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Welcome to the mainstages team!

This online training will provide you with practical tools and tips that will enable you to run the best possible camp program this summer!

Each week we will post a new training segment on a specific topic for you to complete. Each training segment includes the following:

  • A short post on the topic of the week
  • Supplemental materials and resources
  • A short question to respond to
  • An assignment

Responses to the questions should be submitted via the form at the bottom of the page. I will then post them on the page. All assignments should be submitted to artists@mainstages.com by the Friday of the week they’ve been posted.

mainstages Webinar Schedule

mainstages Webinars will take place on Wednesday, May 26 nd June 5-6, 2021.

Specific times are now set! Click the link below for a detailed schedule of the various sessions and their information:

mainstages Webinar Schedule

Resources

UPDATED Theater Facilitator's Guidebook

Curriculum Guide (Games, Activities, and Tips for Engaging Campers of All Ages!)

Camp Theme Blocks (Book of suggested themes with 3-4 lesson plans for each!)

Additional Activities (Supplement for Curriculum Guide)

Camp-aret Files (Kids of Broadway and Greatest Show)

Production Program Files (Lion King and Peter Pan)

Opening Assignment: Bio Submission

DUE DATE: Friday, May 7

As summer teaching artists with mainstages, we will be featuring you on our website in order to connect you with the larger community. Your bio should convey who you are and what you hope to achieve in just a few sentences. Being clear and concise is key.

Follow the link below to create your bio for this summer. You will also need to have a photo ready. These things will be going on our website, so please be sure your bio and picture present yourself in a professional way.

Week 3: Prep to Problem Solve

Still need to complete Weeks 1 and 2? Scroll down for previous modules!

Camp can be unpredictable, even during a “normal” year. Tech breaks down. It rains. A group of 8-year-old boys shows up for a theater session when you were expecting 10-year-old girls. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we can depend on is the need to constantly pivot and adapt.

Most of us already have a lot of experience with being flexible and adapting to new situations (for reference, see ALL of 2020!) The challenges you will face at camp might even look tame in comparison to what you’ve experienced in the last year! But challenges will come up, and it’s good to be prepared for whatever comes your way! Here are some of our favorite tricks for anticipating and preparing for those unknown hiccups as well as tips for handling those moments when everything gets turned upside down.

Anticipate: the Back-Up Plan

As we’ve already discussed, the one thing that’s sure about camp is that things will NOT go according to plan at least once. So plan for the unexpected by going in with a back-up plan . . . and a back-up plan to that.

If you’re a director going into a summer of show rehearsals, your back-up plan might include leaving the last few rehearsals before your dress rehearsal blank. If you’re a specialist planning for a theater session, it might be as simple as including an extra activity at the end of your plan that you probably won’t have time for, but can easily swap in or jump to if one of your earlier games isn’t working out. The same goes for any variety show or evening activity set list you plan as a Master of Fun.

You may not end up needing the extra wiggle room in your rehearsal schedule or the additional activity options, but you can rest easy knowing all your bases are covered!

Anticipate: Rain Days

Rain days are the camp director’s nightmare. Suddenly, at least half the camp which was supposed to be doing activities outside needs to be housed and entertained in some way INSIDE. Where does everybody go? What does everybody do?

In the past, rain days often meant throwing everyone in a gym together for a huge camp-wide event or breaking everyone up into several larger groups for group games led by specialists (and yes, Theater Specialists, we’re looking at you!) This year, depending on the specific restrictions of each camp, this old model might not be possible. Rain days might mean groups spend some concentrated community time in their cabins instead. Who knows?

Spend time planning specifically for rainy days. If you’re a specialist, consider what you would do with a group of campers if you weren’t in your usual space or were crammed into the corner of a room where there were three or four other groups of kids making lots of noise in their own separate corners. If you’re a Master of Fun, have at least two different large-group session plans in your back pocket, ready to go. If you’re a theater director, be aware that rainy days might mean lost rehearsal time or changes in rehearsal space—that’s where those built-in flex days will really help you out!

Be prepared for rainy days. Worst case scenario is it’s sunny every day all summer long and you don’t need them.

