Summer 2019

We Roll Along, Bursting With Dreams

When Acting Manitou began 18 years ago, it was the idea of two incredible people based on their desire to provide a space in which young people could explore and express their best selves through the context fo theatre. In the first years, Tim Brownell and Steve Borowka honed their philosophies on what it meant to be a theatre camp. They knew, even then, that at Acting Manitou certain core values were true and today they continue to form the back bone of Acting Manitou as we move forward into this next chapter of our journey.

The opportunity that has presented itself to us is a challenge that we accept with a great humility and respect. As two people who were both welcomed into this community, 11 and 3 years ago respectively, we understand that what makes Acting Manitou the life-changing experience we experienced is not one or two people but the entire community of campers, staff, families and alumni who continue the spirit of camp year round, even when time has kept them away for a summer or more. We are committed to supporting and growing the bonds of this community by embracing the strengths already present in its foundation.

We are also looking forward to the exciting opportunities that exist because of this renewed commitment to Acting Manitou. Already, we are working on improving and updating the layouts and infrastructures of our cabins and living quarters. This fall we are working to evaluate and transform the role of our staff, asking how each staff member can be more present with our campers daily, creating the bonds and lifelong friendships that we know are the magic of Acting Manitou.

Furthermore, we are looking at continuing the work that Steve and Tim began in asking how we educate young artists in an ensemble based program, but allow for individualized and advanced training for those campers looking to pursue theatre beyond camp and high school. It is important to us that Acting Manitou remain a camp that does not value the spotlight, but rather the creative power of the ensemble, and provides equal footing for the camper just beginning in theatre as well as the camper who is engaged year round.

In short, we cannot wait! We are so excited to bring Acting Manitou into 2020 and to do so with all of our returning families, campers and staff as well as those who will be joining us for the first time in 2020. Thank you so much for making Acting Manitou what it is and for encouraging what it will be!

Lesley and Chris
Owners and Directors, Acting Manitou


I'm Camp Sick or Creating a New Default


The transition from camp to home can, for some, be significantly more difficult than the transition from home to camp. You become so used to living in a carefree environment that is separate from the default world, that the process of changing back is difficult. Whether it’s your camper’s first or last year, there’s no avoiding camp-sickness. Remember, camp-sickness is a feeling that everyone experiences, but no one should have to go through it alone.

Let’s Call It Default, Not Real

Often times we refer to the world outside of camp as "the real world.” That’s pretty harsh. Camp is SUPER real. Sure, it comes with the benefit of not having to do homework, working on your play every day without the pressure of math, being with your friends around the clock and not having to go home for dinner. But camp includes a lot of the things parents and friends think we have somehow escaped from when we are there.

Stress is still present at camp. There is the show or build in the shop, with deadlines and nerves. There is the stress of friendships that in default may benefit from a little space but at camp are put under pressure from the same joy-giving 24/7 attention we just raved about in the previous paragraph.

Our emotions are very present at camp. We don’t escape sadness or anxiety or anger there. Happiness may be slightly intensified at camp, but with the ups come the downs and they don’t wait outside our gates.

At camp, we allow for all feelings and emotions and stresses. We make room for them and work slowly to find ways to allow them to not govern our actions or lives at camp. That makes camp special. In default, so often, we are told to move past things quickly or ignore them completely. But that doesn’t make camp less real, simply not our default.

Chris Murrah, Senior Director

Chris Murrah, Senior Director

So the challenge to campers and families is this: How do we carry the new default, the one of the past three or six weeks, into the rest of our lives. How do we make space for the “real” without falling back on old habits that make us crave the safety of Acting Manitou? We love that camp is a special place, it will always be, but we don’t ever want our community to feel that camp is the ONLY place the Joy, Creativity, Gratitude and Community exist. Camp is simply the place in which we intensify those practices so that we can use them more easily in default.

A Full Technicolor Shock


On one of the last nights of camp every summer, we have a campfire in the woods. We sit as a community and enjoy the fire, the natural world around us, each other’s company for a little while, and then each CIT (our oldest campers) speaks for a few minutes about whatever they’d like. This sometimes takes the form of advice, or a memory, but most often it’s a thank-you to camp. My second year as a camper, a CIT spoke about how at camp, we can feel like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Kansas suddenly becomes Oz, the sepia-toned “real world” becoming a Technicolor fantasy. She shared her fear of going back to New Jersey after camp, having to retrace Dorothy’s journey back to black and white. But, she said, it is our responsibility to carry that rainbow way of seeing things back home with us: it’s no good having an Oz if it’s only in the summers, only for some of us.

I think everyone who comes to camp must have some version of that feeling: the arrival, the theater games on the lawn, the way we’re all encouraged to be our truest, most authentic selves — not just the selves we might default to, but the heightened, imagined, aspirational, mutable versions of ourselves that fill our dream worlds. At camp we get to be rock stars, heroes, champions, celebrated for being exactly who we are — and that’s before we even consider the shows, where we might be villains, pirates, queens, gods, witches, or (most frightening of all) teenagers exactly like us. Full Technicolor, shocking every time the door of that house opens and we walk with Toto into a field of wildflowers.

