What Should Your Camp Do About Theater in Summer 2022?

posted on Jan 19 2022

by Matt Dorter, Executive Director

We all hope this summer will be next to “normal," but it might be another summer of social distancing, considering the role of visiting vendors and lack of field trips at your camp. 

While you have everything from archery to zip line to consider, at mainstages we have the luxury of focusing specifically on theater programming. As such, we’ve created a blueprint for camps with what they should do for their theater program this summer, based on camp type.

This blueprint will help you feel confident in your decision-making when it comes to the performing arts. Let's walk you through it!

For the “Traditional” day camp

There’s never been a more important time for activity periods. Activity periods should emphasize resilience, connection, and community. With kids ranging from Pre-K to CIT’s, we suggest running two different types of age-appropriate programs. At mainstages, we offer a storybook theater curriculum for younger campers and an "action zone" creative theater program focusing on movement and game-play for older campers.

summer camp theater program

Traditional day camps may want to consider bringing back productions offered at club, but instead of focusing on musicals and productions that require extensive rehearsals, try a showcase like a cabaret or original play. mainstages is offering “Triple Threat Academy” and “Twisted Fairytales” to day camps as part of their clubs.

traditional day camps should be careful to manage time realistically. A Performance as part of a club should require a minimum six-week commitment.

For the “Traditional” Sleepaway Camp

Before we imagine a return to the “world before” I think we owe ourselves a responsibility to see how camp theater at Sleepaway camps worked before Covid and how trends have affected planning.
Along the same vein as day camps, we’re giving extra value to activity periods at Sleepaway camp this summer to emphasize social-emotional growth and compensate for a potential loss of field trips.

Sleepaway camps that have not previously offered theater as a rotating option for their campers, may want to consider making it a new option for the summer.

Most Sleepaway camps put together a performance as part of the club period that performs typically at the end of each session. One of the priorities you need to look at in deciding the role of performance at your camp is session length. At mainstages, we require a four-week session length in order to do a musical production (based on standard afternoon rehearsal schedules).

If your sleepaway camp has moved to shorter session lengths or increased the number of blackout dates such as color war/field trips etc., you may want to consider a talent show, camp cabaret, or original play as opposed to trying your hand at a full scale musical.

camp theater

For camps that have at least one four-week session, we are encouraging them to bring back a collaborative ensemble experience, such as a musical. Working hard together as a group and having an opportunity to collaborate on stage has renewed meaning after the last few years!

Sleepaway camps that would like to have the opportunity for a musical, but are skeptical with the time and logistical commitment, have a new opportunity with mainstages in our “pop-up production pilot program.” We send two talented directors for a weeklong residency, culminating in a performance of The Wizard of Oz or The Lion King next summer! We are hoping this model will help camps offer impactful programming with high quality control.

For Camps Offering a Theater Specialty Day Camp

mainstages is lucky to partner with select specialty day camps across the country, offering musicals and showcases as part of two or three-week commitments.

camp theater program

If you run one of these specialty camps or are considering it, be prepared for interest. We’re finding an increased level of participation in our in-person afterschool productions, as well as specialty camps based on kids wanting to participate in committed approaches and shorter session lengths.

The specialty camp model has been growing over the years and offers the opportunity for a meaningful deep dive into the performing arts, and a high-quality experience with proper supervision. This summer, mainstages is focusing our musical options towards traditional and recognizable pieces, because kids are a little rusty and we want to support them as much as possible!

What do you do specifically at your camp? I’m happy to chat it out!

Schedule time with me here
Matt Dorter

posted on Jan 19 2022

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.