Blog: August 10th, 2018

It's here! Dress Rehearsal day of Session 2, 2018 is here! This day is so special as we, as a community, share in the experience of five shows that have each camper's heart and soul within. Tomorrow we will open up our circle (as our co-founder Tim Brownell always put it) to our friends and families to share with them as well. Each summer holds a very special story and journey and this summer is no different. Casts and crews and musicians have each worked diligently with the exciting challenges each play presents and we are thrilled to be reaching the pinnacle of our sixteenth summer and celebrating the love we all share of making theater!

Our final Director Q&A is a twofer! Chris Murrah, a ten year and fourteen show veteran of Acting Manitou, shares his Q&A with first year Music Director, Rachel Dean.


Be More Chill
direction by Chris Murrah; musical direction by Rachel Dean


1. What was one initial excitement you about the show you are working on?
Rachel: I knew going in that Be More Chill is a show that has resonated with teenage audiences. It was exciting for me to imagine what that would mean for our cast, who are for the most part the same age as the characters in the show; these were characters they could identify with immediately, whose struggles were their own. I couldn't wait to see what they would build on that already-solid foundation.

Chris: For many years I have chosen plays that I hoped would challenge the expectation of what young adults are capable of when it comes to making theatre. This year, I focused on coming to material that seemed to be in the current zeitgeist of our community. Be More Chill, currently in a sold out run off-Broadway, resonates with young adults, though I didn't really know why. I was excited to hear and feel what about this musical made our campers excited and use that as the springboard for making the show.

2. What has been a surprise for you in the rehearsal room?
Rachel: The openness of every kid in the room. Every single one has responded well when we push them to go further and discover more. They've all had surprising and thrilling breakthroughs.

Chris: The ability of our incredibly mature campers to embrace this material which they feel reflects their experiences while simultaneously having a critical eye on the writing and seeing how their generation is already responding through theatre in more sensitive and inclusive ways than even a generation before them. 

3. What about doing this play at Acting Manitou has been enlightening or exciting?
Rachel: Seeing what it means to the kids and how the show informs their own lives. I've had enlightening discussions with several cast members about what the show means in the context of 2018 and their own lived experiences, and it's reminded me just how aware of the world they are, and the good they are determined to go on to do.

Chris: I echo what Rachel has said. It has also been exciting to realize that no matter how awake to change I am, nothing stops the aging process and if I wish to continue to be truly inclusive I have to continue to listen to those who are both younger and older than I am. 

4. We do a lot of “teaching” here, but what have you learned by working with your cast?
Rachel: You must be the energy you wish to see in others. And there is always room for so much more kindness in our lives. And to be vulnerable and present always. Honestly, we teachers do a lot more learning than teaching here.

Chris: I have learned that I am one person, with a very specific energy. There are many ways to come at making theatre and mine is only one. On stage you will see 14 other ways of approaching rehearsal that are so thrilling and lead to the same end.

5. What show would you like to see Acting Manitou do in the near future?
Rachel: I would love to see a show that centers stories and struggles reflecting the experiences of so many of our campers, but that aren't often told on stage in a big way yet -- stories of LGBT kids; teenagers' stories taken seriously; stories that deal with issues they're facing in their world now. I don't have a specific show in mind, but I'd love to see it!

Chris: I have always supported bringing classics from Greek and international traditions to camp and allowing the productions to be specific to our campers in the telling of those stories. More of that. More original work written for young actors, not just young characters. Fun Home. 

Blog: August 9th, 2018

Is the anticipation setting in yet? We cannot wait to share these shows with you! We are pretty good at keeping the highlights of design and performance a bit of a surprise so today we bring you another Director Q&A!


The Winter's Tale
directed by Monica Flory

1. What drew you to The Winter's Tale?
I love the weirdness of The Winter's Tale: two contrasting worlds, a statue coming to life and of course "exit, pursued by a bear." I was excited to think about time and forgiveness in the context of this strange world.

2. What has been a surprise you’ve had in the rehearsal room?
I'm surprised by how quickly and definitively we landed on our version's central question: can anyone be forgiven, with enough time?

3. What about doing this play here at Acting Manitou is exciting for you?
It gives me so much hope to do this play here now, because in The Winter's Tale, the younger generation corrects some of the mistakes made by the older generation. Of course I wish the same thing for all of us, so watching young actors play these roles moves me deeply.

4. What have you learned so far this session by working with your cast?
All casts take on their own group personality, and this group is particularly collaborative and thoughtful. They are teaching me to ask more of them, because they are brave and they can meet any challenge.


5. What play would you like to see done at Acting Manitou?
I'm excited for the day that "Wicked" comes to camp, because the performers will kill it.