Zack Elkind, Director

Zack Elkind, Director

But as that CIT reminded me at the campfire, we don’t have to leave that way of seeing the world behind when we leave camp in July or August. Camp isn’t a location, a collection of buildings — and it isn’t really even a group of people, since we all grow up and eventually stop coming back to camp. I think it’s a way of seeing the world, a certain tilt of the head when looking at things. A willingness to accept everyone for who they are; leading with curiosity, not prescriptiveness; a love of theater and the power it has to activate the best in all of us. These are things we learn at camp, and return to camp to keep honing. But that way of seeing the world — in the full color it is, not the sepia it sometimes appears to be — can come home with us too, and after a summer at camp, you can see all year long in vibrant color.

On the Importance of Community


On a little pocket of land in semi-rural Maine, there lies a haven of artistic and self expression. A place where people from all walks of life can gather to make theatre, commune with nature, and make lifelong friends. Year after year, campers and staff return to Acting Manitou because of the community that has been built on this little pocket of land. A community that is supportive and welcoming, and empathetic and caring. A community that gives everybody the space to be vulnerable and creative and artistic and unique.

A few nights ago we had our first round of elective presentations, at the end of which we gathered in a circle to share something we were grateful for that night. Most spoke of their gratitude for this community that allows them to try something new, take a risk, share a part of themselves they might have otherwise been too afraid to. We sat in what felt like an unbreakable circle of shared attitudes, interests, and goals, a circle that mirrored the one our camp is constructed on.

Gillian Gold,  Co-Producer

Gillian Gold,

This is my ninth summer at Acting Manitou, my fifth as a staff member, and every year when I contemplate whether or not I will return for the next summer, I consider who I would be without this community. Who would I be without the place that taught me how to be an artist. Who would I be without the people who taught me how to be a friend. And who would I be without the community that has always given me the space to be exactly who I am. The truth is, I don’t know. I return year after year to make theatre in Maine and commune with nature. And I return year after year to be in this place with my lifelong friends, some of whom I met nearly 10 years ago, and some of whom I just met, but all of whom have made me a better person and have filled my life with incredible joy and love.

From "Camp Friends" to Friends


I first arrived at Acting Manitou eight years ago in 2011. My best friend, Kyra Tantao, had gone to Acting Manitou the previous summer, and spent the subsequent year non stop talking about her incredible time spent here. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much of a magical, supportive, and welcoming home this was for her. I was quickly convinced that I had to come the next summer, and I spent the entire school year waiting to beccome a part of this community.

Despite almost a full year of anticipation and prep, I was still incredibly nervous about coming to camp. I was a shy fourteen year old girl who was unsure how she would break into a bunk with such deep bonds. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. I was one of two new campers in my bunk, and I struggled to find ways to come out of my shell and connect with my cabin. It took me a while to be my true self and find my place in the bunk dynamic.

The thing about going to a small, tight knit sleep away camp like Acting Manitou is that there are few places to hide here. When you are surrounded by people 24/7, it is hard to keep your walls up. This can be vulnerable and scary at times, but ultimately it forces you to take your guard down and allow your whole self to be seen. It was only when I gave myself permission to be 100% genuine and true to myself that I finally found my place not only in the bunk, but in the camp community as a whole. When I stopped trying to “fit in” and allowed myself to be vulnerable, raw, and unguarded, I was able to form deep and meaningful friendships with the people around me.

I very quickly found my home within the cabin.

Once I opened up, I very quickly found my home within the cabin, the camp, and with a particular group of individuals who I now call family. I felt closer to this group of people who I had known for only three weeks than with some of my friends who I had known since childhood. Our bond stayed strong throughout the year; my nights were filled with late night video chats, postcards and letters were exchanged across the country, and endless texts and phone calls were made reminiscing on our joyful three weeks spent together. Our bonds grew stronger throughout my three sessions as a camper, and as I look back on that time, I am in awe of the depths of the friendships that I had formed over a mere nine weeks. While some friendships have dissipated over the years, some are stronger than ever, and no matter what, the impacts that these individuals had on me and my life are still present to this day.

Make lifelong friends…

A core tenant of the Acting Manitou mission statement is “make lifelong friends,” and as cliche as it sounds, I am so glad to say that I truly have made lifelong friends. My friends from Acting Manitou long ago ceased being “camp friends,” since our friendship has expanded past the confines of this camp. They are my best friends, my siblings, my confidantes, my support system, my cheerleaders, and my inspirations. The friendships that I have formed here are deeply representative of the four ghost-lights: I am endlessly gratefulfor Acting Manitou and for the friendships I have formed here; it is through this communitythat I was able to grow and blossom, and make these lifelong friendships; my friends bring me endless joy, and inspire and allow me to be my most authentic, creative self.

Margie Gilland, Head Counselor

Margie Gilland, Head Counselor

As I look back at the strength of my friendships with some of these individuals- now eight years later- I am so thankful that fate brought us to this magical place that we all call home. My Acting Manitou experience is intricately and inexplicably tied to my friendships here- I cannot imagine my Acting Manitou experience, both as a camper and as a staff member, without this special community that has been built.