My name is Amanda Phelan- I was a camper at Manitou for 5 summers, and will be headed back to camp this summer- my 4th summer as a staff member- to teach the dance electives and choreograph the musicals.
I didn’t know what I was going to write about for this blog post for a very long time. I found myself coming up with ideas while listening to a song on a crowded subway in the morning but then forgetting by night’s end, or waking up from a dream to write down a sentence on my phone that made absolutely no sense to me in the morning. I was losing time. I was procrastinating. And it wasn’t until this weekend, until the end of another, seemingly unrelated experience, that I realized what I wanted to write about.
For the past two months, through some fortuitous grace of the universe, I rehearsed and performed in a play written by someone I had never met before but greatly admired. The show was based on the playwright’s high school diaries- words that she had written to (and for) herself in the throes of adolescence, words that captured the tumult and thrill and transcendence of growing up and learning what it means to love. 15 years later, she turned those words into a play, and the words were spoken by a diverse cast of thirteen, each of us bringing our own experiences into the work, compassionately giving ourselves over to the opportunity to share in some small, human, universal truth. The play was beautiful. I met some amazing people. Many of my friends came to see it. Something about being in the play made me feel really alive. And something about that feeling reminded me of how I felt being at Acting Manitou, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.
On our closing night, the playwright made a small toast as the cast and crew celebrated our final performance. As she congratulated us, she touched on something that resonated very deeply with me, that illuminated the connection of feeling for me, and I’m going to try and roughly articulate those sentiments in my own way, here, now.
We keep making theater for the goodness of our souls.
We don’t do it for the amazing money. We don’t do it because of the fame, or the prestige.
We don’t keep making theater because it’s an easy job, or a simple thing to do.
We keep coming back to the practice of theater-making, of getting into a room with other people and telling some sort of story to groups of strangers, because there is magic in that.
There is a deep magic in the act of creating theater and performing theater that is good for the soul. It inspires us to believe that it’s worth it to keep trying. To keep going. To keep making, and living, and feeling.
The process of making theater- the kind of theater that we care about, that we are excited to nourish, and that, in turn, nourishes us, is good for the human soul.
And I realize that I keep coming back to Acting Manitou, I keep helping in the process of making art and theater at Acting Manitou, because it’s good for my soul. I may be even so bold as to suggest that the reason all of us keep coming back, in some way or another, is because it is fundamentally good for our human souls. We continue to seek that magic year after year, the magic we find by being together for 3 (or 6) weeks in the summer and creating performances we care about. We go to Manitou to seek the deep magic that the act of creation has to offer.
How wonderful and how rare it is to find a place that contains such deep magic. How impossibly perfect it is to have that safe haven for our creative souls.
In the lives we live outside of Manitou- the other 49 or 46 weeks of the year- it can be hard to find things that are so good for the soul. We have to go to work or school. We have chores and errands and lists and laundry and dishes to do. We have homework or yard work or long commutes or extra-curricular regimes. And it’s really easy to lose track of things that make our souls happy. And sometimes it takes some hard work to seek the things that make our souls happy. When I stumbled upon Acting Manitou at the age of 13 (thanks Sarah Parker!), I had no way of knowing that it would turn into a place I would one day recognize as therapeutic for my soul. I don’t think, as a 13 year old, I was even in touch with what my soul was! Or what it wanted!
As I have grown through the throes of adolescence, and as I continue to confront the tumult and thrill and transcendence that is growing up, I have learned to keep nurturing my soul. And I have continued to come back, summer after summer, to Acting Manitou.
To seek that magic.
Because it is good for the human soul.
And because I shouldn’t need any reason other than that.
It is good for my soul.
And that is reason enough.