When it comes to picking a versatile and interactive summer experience for your child, Camp Arena Stage in Georgetown is a multi-arts camp that has been a family favorite for over a decade. To learn more about what makes this camp so special, the Our-Kids.com team interviewed Rebecca Campana, the School Programs Manager at Arena Stage. She runs Arena Stage along with Anita Maynard-Losh.
Q: Can you share a little history about the camp?
A: Camp Arena Stage is a teenager now! The program began 14 years ago, in 2005, when a former Arena Stage trustee, Priscilla Houghton, encouraged Arena Stage to start a summer arts program. We modeled Camp Arena Stage on her Charles River Creative Arts Program in Massachusetts, which was an early recipient of an NEA grant. We started with a 4-week session and 101 campers. We’ve since added a 2-week session and have a total of 350 young artists each summer.
Q: What makes Camp Arena Stage so unique?
A: We have three things that make this a one-of-a-kind camp experience.
#1 – Campers get to choose their schedules from over 75 activities in visual arts, theater, music, dance, filmmaking and writing. They can deepen their skills in things they already know and love or try something for the first time.
#2 – Our staff is wildly skilled both as artists and educators. Campers can learn tap dance from a former Rockette (DeMoya Watson Brown), puppetry from the artistic director of Pointless Theatre (Matt Reckeweg) and theater from performers in Helen Hayes Award winning productions (Maria Rizzo and Sean-Maurice Lynch). And that’s just a small sample of what we offer.
#3 – Even more than arts instruction of the highest quality, we value community over anything else. We strive to be the most supportive, caring, creative and spirited arts community each summer – for campers and staff alike. Exploring the arts and deepening artistic skills should be a process that is joyful and thoughtful, that encourages risk taking and discovery. We want our campers to know that they are artists and there is art that only they can make. All of our staff believes that and is committed to that idea.
Q: What are some of the activities campers participate in?
A: We have a mixture of the classic Camp Arena Stage activities each summer, including like hip-hop dance, sports, filmmaking, improvisation, solo voice, rock band, newspaper, and improvisation. We wait to finalize our activity lists, though, until we have our staff hired, because sometimes they have an unusual specialty to teach. For example, this year we are able to offer ukulele and singing, junk percussion, weirdism (which is all about avant garde theater) and stop-motion animation!
Q: What do campers gain from the summer camp?
A: Because our staff is so skilled, we can work with kids who are beginners or experienced in any art form. Campers at any level will grow! One of the things I like about camp is that we get to see our artists grow over time. We don’t pressure kids to perform. Instead, we support them as they grow. There was one young lady who started coming when she was nine years old. She loved to sing, but had terrible stage fright. For four years, she couldn’t perform her solo, even though she wanted to badly and her parents were in the audience. Then, when she was 14, she did it, and the expression on her face was triumphant! Her voice teacher and I stood in the back and cried. This young woman is applying to colleges now and sent me her college admissions essay. It was about her time at Camp Arena Stage. Everyone at Camp Arena Stage is an artist. Our artists are creative, sensitive, loud, introspective, caring, insightful, smart and sometimes silly. They forge the most supportive arts community I can imagine, because they all love art. One camper said it better than I can: “By far the most beautiful piece of art to come out of camp this year, in my opinion, was the masterpiece of a community we built together, painted with the people of all shapes, sizes and personalities, all brought together in one place by on simple thing: a love of art.”
Q: What are other ways parents can keep their kids active in theater during the school year?
A: Camp Arena Stage is the main opportunity for young people to work with Arena Stage. We have a devised theater program for teenagers – Voices of Now – that meets at Arena Stage during the fall and spring. Spaces are still available in both sessions. Register at arenastage.org/camp to reserve your spot!