friendship

On the Importance of Community

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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,
Co-Producer

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

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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.