In the Moment: Be Proactive with a Solution

When problems come up, don’t waste your time dwelling on the problems. Instead, channel your energy and focus toward finding creative solutions or work-arounds to those problems so that you can approach your supervisor with those options and help problem-solve as quickly as possible.

In some situations, your supervisor won’t even be aware of the problem yet, and it’s especially great if you can go to them with both the problem and the potential solutions for how to fix it at the same time.

For example:

"I realized that both the dance specialist and I need to use the stage during the 1 pm activity block. I’m wondering if we could each take half the time and use the lawn outside the theater when we’re not on the stage? Or is there a possibility that I could use that first block of free time in the evening for my rehearsal instead, so we could completely avoid the space conflict?"

Supervisors usually have a lot on their plate—they’re supervising multiple specialists or areas of camp and they often have five million little details that they’re responsible for coordinating—and they always appreciate when you come to them with possible solutions to problems all ready to go. Be part of the solution, and you’ll quickly become one of their favorite staff!

In the Moment: Remember the Goal

When hiccups come up, it’s easy to get bent out of shape because things are going as you had originally envisioned. In situations like these, take a step back and consider: What are you trying to accomplish?

Whether you’re a specialist, director, or master of fun, I imagine your goal is to create community, encourage artistic expression, and build confidence in the campers that you’re working with. Regardless of the weather or how perfectly everything’s going, you can always be working toward accomplishing these things.

Focus on the big picture. Everything will be fine.

Assignment

DUE: May 21st,2021

For everyone:

Create a special rainy day session plan to have in your back pocket for, well, a rainy day. Consider that during a rainy day you might be dealing with a smaller than usual space in a room where several other groups are also crammed together in a smaller than usual space, and try to include games that involve sitting down and less large movement. Consider that campers might be disappointed because of cancelled outdoor activities, and look for activities or themes that will feel unique and special and raise everyone’s spirits!

Use the following link to submit your session plan. (To avoid possible technical glitches that might result in you losing your entire session plan, we highly recommend drafting your plan in word or google docs and then copy/pasting it into the online form.) By entering your email, you will also receive a PDF copy of your plan!

Question of the Week!

DUE: May 21st, 2021

Please respond to the question of the week by completing the jotform below! I will then post responses in the space below. This week's question is:

What’s your top tip for staying positive and upbeat when plans get turned upside down?

https://form.jotform.com/211334832737960

Community Board

Week 2: Planning and Executing Effective Sessions

Still haven’t completed Week 1? Scroll past Week 2 and finish Week 1 before moving on!

You’re preparing to lead your first session at camp. You’ve got some great games and activities planned and you have all the materials you need. Does that guarantee your session will be a success? Not necessarily.

Several small details determine the success of any session you plan, whether it’s a theater activity period, a camp-aret rehearsal, or a camp-wide event. Some of those may be out of your control, but smart planning and thinking ahead can also make a huge difference in the outcome. Below are some tips for planning and executing effective sessions!

1. Structure Deliberately

Start by thinking about your goal for the session. What do you want participants to take from it? Then engineer the session plan in the way that most effectively accomplishes that goal.

For example, if your goal for a particular staff evening event is to introduce other staff members to games that they can play with their campers, consider: how can I ensure that the staff understand both how to play the games and what situations each game is best used for, and how can I keep them interested and engaged? Is it more effective to teach by telling them how to play the game, or by getting them up on their feet and playing? (Hint: it’s definitely the second option!)

staff training

If you’re a theater specialist, careful session structuring can help you explore your theme. One of our favorite ways to structure a theater session is to organize it like a basic thesis paper: start with an introduction (warm-up), state the thesis clearly (introduce everyone to the theme of the day), go through three main points that support the thesis (two or three activities that explore the theme), and finish with a conclusion (restating what we’ve learned and completing a closing activity). This structure is useful because it keeps the session plan cohesive and focused, and guarantees that the kids will leave the session knowing what the point of all the fun actually was!

Click here  to see a sample lesson plan structured like this.

