When asked why our campers return to our drama camp every year, we get answers like “it’s fun!” “I get to see my friends,” “I just LOVE theatre,” and the ever popular “We get to play Sardines!” which is now a longstanding Dallas Theater tradition.
While these are perfectly valid reasons to attend a theater camp or class, in truth, these activities are benefitting our children in a multitude of ways. One of the most obvious is self-expression and self-confidence. The Huffington Post reported in 2017:
The need for self-expression has always been a part of schools that focus on the performing arts that includes a wide range of professions from musical theater, dance, song, digital arts and stage design. In addition, the performing arts have been an excellent tool for people with disabilities to express themselves. It is widely known that students who have been shy are attracted to the performing arts as a way to express themselves through character and become more confident through art. (“Why the Arts Are Still Relevant: Creative Self Expression Matters Even More Now”)
One of our new traditions at Drama Camp is a “talent show” at the end of the week. The kids work hard putting on a script of our choosing, but a talent show allows our campers to showcase that new found confidence in a way that makes them feel comfortable, whether it’s singing, a comedy sketch, or a dance routine. I’ve seen campers that hardly want to say a word on day one get up on stage and belt out Hamilton by Friday.
We also encourage teamwork (without it, theatre is virtually impossible). A lot of our warm-up exercises involve improv games, which require students to work together to create a scene. Even non-acting based activities are done in groups, such as creating program covers for their camp show. Lately, we’ve had a few budding techies join camp and while they’re not on the stage, they collaborate with our teachers and their peers on things like props and lighting.
Theatre also provides an interesting way for young people to learn about empathy and compassion. In order to portray a character (or even design for one), you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. This simple act of what is usually “playing pretend” for most actually encourages budding actors to learn about other people and circumstances beyond their own in a creative way. Bre Wood, who has been teaching with us for the last few years says, “Theater is not only an art but also a way to connect and communicate with others. Actors are able to share and demonstrate emotions and thoughts that challenge the perspective on various topics. For me it is not about becoming someone else on stage but rather being allowed to express myself in a unique way. Teaching this fundamental form of communication is so important. “
Our camps and classes provide a sense of community for up-and-coming theatre people. New friends, new experiences, and a new found sense of confidence is something all of our campers leave with after their week of camp. It’s our hope that we continue to inspire our campers to better themselves through the arts. And maybe a game of Sardines or two.