Monthly Archives: May 2013

Making a Youth Theatre Camp a Success

Youth Theatre Camp

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. Since we want to help support anyone working to advance the arts, we are offering a special discount on backdrop rental packages to organizers of youth summer camps . We have also put together some great tips for youth theatre camps, based on our conversations with our Directors Round Table and our clients.

Be Professional

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. 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 professional theatrical production.

While camp should be fun, it should also have some of the same rules and structure as a traditional production. Ultimately, it is the only way to truly prepare children for theatre. Furthermore, it helps 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 is the best foundations for putting together a program that is both fun for the kids and enhances 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 will engage 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.

Double Casting

One of the best ways to increase the number of roles is to increase the number of performance. 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, etc. 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. The best actors still will get the leads, but adding in more shows provides more opportunities and takes away some of the competitive feel that defines traditional casting.

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.

Teaching Theatre Tech

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. 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. This is a great opportunity for campers that love theatre, but is a bit stage shy. They will make the most of their time at camp 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 keeping children engaged and 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 straightforward 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 campfire time are great, 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 in. 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.

Give Yourself a Round of Applause!

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.

To learn more about our discounted backdrop packages for youth camps, give our Customer Service Team a call at (877) 901-3353. Good luck this summer!