When I saw previews for the new movie Theater Camp, I thought it looked interesting since theater played a large role in the lives of each of my children. My son’s love for the stage started at about age six, initially with magic shows and subsequently live theater.
By third grade, he was the first of my three kids to pursue an interest in acting and thus applied for enrollment to a local theater camp. Soon this inspired my two daughters and their first cousins to also follow suit. The love of live theater was entrenched in our family and led to the co-founding of Open Fields in Dover, Mass, a children’s theater program. For over ten years our family was involved in all aspects of a musical theater with this group.
I grew to love the production aspects of a show while my kids shined in the spotlight and my husband did set building behind the scenes. As the kids grew from elementary to high school, my primary volunteerism expanded to the parent support group for Dover Sherborn High School’s Friends of the Performing Arts , the Dover Foundation and then continued with the local Cultural Council. In addition, as a community building activity I helped produce a few musicals with our family synagogue (Fiddler on the Roof in 2015 brought the entire congregation together in celebration of the synagogues 50th anniversary and our Yente created a successful post production "match").
Those who know me, know I am a connector and am always seeking out ways to do so with those around me. I detail how I use coffee as a tool to connect with colleagues in my Coffee Connections book and this was well known during my involvement with each show I have been involved with. Many a production meeting was held at a near-by Starbucks.
When my son Greg was in his first main stage musical of Oliver with the Dover Foundation, I began to more about community theater. There was a sense of comrade and purpose like no other activity I had ever known. For athletes, this can be similar for a competitive team sport although a theatrical production involves many team players through each phase of a production. A production team works together from show selection and auditions to team selection. Then all players become involved in their areas of expertise including acting, set building, costuming, stage design and house management.
During Oliver there were potluck dinners every Sunday night before rehearsal. These were great opportunities to build friendships on and off the stage. Although the audience only sees the result of a show, there is so much that goes into a production Everyone works together as a community and if a success strong bonds develop. It is often anti-climactic at the final curtain.
I became a lover of theater after this production, and this became an impetus for helping start Open Fields. This was over 25 years ago, and I have stayed involved in some aspect of theater ever since. Most recently I volunteer with the Cotuit Center for the Arts and joined the Mashpee Cultural Council.
I learned each aspect on the job as I was assigned to be a producer for the first Open Fields show, The Wizard of Oz in 2001. The first read through of the show was scheduled on September 11, 2001, right after airplanes struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon Buildings. We paused for an evening but decided it was important to move forward the next night with rehearsals to bring a sense of normalcy to the 60 plus children cast in the show.
That fall I totally immersed myself into the show and as the Director stated during auditions, learned that each part no matter how large or small was an integral part of a show’s success. In subsequent years, I have experienced similar experiences in shows I’ve produced. Each show starts with a group of random people who are put together to create a production. Differences seen at the onset often become commonalities as each person learns to work side by side with each other.
A show becomes the sum of each person’s parts, and a successful show is the result of a synergy of people working together to build a polished production. Often there are personality disputes, drama and then cooperation when the end vision becomes real. Although a day before tech night there can be a meltdown and disbelief that the show will be staged often, in the end, the show opens successfully. There is a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment beyond everyone’s dreams.
Theater Camp was based on a summer theater camp in the Adirondacks and like my story the founder of the camp had a vision to create a safe place for children to be accepted and build community. The movie goes through a hardship which almost jeopardized the mission of the camp and their mainstage end of summer show.
I won’t give any spoiler alerts but enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce about the roots of my theatrical experience. Although much different that the main antagonists of the movie the key take away is the value of the arts in creating a sense of community. Different energies are needed to keep the original intent together and in the end the individuals again realize the sum of the parts are needed for success.
Perhaps the lessons learned from these types of experiences can be applied to other aspects of one’s life. Although we strive for our individualism there are many times when it is more valuable to work as a community to the benefit of all.
Wendy is a Realtor and freelance writer residing on Cape Cod. She recently published her first book, Coffee Connections: Finding Common Ground Through My Daily Brew. Wendy enjoys networking and writing to connect her ideas and curiosities with people she meets. She welcomes your comments.