Summer camps of all sorts are in full swing. We’ve done them all from YMCA to FAIR from Spanish to Stages. Recently my 8-yr-old daughter took a week-long break from the Classic TaeKwonDo day camp both of my kids have been attending to explore her theatrical side. This theater camp, offered through Hopkins Stages Theater, does camps all summer long for kids in three age groups (4-6, 7-13 and 13-17) with varying themes. I missed their 2010 season, so was quick to sign up in February for one of their 2011 camps. We also enlisted a friend.
We chose a week themed The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes described as: “What might happen if the super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes was joined by a whole host of daring detectives like Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Harriet the Spy, or the Hardy Boys? As students work together to create, rehearse, and perform their own original tales of mystery and suspense, they’ll also build fundamental acting skills such as cooperation, character creation, and playwriting through improvisation. Stages Theatre Company professional teaching artists will also lead master classes on a wide range of acting techniques.”
The Holmes class and other classes for 7-13 year-olds were not located at Hopkins Stages, rather at FAIR School in Crystal, MN. The extent of the research I did on FAIR involved a quick check to discover the week-long workshop was held from 9:00 – 3:30 daily and it was 15 minutes from my work. We booked the camp as well as the 3:30-4:30 daily childcare. I was still curious about the location, but put that on the back-burner for another four months, until the Monday morning of camp.
We approached the school, set in a suburban neighborhood with a site that brushed up to a wooded nature area. Since we arrived at 8:15, we had plenty of time to explore. The colorful purple, yellow and orange structures screamed creativity and boldness, while the prairie and serene landscape invited you to enter with an open mind. Inside, the shared common areas of the school and classrooms were light-filled with visual connections to other spaces. Many of these in playful ways like the box windows of varying heights that allowed people to peer into a performance area or circle windows popping out, connecting to exterior spaces.
The girls marveled, “This is the coolest school ever,” as they zig-zagged between rows of lockers, checked out restrooms just for fun, ran to capture views out of windows and climbed the school’s staircases. I learned that FAIR School, a magnet school for grades 4-8 that opened in 2000 as part of the West Metro Education Program (WMEP), focuses on an arts education that gives students the opportunity to actively engage in culturally relevant and student-centered curricula. They state that they follow an interdisciplinary approach that allows students make cognitive connections across several disciplines. I could see how that could happen. Everything felt interconnected. I had a good vibe from this learning environment and I’ve toured lots of them.
All of this prior to theater camp even starting. It’s 9:00 so I bid the girls a dramatic day and head off to work. Since Ava’s friend’s parents and I are sharing in dropoffs and pickups, it makes the timing and arrangements more manageable – its a strategy I employ often. Each evening there are re-enactments. Ava even writes a story about her character, Licorice, a white chocolate lab by her definition. By Wednesday morning the early-arrivers are engaging in impromtu charades.
At week’s end, the group of 7-13 year olds have developed their characters and the plot that they will perform for an audience at the finale on Friday afternoon. When we recap the week, she recalls learning about actor-neutral (which means looking at-ease while you have a non-speaking part on stage) and creating the story. A story that involves a girl falling through a magic mirror and the quest to solve the mystery of the missing jewels between the two opposing groups: The Rockers and the Candylanders. On Friday, her Dad, Nana and Papa all witness her acting skills as a puppy. I hear she barked well.
We’ll be doing acting camp again next year through Stages – its a good confidence builder. It was also a great way for her to spend some quality time with a friend she hasn’t seen all summer. They color coordinated outfits for the week after they discovered they were both in pink on day 1. As for the school, we’ll be checking out FAIR as an option. It remains a mystery if the acting coaches tried to push her past the panting puppy role. It would have been nice to witness a little Ms. Nancy Drew super-sleuthing action.