Blog: August 8th, 2018

Onward and upward we go! Day 1 of tech is behind us and Day 2 promises to bring plenty more fun and surprises for our casts, crews and musicians as our design team and tech campers work diligently on our festival. It is always a good reminder that while these casts have rehearsed for two weeks, our designers and tech campers have three days in which to see all of their ideas come to fruition. Their work is integral to our theater making and story telling and we make sure to acknowledge how time, location, mood and theme are carried equally by actor and designer. Can't wait to share it all with you!

Now, for Director number three in our series. This one is very special as it is a spotlight on our founder Steve Borowka! 


Billy Elliot
directed by Steve Borowka

1. What drew you to Billy Elliot?
I've always loved the story of Billy Elliot and I think it aligns perfectly with our mission. The idea of being true to yourself even in times of difficulty is a relatable theme to many campers.

2. What has been a surprise you’ve had in the rehearsal room?
Not really a surprise, but a reminder that our campers are triple threats. There is so much dancing in this show and our campers are so good! They sing, act, and dance - I am so impressed by their skills.

3. What about doing this play here at Acting Manitou is exciting for you?
I love doing a show that relies on dance as part of the storytelling. It's very exciting to see movement play such an intricate part of the plot. I also love how this play breaks gender stereotypes and defies gender norms.

4. What have you learned so far this session by working with your cast?
They love doing British accents!

5. What play would you like to see done at Acting Manitou?
We've sort of joked about it over the years, but I think CATS might actually be a great camp show.

Blog: August, 7th, 2018

Hello Acting Manitou! We are here! Tech week of our final shows for 2018. Everyone's spirits are high as we put together the work of our performance, tech and music campers in anticipation of your arrival. 

Yesterday marked our last day of "typical" camp activities. Elective classes (our second round) wrapped up with a final class and an evening of presentations that included busting' moves choreography, original songs by our songwriting class, blueberry buckle and Theater of Sport and Pop Stars/Politics insights. These evenings are so special to us as they are a chance for us to look beyond even the shows of festival day and see how many different types of theater there are to be made and how many ways of being a theater artist there are in the world. We were incredibly proud to be among all the artists we call campers.

Now, to continue with yesterday's series, an insight into the process of the director who brought us Pride and Prejudice in Session 1 and this session is helming Noises Off...


Noises Off
directed by Jeremy Johnson

1. What drew you to Noises Off
I've wanted to do a "door-slamming farce" for a long time, and Noises Off is one of the best. I still laugh out loud when I read it.

2. What has been a surprise you’ve had in the rehearsal room?
I've been amazed at how effortlessly funny the cast is.

3. What about doing this play here at Acting Manitou is exciting for you?
Campers at AM have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and a comedy like Noises Off demands both, so I'm very excited to see them put it all together!

4. What have you learned so far this session by working with your cast?
Repetition is often better than anything the director has to say.

5. What play would you like to see done at Acting Manitou?
It might sound nuts, but I actually think campers could put on an amazing Chekhov play.


As a treat, here is a picture of Jeremy proving he is not afraid of being just as funny and wacky as his cast.

Blog: August 6th, 2018

Hey AM Family! It's so hard to believe we are in the final week of our 16th Summer! Yesterday was filled with Director Breakfast, Counselor Led Workshops that gave campers a taste of Commedia, Prancercize, A Capella and more, and Dance! The Stranger Things themed dance brought campers outside under the Maine sunset for a gorgeous evening of boogying, face painting and more. It was an incredible end to a gorgeous day!

This session, we asked each of our directors 5 Questions about the play they are directing. During our tech week, when much of our attention turns to producing our visiting day festival, we thought we would let our blog focus on introducing you to our directors and maybe give you a little peek behind the scenes before you visit! First up...


The 39 Steps
Directed by Margot de la Barre

1. What drew you to The 39 Steps?
I was drawn to the combination of physical comedy and 30's film noir in 39 Steps. It seems like such a strange combination, but the two styles come together to create something really special.

2. What has been a surprise you’ve had in the rehearsal room?
Because of the nature of this show, almost everyone has multiple roles to play, and they are usually drastically different. I was worried, initially, that my cast would be disappointed that they didn't have a through-line in the show with one character... but I was pleasantly surprised at how excited they've been to have the opportunity to show lots of different characters all in one show!

3. What about doing this play here at Acting Manitou is exciting for you?
It's been exciting to take a show that's typically done in a theater and stage it in an outdoor space. We get to use different terrains and the benefit of nighttime to tell our story.

4. What have you learned so far this session by working with your cast?
I've learned a lot about cast collaboration. 39 Steps is the type of show where every cast member depends heavily on the other ten - not only for the scene work, but also to create the set around them. This has been my first experience with this type of collaborative theatre and I've enjoyed watching this group of campers come together to create a performance that is uniquely their own.

5. What play would you like to see done at Acting Manitou?
Hmmm... Cinderella (the musical), and Arsenic & Old Lace