The holiday season, Thanksgiving in particular, always brings a feeling of nostalgia and warmth to me. I love the opportunities to gather around tables with friends and family while we reminisce and look forward together. After a recent visit with a prospective camper I recently took a moment to think about my Acting Manitou family and how much you all mean to me. Ten years ago I was invited by Steve to become a part of the Acting Manitou family and, reluctantly, I said yes. That sounds so formal, so ritualistic. In reality it was a simple ask and a matter of availability, but my hesitation was true. You see, at the time I was wary of theater folk. Me. Theater geek extraordinaire. I was feeling removed from my work as an actor, unfulfilled by the business I had worked in for twelve years, and I needed a break. But in saying yes to the 11-day job as a bunk counselor and "producer" (still sorry about that Pippin finale of '09) I responded to a what was actually an invitation to become a part of a community that for the last ten years has remained my creative sustenance each summer.
Community is a word we use liberally at Acting Manitou. Liberally, but not without true investment in its values and complications. The word itself is derived from the 14th century French word comunité, meaning commonness or everybody. At Acting Manitou we are drawn together by our common love of theater. But what makes communities work is not just their commonality, but also their variations and differences within that unity. At Acting Manitou the love of theater takes on different forms. Some like Broadway musicals, some like puppet theater. Some like devised work while others prefer a script on day one. We are driven by different things within our common love and in sharing those differences we are made stronger.
We are also strong because of the incredible variety of backgrounds from which we come. One of the greatest experiences I have had in any rehearsal was working on Click in 2016. Our ensemble was made up, and told stories, from a variety of different belief structures, cultures and points of view. Everyone in that group had a story to tell and contributed their stories and opinions to the script that would eventually ask the audience, "What is home?" That question alone has an indefinite number of answers and rather than answering it definitively we allowed the vastness of it to shine.
This holiday season, as we gather around tables to celebrate our families and communities in which we live, let us remember that our grand experiment at Camp Eastwood teaches us that differences within a common love or purpose can make us stronger and more interesting. Encourage those whose stories you don't often hear to share with you part of the way they see the world. In turn, take something you learn and share it with someone else so that we may spread the joy of diversity and community as we count down the days until we return to camp this coming summer!
Acting Manitou is more than a summer camp, it is a community that can never expand enough in its diversity. Join me in daring to live that community year round and please let us know ways you see to grow in our inclusiveness of everyone.
- Chris Murrah