2015 Program Offering
We tell parents that Inspirations Camp students explore theatrical expression and work towards performing a full-length musical that they can be proud of. This year we had Group games, warm-ups, scene work, afternoon elective classes (though art was required for those 7-8 years old), specific time for 7-8 (or 7-9) year olds including a mini-show-within-a-show, a swimming afternoon, dress rehearsals, and for some, singing class and one-on-one coaching. Please include any comments on this line-up, amounts of time spent in one or multiple areas, or ideas for how we might enhance, balance, or focus our program offering.
The Boy Who Kept A Secret as a Musical
Please share your impressions of the 2015 show on two levels: as a show that children in our camp's age range could sink their teeth into, and as a performance piece for our audiences to enjoy. Areas of comment could include the types, numbers, and interest potential for the lead and smaller lead roles; the songs themselves, and whether they work standing alone and/or as part of the show's whole; the story, including the mix of humor, adventure, and exploring themes. YOUR FEEDBACK HERE IS VERY HELPFUL for while I try to retain some objectivity as I create these shows, I don't believe I can see everything, and considered feedback is helpful for not only the eventual revision of this show but also the balance of the show we do in 2016.
We are trying to design the staff roles next year to best meet the needs of the campers and the program. Please comment on your staff role & duties Areas of comment could include whether your role (meaning your duties, not your personal enactment of those duties) felt like a good fit for the students and the goals of the camp, whether your time on / time off during the camp day felt in balance, the number of staff, things you'd wish to see continued if you were to work at Inspirations Camp again, and suggestions the future / improvements in the staff role.
Age of Campers I -- Minimum Camp Age
I am 90% sure I would like to raise the minimum camper age for the 2016 year from entering 2nd grade / age 7 to entering 3rd grade / age 8. While I enjoy 7-year olds, after two years and four camps I have consistently found that many (though not all) have had challenges with the camp day's length, retaining their attention in our sessions from scene work to singing to improv games; and when this happens they end up requiring more staff energy than I feel is in balance with the program I'd like to offer. If you have any feedback on this question please include it; if it's more crisp you can just write 'I agree' or 'I'd actually recommend 9 and up' ***I do recognize that if we were to raise the age range, some kids who are 6 / their parents who might have looked forward to participating in 2016 would have to wait another year.
Age of Campers II -- Maximum Camp Age
We are also considering raising the maximum camper age in 2016 from entering 9th grade / 14 to entering 10th or 11th grade / 15-16. Inspirations Camps were initially chartered to serve ages 7-16, the idea being that while we'd do some activities as a full camp, the 12-16 year olds would have more than a few choral sessions, advanced acting, and scene work in their own group, as would the 7-11 year olds (and this group splitting into 7-8 and 9-11 on occasion); then halfway though the camp we'd combine more and more as the show came together. However, in spring 2014 our age ranges were 7-13 in Vermont and 7-12 in Oregon, and I reduced the age maximum because I didn't want just one or two 15-16 year olds at camp and their needs not being met well. Now that we have two years of camp under our belt and a growing camper base, I am looking at this question again. POTENTIAL ADVANTAGES OF RAISING THE AGE inclusion; campers having a longer period over the years in which they can work together, get to know each other, and pull off amazing shows as they and staff learn each other's rhythms; the added sophistication 15-16 year olds could bring to both camp and the performances; and a wider age range to help insure a healthy number at our camps. POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGES OF RAISING THE AGE the divide in social issues when we have an early high school element present; 12-14 year olds having a wider pool of students to 'compete' with for lead roles if that is expanded to 12-16 year olds; camp getting too big for our space (this could at some time become an issue regardless of age maximums). PLEASE SEE THE PROGRAM / CAMP LENGTH DESCRIPTION BELOW IN LEAGUE WITH THIS QUESTION, ESPECIALLY FOR THE 2016 VERMONT CAMP(S).
