The Lessons We Learn At Camp

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Summer camp is fun, plain and simple. Any Acting Manitou camper will tell you that being able to focus on making theater, without the pressures of homework, dentist appointments, or chores (they love inspection here, what can we say), is the reason they come back year after year. But, even out of school, there are lessons being learned every day here in Maine.

Often, the lessons we learn at camp are revelatory. Last year a group of campers challenged and supported each other in trust falls as they practiced an elaborate fight with a fairy in She Kills Monsters. Yearly, campers who are terrified of a singing audition learn not only that they can conquer their fear, but that they are quite good at singing. At camp, campers and staff learn how to navigate social and personal conflicts in an environment that doesn’t allow them to hide behind a screen but rather encourages them to collect their thoughts, offer and receive feedback, and work towards empathetic resolutions with their friends, cast mates and bunk mates.

All of this alone would make a session or summer at Acting Manitou worth it; a summer of theater, a lifetime of values. But there is one lesson that is perhaps the hardest for campers, staff, and parents alike, and it is one that we embrace every summer. Disappointment.

A summer of theater, a lifetime of values.

Our season of shows includes huge hits from Broadway as well as new works that have never been produced before. This inevitably brings about a desire in many campers to get a certain role in one show or another, uncertain of what promising roles lie in wait in unknown shows. Many times roles are wanted by more than one camper. Though we focus on ensemble and work diligently with our directors to ensure that every play is crafted to be made with that in mind, a camper may simply not always get the role they wished for.

We are grateful for this opportunity. It gives us a chance to support each other and grow as a community. Over the 11 years I have been here I have seen tears of joy and disappointment in equal measure. But what I have also seen, across the board, is beaming smiles and laughter come show day. By allowing space for our campers to feel sadness while encouraging them into the next day and moment we offer them a valuable lesson in what it means to navigate life. It would be wrong to tell them to not feel their feelings, but it would be equally wrong to not also let them know that after a few days of rehearsal those feelings will have passed and made room for celebration and confidence in their ability to shine in the role they have been given.

Chris Murrah, Senior Director

Chris Murrah, Senior Director

Today, our first day of rehearsal, has been filled with beautiful sun, two great classes, and, as I sit here writing this, a gratitude filled evening activity. The few tears of last night have given way to elation and community. Is there perhaps some lingering disappointment for some campers? Yes. But we encourage them to stay present and positive. By doing so we are teaching our campers that disappointment can be turned into determination, and effort into success.