If you’re a master of fun, and your goal for an evening variety show or fun night is to entertain a group of participants for an evening, careful ordering of your activities can also help keep everyone engaged and having fun! Bob Tarushka, our director of performances, likes to plan his variety shows and performances using the following template:

  1. Introduction
  2. Wacky Physical Warm-Up
  3. Physical Game (capitalizes on warm-up immediately)
  4. Cognitive Game
  5. Physical Game (interaction is different or keyed more to group work or creativity)
  6. Cognitive Game (group work and/or something that builds to a presentation)
  7. Repeat/Shuffle of Previous Game OR something that adds to or utilizes a previous game
  8. Stretch/Flex Game (in case you have extra time)
  9. Creative/Physical OR Cognitive Game (end with a crowd-pleaser!)
  10. Wrap Up/Conclusion followed by Low Focus Physical Game (should segue to a transition)

Click here to see a Variety Show Template followed by a sample Set List with more detailed explanations of the various games and activities!

2. Explain Your Plan

Everyone—from kids to adults—like knowing what to expect. When they enter a workshop, meeting, or rehearsal space, they are usually prepared to dive into whatever the plan is . . . provided they know what it is. So take the time at the beginning of a session to give them a short summary of what you’ll be doing, such as:

“Good morning! Today we’re going to be exploring what it means to be part of an ensemble. We’ll start with a group warm-up, and then we’ll play three different games that focus on different tools of an ensemble. But before we begin, does anyone know what an ensemble is?”

staff training

Explaining the plan for the day allows the participants to feel more secure and comfortable, because they know what’s coming next. This allows them to engage in the activities more fully, ultimately resulting in a more successful session.

3. Connect the Dots

As you’re leading a session, make sure you’re taking time to properly transition verbally from one activity to the next. If one activity leads to another, point that out, and explain how:

“Okay, now that we’ve learned the choreography, we’re going to step back and focus on the lyrics.”

If you’re leading a themed session with activities that explore different facets of the theme, take time to connect each activity back to the theme and show how the next one builds on it:

“We’ve already explored how we can create character through our bodies and voices. Now it’s time to see how we can create character by stepping into the mindset of the character.”

These connections may seem obvious to you as a facilitator, but kids—particularly little ones—don’t always get them, and while stating them outright might seem clunky to you, it may be the difference between a kid understanding that they just learned three different ways to get into character and a kid just thinking they spent a lot of time walking around weirdly and speaking in different voices. And speaking of understanding . . .

4. Drop the Mic

Include moments of realization in your sessions. You can play dozens of team-building games, but if you don’t stop and unpack the purpose of the activities, your participants might not learn much from them, or even realize that their purpose is to learn to work together.

staff training

A great way to incorporate a “drop the mic” moment is to stop at the end of an activity and ask “why do you think we did that?” or “what was the point of that game?” and then take volunteer responses. This is a particularly effective method because it allows participants to have the realization for themselves and share it with their peers, and that is always much more exciting and memorable than having an adult just tell them it outright. So set everyone up to have those drop the mic moments for themselves.

These are tips that we find useful in session plan creation. Now it’s your turn!

Assignment:

DUE: May 14th, 2021

For Theater Specialists and Directors:

Create your own session plan, complete with opening explanations, transitions, and drop the mic moments (as needed). If you are a theater director who is not teaching theater sessions (only leading rehearsals), use it to explain how you would lead one of your first rehearsals.

Use the following link to submit your session plan. (To avoid possible technical glitches that might result in you losing your entire session plan, we highly recommend drafting your plan in word or google docs and then copy/pasting it into the online form.) By entering your email, you will also receive a PDF copy of your plan!

For Masters of Fun:

Create your own evening program, following the fun night template in the materials above. Use the following link to submit your session plan. (To avoid possible technical glitches that might result in you losing your entire session plan, we highly recommend drafting your plan in word or google docs and then copy/pasting it into the online form.) By entering your email, you will also receive a PDF copy of your plan!

Question of the Week!

DUE: May 14th, 2021

Please respond to the question of the week by completing the jotform below! I will then post responses in the space below. This week's question is:

What’s your top tip for creating an effective, engaging session?