Program Possibilities for 2016 / Camp Length
If we do raise the maximum age, I've come up with 4 potential models for camp (I'm speaking to these for the Vermont camps, as I don't foresee this issue arising in Oregon for 2016; however, it could come Oregon's way in 2017 or 2018, so Oregon staff please weigh in if you have an opinion) 1) STATUS QUO Run one two-week camp similar to the model we did this year for ages 8-15/16 2) STATUS QUO WITH CURRICULUM SHIFTS Similar model but be deliberate in offering more age-specific classes, rehearsals, and theater activities. For example, one morning the 12-16 year olds might have a 45 minute advanced acting class while the 8-11 year olds do scene work; or we have 2-3 electives a week that are only for those 12 and up (while continuing to offer attractive options for those younger than 12). 3) THE EXTENDED OPTION Similar camp as in options 1) and 2) above but have leads aged 12-16 come one week early for an intensive camp experience of scene work, choral work, advanced theater exercises, and other things we don't quite get to in a 2 week camp. This would allow the leads to come in the first day of the full camp with some of the scenes already blocked, their characters more fully explored, some of the kinks worked out of their parts, and some extra energy for the camp and the show. 4) RUN TWO CAMPS Have a 1-week or 2-week entirely separate camp for 12-16 year olds with its own performances, then have the traditional 2-week camp for 8-14 year olds. The challenge here is that I'm not sure in Vermont we're big enough to split yet; and if we did, likely many of the 12-14 year olds would gravitate to the older camp, perhaps leaving a skeleton crew for the youngers. It also might be a challenge for parents who say had one 15 year old and one 10 year old--they wouldn't have both kids in the same place and covered. I AM VERY VERY INTERESTED TO HEAR YOUR FEEDBACK ON THIS QUESTION OF CAMP STRUCTURE ESPECIALLY AS IT RELATES TO CAMPER AGE. While we can always go back, what we do in 2016 could be the seed for years to come, and if any changes are made I want them to be considered, wise, and centered on the kids' experience at camp.
Show-Within-Camp for 9-11 year olds
I'd love to plug our 9-11 year olds in more during camp. One idea is to cast them in a shortened (say 40-50 minute) version of the camp's show; then during camp they work both on their (admittedly small) roles for the full-length show but also every day work on their parts for the shorter show, to be shared with friends, family & camp members on say the last Thursday afternoon of camp, or perhaps a 5:00 performance. Students would be asked to learn their songs & lines over the summer as the usual leads would. So, using TBKAS as an example, someone like Hannah would play the wizard and a pirate; but if she wanted, she might also be cast as Morningstar for half of the 45 minute-show. ADVANTAGES more involvement & engagement for the 9-11 year olds, who are capable of a lot; hopefully more fun all around. DISADVANTAGES Could be a lot to try to squeeze in, especially for a two week camp. We'd definitely need at least one more staff member, and one who felt confident singing / rehearsing / accompanying the kids on keyboard.
Camp Size (both Oregon and Vermont)
5 students and it would be very difficult to run a camp or put on a show, say nothing of financial viability. 205 students and it would be very difficult to run a camp in our current spaces; putting on a show would mean lots of kids in smaller roles which might not be satisfying to them. In 2014 it was a question for a while whether camp would have the minimum number of kids to even run (I had said 15) In 2015 our numbers climbed from 19 to 27 in Oregon and 35 to 43 in Vermont. While it may not affect us in 2016, it's worth asking what number might be the most healthy range for these camps (as it is run now, though there are other models out there). FEEL FREE TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION -BEFORE- YOU READ MY THOUGHTS BELOW; ALTERNATIVELY, YOU'RE WELCOME TO SEE WHAT I FACTOR IN AS I THINK ABOUT THIS QUESTION IF IT INFORMS YOUR RESPONSE. 1) THE KIDS' EXPERIENCE. Does it help or hurt the camper experience to have 40, 80, 120 in the cast, or does that vary based on the camper? Does having 70 peers to potentially bond with help the social aspect or is that overwhelming and less cohesive? 2) THE SHOW ITSELF I try to write shows that can work with 20 folks but are written with 40-60+ in mind, with room for more (for example, if stage space weren't an issue, I'd be fine with a dozen gossipers, 10-20 councillors, and as many animals and soldiers as we can costume. However, there wouldn't be more leads. 3) THE VENUE AND WHAT IT CAN HANDLE In Vermont, the Chelsea town hall I believe would begin to crack at the seams around 70, possibly fewer. In Oregon anything over 90 might start to be an issue (I don't imagine we'll have that problem in 2016, but who knows). 4) STAFFING Although I'm not bound to this, I imagine a 1-10 to 1-15 staff-camper ratio. Increase in campers would necessitate an increase in staff. 5) BIG ONE FOR ME: EXCLUSION At Inspirations Camps, would we ever want to be in a place where we told a kid who was within our age range, 'Sorry, you can't come to camp because we're full.' ? Could we ever feel justified saying 60 is something we can work with but we just can't work with 61? (On the flip side, if our policy was that we took everyone that applied, we'd have to be prepared to run a camp 61 or 85 or 143). My idea now is to have a soft cap and a firm cap: on our website say 'we're open to _____ campers BUT have 5-10 campers' worth of wiggle room in case we get some parents / campers for whom we feel this camp would be a magical experience; that said, I wouldn't tell one camper no then another yes after that; it would be first-come first-served, and once the hard camp was hit it would be done.
