More Than Just Theater... WHY Acting Manitou.

The Camper’s Job

Support and inspire others
Challenge yourself creatively
Be a good friend to all
Work tirelessly on your performance
Take care of yourself and others
Commune with nature
Fall in love with your play
Make lifelong friends
And take joy in all you do.

We can all remember school, learning at a desk surrounded by other students while the teacher stood at the front of the room, perhaps reading to us from a book or writing on the chalkboard with their back to us. It’s the most prominent way many children “learn” and yet as adults we often say that the real lessons of life we learned out of a classroom.

This is why Acting Manitou has been such an important part of campers’ development for more than 15 years. At camp, young people are encouraged to learn through experience and by upending the notion of teacher and student; at Acting Manitou, we learn from each other, everyone from everyone.

Prominent psychologist and camp expert Bob Ditter is a long-time champion of youth development and the specific ways the camp setting enhances that development. He has worked at identifying character traits important to impart to young campers and we have looked to our own “The Camper’s Job” to see how we implement them in our program.

Resilience- “Support and Inspire Others”

The ability to thrive in the face of temporary setbacks is one of the main traits in humans that leads to success. In theater we often encounter difficult circumstances on the way to opening night. A fellow cast member gets sick at the last minute, the venue changes, ticket sales are low, the lighting board didn’t save last night’s tech rehearsal… the list goes on! But, like in many businesses, we have a hard deadline, opening night, and all theater people know that, “The Show Must Go On!” Acting Manitou offers campers the chance to see how this mentality can be paired with a sense of compassion and empathy that leads to a supportive and healthy commitment to other things in life as well.

Campers and Staff take in a spectacular view near camp on a Trip Day hike.

Campers and Staff take in a spectacular view near camp on a Trip Day hike.

A Sense of Curiosity and Wonder- “Commune With Nature”

Our natural, inborn fascination with the world that makes us want to explore, learn and discover all we can about it. At Acting Manitou we unplug from phones and other electronics to heighten our ability to remain present and curious with the world around us. Campers are especially talented in finding wonder in the natural world. Mountains, rivers, and oceans invite such curiosity because they are bigger than we can see with our eyes, and naturally lead to questions of wonder. Research backs this up, as the University of Michigan has demonstrated that, after just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans have been shown to improve by 20 percent!

Social Intelligence- “Take Care of Yourself and Others”

Team-player ability, our awareness of others, the ability to read other people’s emotions and connect with them in meaningful ways. Knowing when and how to negotiate, collaborate, and compromise are elements of social intelligence. Many campers may have their own bedroom at home or share with one or two siblings, but at camp we are a close community and campers are given the opportunity to share cabins with others. Cleaning, sharing space, respecting others need for quiet. These are all opportunities for practicing listening, negotiation and compromise. What’s more, camp is unlike any other environment they are in all year, so campers are encouraged to and feel more freedom to practice new social habits that they then carry with them through the year.

Gratitude- “Be Green and Grateful”

An essential feeling of appreciation for what we have been given. Gratitude is central to a positive outlook on life, and we want to direct our community to lean towards gratitude as often as possible. Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis, states that “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.” At Acting Manitou, we are reminded every time we enter our dining hall to practice gratitude for our surroundings, the gift our staff provides and each other.


Kindness- “Be A Good Friend To All”

More than simply “being nice,” kindness involves giving of one’s self — something that is a sacrifice of your time, your effort, your true consideration. Something that we strive to teach at Acting Manitou is kindness without restriction, of sacrificing without any thought of reciprocation. We need to be careful that our own acts of kindness are not rooted in the hope of merely receiving kindness, but in the happiness of giving of ourself to others.

Optimism- “Take Joy in All You Do!”

The ability to see the positive opportunity in situations. Optimism is linked to self-confidence and a positive outlook on life. In fact, having a 3:1 positive to negative thought ratio is shown to broaden our ideas about possibilities, open our awareness to a wider range of thoughts… making us more receptive and creative; says UNC professor Barbara Fredrickson.

At Acting Manitou, we do not place one of our core values above another, but “Take Joy in All You Do” has become a keystone of our program, of our why. We believe that young people today deserve the same opportunities to be joyful and to share that joy with others in a community. Not only does camp provide that, but theater at Acting Manitou teaches campers that their is often a greater joy to be had in being curious and invested in others more than one’s self.

We often hear campers express their excitement and appreciation of the shows they see their friends do over the show they were in. That kind of joy, selfless and giving, is what keeps us committed to your campers, our family, year after year.