Community Board

"My top tip for creating an effective and engaging session is to have a fun either set word/phrase/sound that brings the students' attention back to you. I am currently teaching an improv class at an elementary school and my go-to is saying "ATTEEEEENTION!" and they all salute :) It's very goofy but they always hear it and they always know what to do." - Jordan Cohen (JCC Westside Day Camp)

"Flexibility is important, especially for groups of younger kids! Observe how engaged they are in the current activity/exercise. If they don't seem "into it", be willing to take a step back and pivot to a backup exercise, put a new spin on the current idea, or tackle it in a fresh way." - Gabriella Giocomo (Camp GUCI)

"Shake it up! I have found that the best way to keep kids engaged is to move between different types of activities throughout the course of the lesson, that engage the kids in different ways. If they start standing up, have them sit down for the next activity! After you read through the show, it's time to learn some choreography afterward! In my experience, having kids use their minds and bodies in different ways helps keep them focused and energized." - Jessica Pomeroy (Day Camps @ The J Stamford)

"The ability to stay adaptable - not every activity you do is going to land, so have a backup plan ready to go. Maybe even a backup plan for the backup plan." - Jake Schwartz (Beth Tfiloh Camps)

"A great way to keep the activity engaging is to scaffold! Make sure that all of the pieces are leading to something in the end. If there is some form of structure, while also leaving some room for spontaneity, then campers will be able to understand the material and enjoy the theatrical process!" - Dean Marino (Eisner Camps)

"I think felxibility and "reading the room" are so important. Whether your group is not into an activity or is really is enjoying it you need to adjust for how they're feeling. Maybe you expand or shorten the amount of time you were going to spend on the project or maybe you get rid of a similar project later on." - Kat Garcia (Trails End Camp)

"Do not be afraid to be an example and engage with the work yourself. Go ahead, get silly and embrace any awkwardness." - Kezia Waters (Poyntelle Camp)

"My top tier tip is pay attention in real time! No matter how fun an activity might be, sometimes campers might not be as engaged as you hope. The best thing to do is notice what isn't working and adapt on the fly to better suit what will keep the kid's brains and bodies active." - Vincent Douglass (Trails End Camp)

"Keep the campers thinking & moving. When children use both their minds & bodies they are more likely to retain information. They'll also have more fun!" - Arthur Kraus (Bender JCC Camp)

"Coming into the session with a positive and open attitude is the key to making sure you're making the session engaging, and that the kids can enjoy themselves the entire time. A plan is very important to start a session, but it is also important to recognize that the plans may change at any moment." - Kelly Astuto (Emma Kaufman Camp)

"My top tip is to listen to the kids you're interacting with!! This includes their nonverbal cues. They'll let you know when they're enjoying something and when they aren't- the hardest part is letting go of your plan and readjusting for them. As long as they're having fun, you're doing your job!" - Pippa McGinley (Emma Kaufman Camp)

Week 1: Mapping It Out

During a typical year, preparing for a summer at camp can seem like a lot. But this year, with extra COVID complications thrown in, it’s especially easy to see how anyone might be intimidated by such a job. Eight weeks is a long time to keep coming up with creative theater programming or camp-wide fun for kids of all ages.

Don’t panic! With some thoughtful planning and a carefully considered Program Outline, you can break your summer down into bite-sized chunks that will be much more manageable to plan and execute.

A Program Outline gives your summer structure, keeping you focused and on task, and provides you with a clear map to get where you need to go.

For Theater Directors: a Production Outline

A production outline is a rehearsal schedule: a list of all the rehearsals you will have and what you hope to accomplish in each one. Links to the production materials (musical tracks, scripts, etc) are in the resources section above. Please see the links below for a sample production outline, as well as a template for you to use when you create your own!

Most of you already know the timeline for the productions you are directing (whether they are camp-arets or a full show), including approximately how many rehearsals you’ll have, and how long they will be. If you are unsure, feel free to contact us (artists@mainstages.com ) and we will be able to offer some guidance.

rehersal

When creating your production outlines, you should plan for about 25% less time than what you actually think you’ll have! Camp can get crazy and life happens: it rains, someone is sick, there’s an all-day camp-wide event you find out about at the last minute . . . you get the picture. The easiest way to account for this is to plan to lose approximately 10 minutes from each rehearsal OR leave three or four rehearsal marked TBD at the end of your rehearsal process so that you have extra time to block a scene that you just didn’t get to or work on that choreography number that totally bombed when you first tried to teach it.

rehersal

One last piece of (unsolicited) advice: leave time for run-throughs. The kids may know the show perfectly, scene by scene, but it won’t matter if they don’t know what comes next and are running around during the performance in a blind panic because they don’t know where they need to be next. A stressful theater performance does not equal fun!

