In an effort to keep you all up to date on the happenings of my life, I thought I’d share with you this March Break’s adventures at Harbourfront Centre Theatre Camp. I was the Director of TheatreKIDS for the week and had two fantastic counsellors and nine fabulously talented campers. I was seriously impressed by their talent, focus, and dedication: other kids ran around and climbed all over the West Lawn at lunchtime, my campers put on short improv shows for other camps. It was actually really inspiring to watch them be THAT EXCITED about doing drama.
We spent our week playing drama games, improv games, and making lists of story elements about which to create short improv plays. All of their plays had to have five things: 1. Characters with relationships, 2. Setting, 3. Problem, 4. Something to raise the stakes, and 5. Solution. They were encouraged to make the most creative choices they could, which basically means they had to complicate the central problem in at least one way and they were discouraged from killing everyone off as a means of “solving the problem.” And some of the things they came up with were incredible. Hilarious, creative, smart…So then we sat down half way through the week and looked at our lists and we wrote a play.
Each camper got to choose his or her own character, which gave us an interesting cast of kids, wizard, figure skater, actress, ninja, superhero, and I-don’t-care-as-long-as-I’m-the-villain. Settings and problems were chosen based on popular vote–democracy in action, I tell you! And, in groups, they did various improvisation exercises to work through the play. Collective creation in miniature. Eventually we ended up with a short play about Retirement Home Residents in the future in New York who require chocolate each day to stay young. Of course, the problem was that all the chocolate disappeared/was contaminated and therefore inedible. TRAGEDY! Here it is in its entirety if you’re interested. I was incredibly proud of them. And to top it off, they learned all of their blocking in one afternoon, memorized all of their lines overnight, and gave a practically flawless performance on Friday afternoon. And they (and their parents) all left happy.
What is most thrilling about this for me is that I helped to introduce these kids to the idea that anything is possible in drama, that everyone’s ideas have value, that creating is fun, and that anyone can create theatre. And by soliciting their constructive feedback at the end of every exercise or presentation, they were thinking critically about theatre and becoming informed and appreciative audience members. One camper in particular said to me at the end, “I can’t believe how many of my ideas we used, I’ve never felt heard before!”
This, my friends, is how we grow future artists and audiences. Get them while they’re young…