can be hard to hear, and will rephrase it herself. If she does not, or is not aware that what she said could have been phrased in a more supportive way, a staff member will help her channel the heart of her message in a manner that is more respectful and helpful, such as
"I had an idea for the head minister in that scene--would you like to hear it?" then, (if she gets a 'yes,')
"I thought it might be interesting to try having him acting really nervously in that scene, maybe pacing around, or wringing his hands as he talks; it would be a neat contrast to the scene before when he was acting really confidently."
camp comes to an end for the year
It's amazing how close a group can become in just a few short weeks when we're playing, working, and laughing together each day while all putting our best towards a wonderful community production. As our last show finishes, we say our farewells--at least, until next year!--and return home with a great feeling of satisfaction of a job well done, friends made, and memories for a lifetime.