Feedback welcome on how to give out roles at camp: Do we do it based on what some would call objective talent in acting or singing, or do we try to give roles based on the experience we believe that child could have in that role, regardless of their perceived talent? Do we approach each year and show fresh based on the kids we have, or do we try to balance things between years (for instance, so-and-so had a big role in 2015 and so-and-so II had a smaller role, then switch those up in 2016 to promote balance)? How much dedication (if any) do we have to the objective quality / watchability of the final performance, and how does that affect casting decisions? For example, would we knowingly put someone in a role who couldn't sing in pitch if we knew there was someone else who could sing in pitch? Finally, how do you feel about this camp being admittedly ageist in our casting (right now, leads open only to those 12 and up with an occasional exception for an 11-year old), the idea being that kids, as they age, can have a reasonable expectation of getting bigger roles as the years pass? Alternatively, if we weren't ageist, how would we feel about a very talented 8-9 year old in a lead role while a 13-year old carried a spear and had one speaking line?
General--Things we do Well
This is a place to remind me of things you feel we've done well this past year or two and you would recommend continuing. THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE I MIGHT NOT BE CONSCIOUS OF SOME ASPECT OF CAMP THAT YOU SEE AS A STRENGTH, AND I COULD UNKNOWINGLY ALTER IT. For example, you might say, 'I'm really glad we have a spacious lunch recess of 50 minutes--it really helps the kids unwind.' That's good for me to hear, because I might have thought 35 minutes was more than enough, and the kids were getting bored. You needn't be comprehensive (for example, 'I really appreciate having enough chairs at camp' probably wouldn't be the most constructive feedback--unless that truly is one of your top 3 or 4), but if you can pick 3-4 things that would be great to hear.
General--Things we could Improve Upon
What are 2-3 things, if any, you feel we could do better or you could see changing to better meet the needs of the campers, the show, the parents? (If you have any staff role-specific comments, it would be easiest if those could be included in the 'staff role' question above).
Torsti Rovainen Role
If you have any ideas for how I might bring what I do in a way that better meets the needs of the campers, the show, the parents, you as staff members, or the camp in general, you're welcome to write it here BUT PLEASE KNOW for me hearing it in real time with ability to ask clarifying questions is about 900% more helpful than written feedback. If you're so moved, I'd welcome a 5-10 minute phone call where you let me know what's on your mind, and I listen with interest and clarifying questions, not debate on my end.
Staying in the Loop if you Wish
Thank you for your feedback; for me, you are now officially finished with your 2015 camp staff role. However, if you'd like to hear what other staff members have come up with or be part of the shaping of the 2016 camp experience, please indicate this in the appropriate box below. If you don't mark a box, I'll assume you don't want to be in the loop, and I'll simply be in contact once the 2016 program has been set and we are exploring the staffing picture. [If you do request to receive the staff feedback or be part of the discussions, make sure you've put your name in the top line of this form, otherwise I won't know who to send things to]
I would prefer not to receive any summaries of staff feedback, nor be in any discussions on the camp's program offerings for 2016
I would like to see the staff feedback, but not be in the discussions
I would like to be in the discussions, but don't need to see the staff feedback summary. Instead, you can send me a more crisp program proposal once that has been made and it's time to decide upon the 2016 offerings
I'd be interested in both reading the staff feedback and being part of discussions of the future of Inspirations Camps
Thank you! Your feedback has been submitted