Summer is the season of road trips, fireworks, swimming pools, and, of course, theatre camps. Well, at least in my world. Theatre camps are a HUGE part of every budding Diva's summer plans and choosing the perfect camp requires a bit of effort. Things to consider when choosing your summer theatre camp include:
1. Price. They are all expensive and usually priced competitively. If you find a camp that seems significantly cheaper than others in your area, there is a reason. I advise against looking into "budget" theatre camps as, more often than not, they are not run by theatre professionals and will, at best, offer your child no real training all summer or, at worst, reverse the training they have already received.
If you are truly unable to afford a theatre summer camp, consider asking if they offer scholarships. Be prepared to do some volunteering, as many camps will ask that parents work as ushers or backstage in exchange for a discount. Also, remember that for our younger campers, summer camp is usually saving you the cost of a summer nanny or daycare.
2. Training. If the primary goal of your performer is to spend the summer developing their performance skills, consider a camp that offers workshops in addition to a production, or forgo the production completely! Being in a full production, while very appealing to young performers, puts an incredible strain on them emotionally, physically, and mentally. Some performers need to spend the summer in an acting class or dance camp where they are able to focus their efforts on honing one of their skills without the added pressure of performance. If your Diva is determined to be in a full production this summer, make sure you find a program staffed by professional educators, not just professional performers. While many performers are also strong educators some are not and if a theatre camp is staffed primarily with company members from its main stage productions, who have little to no experience working with kids, they may not be able to provide the best training for your young performers.
"Make sure you find a program staffed by professional educators, not just professional performers"
3. Schedule. Summer is filled with travel plans. Before you commit to a program, make sure your performer is available for all rehearsals and performances. Most camps will make allowances for a few conflicts during rehearsals if they are made aware of these conflicts by the first day of camp. Conflicts during tech rehearsals or performances, on the other hand, are almost always a deal breaker. Please know that while a director might allow your Diva to miss several rehearsals for travel plans, these absences will most likely affect casting decisions so prepare your performer for this ahead of time to ensure they will be content with any role.
4. Show. If you have a conflict free summer, expendable income, and a plethora of choices be sure to consider the productions before committing to a theatre camp. I highly recommend using the summer to push your performer outside their comfort zones! The impulse is, of course, to find a production that your young performer knows will highlight their personal strengths, thus ensuring them a featured role. The tappers will gravitate towards the production of Thoroughly Modern Millie while the non-dancers will jump at the chance to perform some Sondheim. I understand this impulse but allow me to offer an alternative view. Summer theatre camps accept ALL performers into their productions. So, if a performer is not a very strong dancer they will still be cast in a summer production of Fame, providing them with an opportunity to IMPROVE their dancing skills. Stepping outside of their comfort zone for a summer production allows young performers to take risks without the fear of possible repercussions from members of their drama departments. Their high school directors will not be watching the rehearsal process with an eye peeled for their next leading lady, which removes some of the pressure felt when participating in school productions or classes.
5. Social. I am a firm believer in the healing powers of theatre. Theatre can unite communities, it can spark lifelong friendships, and it can change the course of the lives of the people who perform or consume it. Summer productions are a wonderful way to widen the social circle of your Diva as most summer programs attract students from many different neighborhoods, schools, and even school districts. The friends made at summer camp are free from school year drama and provide an opportunity for students to practice making new choices or challenge themselves to learn from new people. In my experience directing summer productions I have witnessed deep friendships develop and have seen first hand how working with a diverse group of performers can help them grow exponentially as actors, singers, and dancers.
Many young performers have already made their decisions about where to spend their summer but for those Divas who are still on the fence, please consider my advice when making your choice!
And for those of you in the Bay Area, there are still spots available in some programs that I highly recommend!