summer theatre

Art? What is art?

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Yesterday, the campers left the boundaries of Acting Manitou for the Trip Day that we take every session. We started by heading to Camp Manitou – a sports-focused camp and our neighbor through the woods.

The campers had been joyfully, doggedly creating art at Acting Manitou in their shows and classes and had earned a day of respite. But that didn’t seem to stop them from diving headlong into the joys of trip day. To be clear, none of what we did at Camp Manitou – or later, at Boothbay Harbor – could be classified under the traditional categories of artistic creation as we have come to expect it here; there was no painting, no sculpting.

Arts that go beyond being a performer and further into being human.

But, though, not traditional, I saw the practice of other types of art on our day out of camp. Arts that they learn within their shows, cabins and community here. Arts that go beyond being a performer and further into being human.

The art of determination. During our trip to Camp Manitou, we got to stop by the custom-made American Ninja Warrior training course. The course features about ten different events from the classic television show. Almost everyone’s favorite event was the Warped Wall. It was the biggest obstacle by far, stretching over twenty feet in the air like a giant wooden tongue reaching toward the clear blue sky. Camper after camper attempted to scale the wall, racing up the bottom of the tongue before leaping as high as they could to reach for the ledge at its top. Many campers shot up the wall and grabbed the ledge, but were unable to throw themselves over. They hung there for minutes at a time, desperately scrabbling with their feet in an attempt to gain some purchase to push themselves up. And while campers as young as eleven were able to conquer the wall, some eventually let go and slid back to earth. But even before they hit the ground, they were breathlessly shouting about how they wanted to try again. 

The art of fun. Two nights ago, during one of our evening activities, Thanos – the antagonist of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – visited camp, and told us he had used the Infinity Stones to banish several staff members and CITs from this plane of existence. To save their friends and mentors, the campers had to embark on a series of six quests that challenged their bodies and minds. Most campers – especially the superhero fans among us – took to the task immediately and passionately. Many of the counselors and staff did the same, dressing up as wildly inventive heroes like Floral the Red Menace, Florida Man, and Bunny Elliot. Other campers struggled a bit more to jump into the activity; it had been a long day, followed by a long week, and many of the activities challenged the campers’ imaginations and problem solving skills. In moments where the campers struggled to keep up their spirits, I was reminded that even something as simple as having fun is a bit of an art. Our campers are surrounded by opportunities to have fun with their friends. Inundated with opportunity as they are, it can be hard to find moments to relax and recharge. Which brings me to…

The art of rest. Usually, during our daily periods of free time, there’s a fair bit of activity at camp. A few of the kids are usually down playing at the Ping-Pong tables, while others face off in the Gaga Pit. Others might be playing theater games on the Great Lawn, or chatting as they walk laps around the camp. But today, a quiet sense of calm permeated the camp. It swept down to the campers reading books next to the pool, and up to the ones basking in the sun near the Pavillion. And I was reassured that our campers have taken the time they need to recover so that they are ready, willing, and excited to face the challenges ahead as we head towards show day.