It?s that time of year again. Kids are getting closer to summer break and parents are deciding how to help them enrich themselves when school is out. For many kids, that means attending a youth theatre camp. For many in the theatre community that means organizing and running a youth theatre camp. We have already spoken to many clients who are in need of backdrops for just that purpose. Considering that we want to help support anyone in the community who is working to advance the arts, we are offering a special discount to organizers of youth summer camps who are interested in backdrop rental packages. We have also put together some great tips for youth theatre camps, based on our conversations with our Directors Round Table and our clients.
One thing that all seasoned veterans of summer camps agree on is that it is vital to treat the theatre process and the campers themselves as professionals while at summer camp. Why? It?s simple; if you want your students to get the most out of their time at camp, it is vital to mimic the actual processes of a theatrical production. While camp should be fun, it should also have some of the same rules and structure as a traditional production. In the end it is the only way to truly prepare children for theatre. It also helps to make your campers feel vested in the process, which not only helps them learn but assists in keeping them on-task. Professional quality backdrops give your end productions a Broadway look, and also show the kids that what they are taking part in is the real deal. When it comes to marketing your camp, the professional approach helps you to convince parents that your youth camp is the one for their child. As we all know, every camp is not created equally. Some of the camps out there are focused more on making a few bucks during the summer than they are on putting together a theatre experience that will remain in a child?s memories for their entire lifetime. Staffing your camp with active theatre professionals and top notch scenery are the best foundations for putting together a program that is fun for the kids, while enhancing their knowledge of theatre.
So Many Campers, Not Enough Roles
Selecting the right script is a challenge for many youth camp directors. You must select a show that applies to the interests of younger minds, and that will allow them to learn. Once a script has been chosen one of the biggest issues that arise is that there are simply not enough roles for every child. There are some ways to help increase the number of roles and make sure that every child gets the experience that they come to camp for.
One of the best ways to increase the number of roles is to increase the number of shows that you prepare the children for. If you choose to put on a rendition of Wizard of Oz, running two shows gives you two Dorothys, two Tin Men, two Scare Crows, and so on. While the best actors will get the leads, adding in more shows gives you more leads to fill and takes away some of the competitive feel that defines traditional casting. While the campers must understand that they have to take the role seriously in order to be cast in it, too much competition has ruined more than one theatre camp before. It is relatively easy to format your rehearsals around preparing two or three children for the same role. It also allows them to work learn and develop together while building on the life-long friendships that develop at theatre camps. When it comes to your younger campers, you can always increase the size of your ensembles. This lets you give all of your younger campers a role that meets their aptitude, and keeps them involved.
Another way to make sure that all campers get what they came to camp for is to look beyond acting. We all know that not everyone involved in theatre is an actor. Many of your campers may end up loving theatre but working as stage managers, lighting technicians and choreographers. Regardless of which show you select, putting on the production will require all of these roles. Give your campers the option to work in other areas of the production. You will find that many of the kids will gladly learn about lighting and rigging (hey you have to know how to hang a backdrop right) or directing the actors. Offering these roles to your campers gives the segment that loves theatre, but is a bit stage shy, to get the most out of their time and really learn a skill set that they can put to use in their future.
Keeping Things Interesting
Anyone who has worked with kids knows that attention spans and keeping children on-task can be a challenge. While you do need to treat the campers as professionals, you also must remember that they are children and that camp should be fun. Be straight forward with them about how blocking and choreography can be a bit tedious, but that they are vital parts of the process that must be learned. Then incorporate ways to break up some of the mundane activities. While promising ice cream socials and camp fire time are great parts of camp, you can still focus on drama with theatre games. A quick round of One Word Story or an improvisation game gives the kids a quick, yet fun, mental break and makes it easier to rein them back into putting the production together. It also helps build on skills that you will need during the rest of the rehearsal.
When dividing your campers into groups be sure to break them up according to age. Then apply your chosen activity to the age group. This way you can be sure that younger campers get the slower pace and attention that they need, and that older campers are not losing patience due to boredom. We mentioned improv games before. Often these types of exercises work better with your older campers, as they have more experience and creative ability than the younger lot. If you are having a tough time dividing the kids into groups, plan some activities that involved mixed ages. Talk to your older campers first about helping to prepare the younger campers. Much of the times you will find that the older campers adapt to teaching basic principles very well, and that younger campers respond to their peers that they look up to.
Running a youth theatre camp is a lot of work. Running a camp that successfully involves and enhances the skill set of the campers is even tougher. In the end it is well worth it, and a great way to spend your summer. If you have any other tips on managing a youth theatre camp, leave a comment below, or better yet share with us on Facebook or Twitter. If you are interested in our discounted backdrop packages for youth camps, give our Customer Service Team a call at (877)901-3353. Good luck this summer!