My Summer Teaching Theatre at a Non-Performing Arts Camp
I spent the last eight weeks working as the drama teacher at an all girls summer camp in Maine. This was an experience I'll never forget. It had it’s struggles but it also had it’s amazing moments.
Part of the struggle of being a drama teacher at a non-performing arts camp was the budget for royalties for the shows. This camp was divided into two 3.5 week sessions. I was given a royalty budget of $50 (those of you who work with royalties know that's not much of a budget). My original plan was to write the play for first session and then choose a musical for second. However there were little to no $50 musicals. So I decided to use a published play for first session and do a cabaret second session.
That brings us into another struggle. This was an all girl’s camp. So it was hard choosing a show for 2050 girls. We ended up choosing Alexi Alfieri’s “What Happened After Once Upon a Time” (available through Pioneer Drama). It wasn't a full female cast but most of the roles were flexible when it came to gender (there was one role that had to be male. I found someone who was willing to play him).
First session came and it was time to start the process. We started with auditions which went very well. I had 21 girls audition and threw in some counselors in the roles that were left. The rehearsal process this session went fairly well. The only problem was that it was hard to get the full cast together because of scheduling. This made it hard to do full runs. Luckily, the play was written where characters weren't really in more than one scene. I highly recommend this show if you're looking for one that makes rehearsal scheduling easier. The other issue was getting a rehearsal in with the staff members that were in the cast. We weren't able to do this until the final dress (which was the day of the performance). But the scene went very well and the campers loved it. The cast worked super hard on the show and the performance was amazing. I got teary-eyed at the end. I was so proud of the cast and what they were able to achieve.
There was one girl in the cast who I was especially proud of. She was very quiet and very shy. She came to auditions to sign up to be on the tech crew. I could tell she was nervous about just doing that. Towards the end of auditions she came back with a couple of her friends. One of her friends that had auditioned earlier told me that the quiet girl wanted to audition. I was surprised. I asked the quiet girl if she actually wanted to and she wasn't very sure. I could tell that she wanted to but was very nervous about it. So I told her that she and her other friend could read for me and if liked that experience I would put her in the cast, and if not then I wouldn't. No issues. She agreed and read for me. When I asked her if she wanted to be in the cast she said yes. She worked super hard and it paid off. I was beyond proud of her.
Shortly after the performance of the first show the end of the session and the start of the second came. It was time to start the process for the second show. Because of the style of this show (it was a cabaret of scenes and songs) it was a little tougher to rehearse. I ended up having to divide the cast into three ensembles for scheduling reasons so that I could teach the ensemble songs efficiently. I taught the same song three times a day. This got slightly annoying. We only ever ran the entire show once (last session we ran about three times). Another struggle with this show is I found myself doing the job of at least six different people; stage director, music director, choreographer, costumer (something I hadn't done before the first session show), tech director, set designer, and more. This made it tough to do tech rehearsals and take efficient notes. Another struggle I experienced was I had decided to do this show in the round. None of the kids nor myself had done a show in the round before so this was a new/learning experience for all of us. I could tell at some points the kids were getting impatient while I tried to figure out how to block something, but I always reminded them that this was a learning experience for all of us. With all the scheduling conflicts there were two songs that were kind of neglected that I had to cut the day before the show. Performance day came faster than you could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The performance went well with only a couple flaws. I was extremely proud of them for their hard work and the people in the audience loved it.
There were definitely times throughout the summer where I felt more stressed than I have in a while. But in the end it was all worth it. I gave about 60 girls the chance to participate in theatre one way or another (cast or crew). This is something that they may not be able to do at home or may be too afraid to do at home. I also brought theatre into the lives of almost 200 girls through the performance. Not everyone gets to experience a theatrical performance (especially in the round). Theatre is my biggest love in life and I was honored to be able to bring it into the lives of the campers.