The Creative Impact Zone

posted on Feb 04 2020

by Matt Dorter, Executive Director

Shh, it’s a secret! Well, obviously it’s not really a secret because I’m posting about it on a blog!

As mainstages enters our 10th year, I am taking the time to consider all of our different offerings and where we’ve had the most success in the past. Channeling the spirit of Russell Crowe in ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ I summoned up the following diagram that introduces our secret formula for creative impact:

Venn Diagram left side Programming right side Performances and in the middle Creative Impact Zone

A brief backstory

10 years ago, when we started mainstages, we only offered programming (the pink side of the diagram), where adults teach kids and kids perform. We call it the Theater-in-a-Box. We use a systematic, proven approach to put on a show or run successful theater programming with kids. The system works whether you run a sleep-away camp, day camp, school, or organization. All we need are the kids, and we can make creativity happen.

Our programming is like visiting a custom suit shop. We have all of the materials to create your custom suit, but we need to get your specific measurements in order to make the perfect fit.

Kid in a dragon hat makes a silly face onstage

Back to the story

A few years later, some of our program partners started asking if we did shows where adults perform for kids. Having seen a lot of different entertainment options during my time as a Camp Director, I saw a unique opportunity. What if we used the same theatrical inspiration from our programming (and even the same amazing staff) to run performances and perform in original shows? And thus performances (the blue side of the diagram) were born.

Our performances are ideal for large groups of kids like when you have specialty day/evening activities at camp, or school assemblies, or anywhere there's a large number of participants to entertain. The idea is that performances are high impact, fun, while bringing a lot of the values and methodology from mainstages programming into the fold.

Unlike our "custom suit" of programming, our performances are more one size fits all, which helps with scaling. For example, we do 150 different game shows in a year, and we can confidently guarantee quality control.

But what would happen if we took the specific, nurtured, approach from our programming side and gave it the exposure, ease of delivery, and production value of one of our performances?

kids in blue seats sit in the audience of a theater applauding

What if we could take the kids who see our performances and introduce them to our programs, and take kids who participate in our programs and feature them in our performances?

Now we’re talking about maximum creative impact! Before we were leaving lots of material on the cutting room floor. NOW we are creating a custom suit that can “suit” your needs (haha get it?). I want an organization that works with kids to bring a mainstages performance in to gain excitement and interest and then leverage that into effective programming that can foster our core values.

The proof is in the pudding. At Pozez JCC Northern Virginia, we took a specialty day camp partnership, and leveraged that to start offering after school programs during the year, year-round events, staff trainings, and more. The result is triple the amount of camp participants from this time last year.

We know that word-of-mouth equals momentum which equals creative impact. Will you join the creative impact zone with mainstages this year?

Matt Dorter

posted on Feb 04 2020

by Matt Dorter

Matt is a seasoned camp and theater professional with over 20 years staff experience at both day and resident camps. Matt graduated New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Theater and Applied Education and served as Company Manager of the New Acting Company in New York City.

Matt has toured with the National Theater for Children and has written, directed, and produced over 150 shows for children. Matt is a consultant on theatrical services for summer camps and is a presenter for the American Camp Association on theatrical best practices.

Matt is proud to be a founding member of the mainstages team and is passionate about the goal of using creativity to inspire social action and strengthen theatrical arts in the youth movement.