For Theater Specialists: a Program Outline

A program outline is a week-to-week breakdown of the summer, with a theme assigned to each week and a short list of lesson plan ideas that fall under that theme and cater to a broad variety of ages. You can click the link below to see a template that you can use when you create your own.

When considering what themes to use from week to week, think about any themes that the camp itself may be planning to use and see if you can incorporate them. mainstages also provides a book full of "theme blocks" (groupings of 3-4 lesson plans based on a specific theme), and you can definitely pull ideas from there as well! You'll find links to this resource in the Resource Section at the top of the page.

Remember, you’re not likely going to get the same group of campers twice in one week. If you follow the week-by-week theme model, you can use the same lesson plans again and again for the different rotations that come through, as long as you remember to adjust for age.

For Masters of Fun: Event Outline

An event outline is a full calendar of the summer which helps you keep track of the recurring events or programming that you’ll be responsible for overseeing (such as flagpole or staff evening activities) as well as larger, single-occurrence events (such as Maccabia/Color War). Please see the link below for a sample calendar, as well as a template that you can use to make your own!

If you're not clear on the specific programs or functions you'll be asked to help with, the best person to ask is your direct supervisor at camp. Ask them if they can give you a list of some of the events/occasions that the camp would like you to help with, or some of the situations that they anticipate bringing in your Master of Fun expertise!

master of fun

Keep in mind, though, that camp requires a lot of flexibility—and this year, more than ever! You can try to anticipate curveballs by asking your supervisor if there are “Plan B” situations when they will be calling you in to help (i.e. rainy days!). But know that there will definitely be moments where you’ll be asked to jump in at a minutes’ notice-- and be prepared to do so with enthusiasm! No camp programming outline will ever be complete OR completely followed!

Assignment:

DUE: May 7th, 2021

Get started planning your summer theater program by completing your outline and emailing it to artists@mainstages.com. If you are simultaneously teaching activity periods and directing a program, choose the one that you want to get started on first. Make sure to email it as an attachment to artists@mainstages.com.

Question of the Week!

DUE: May 7th, 2021

Please respond to the question of the week by completing the jotform below! We will then post responses in the space below. This week's question is:

As you start to plan your summer program, what specific parts are you most excited for?

Community Discussion Board

"I'm excited to choose activities to cover a variety of fun theatre topics, and to pair those activities with ways to impart their relevance to the wider world." - Gabriella Giocomo (Camp GUCI)

"I'm really excited to meet all the kids and connect with them! Theatre is so important to me and I'm stoked to have the opportunity to show kids how cool and impactful theatre can be." - Vincent Douglass (Trails End Camp)

"I am most excited to see many of the same campers that I worked with last year, and bring them a fun, enriching, theatrical experience after an insane year!" - Jessica Pomeroy (Day Camps @ The Stamford JCC)

"I'm so excited to meet more people who love theatre, as well as everyone else at camp! I'm also very excited to be out in nature for a few months." - Kelly Astuto (Emma Kaufmann Camp)

"I'm so excited to get to take a break from life in the city and unplug a little bit at camp. And to get to meet all the kids and my fellow counselors." - Kat Garcia (Trails End Camp)

"Being able to motivate and inspire young performers. Solidifying within them that, 'They are enough, just the way they are.'" - Arthur Kraus (Day Camp at Bender JCC)

"I can not wait to facilitate a theatre class in person! Having all of these creative students in one place will be unlike anything I have experienced all year." - Michelle Cage (Day Camp at the JCC Manhattan)

"I am most excited about introducing an eclectic mix of theatrical activities, games, and concepts to campers who have not had much exposure or practice in the arts. This will be a summer of firsts for many, so it will be interesting to find what activities students gravitate towards during their summer at Eisner." - Deam Marino (Eisner Camps)

"I am most excited to meet everyone where they are at, meaning I am excited to learn existing traditions at Camp Poyntelle and how I fit into that tradition." - Kezia Waters (Poyntelle Camp)

"I am excited to get the camp's weekly values list so I can start incorporating them into which activities I select for which week. I'm really itching to solidify my lesson plans!" - Katherine Hebert (Camp Settoga)