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Student Blog: Changing The Story: A Summer At Imagination Stage

That day at work, I helped rewrite the way that camper viewed herself and the theatre. I changed her story. And in doing so, she changed mine.

Student Blog: Changing The Story: A Summer At Imagination Stage

Hello Broadway lovers, theatre students and creators around the world! Welcome back to the blog as we continue into the heart of September. I'm sitting here procrastinating on my schoolwork and watching the leaves start to fall outside...a.k.a, the perfect time to write about my summer. As I re-enter the world of college theatre, collaborating daily with fellow artists and friends, I find myself thinking a lot about one of my favorite moments from the past few months. Read on!

This summer, I returned to Imagination Stage for my second year as a summer camp counselor. I worked in the Musical Production Camp, groups of determined 6-10-year-olds putting on a new musical every two weeks. Amidst the given chaos of theatre camp (because there's always drama), I felt such joy and gratitude working in this environment. Whether it was laughing with my wonderful co-workers or watching kids shine onstage, I will always be thankful for the time I spent and friendships I made at IStage.

One of my favorite parts was getting to watch kids fall in love with theatre in the same way I had when I was younger. I loved seeing campers run lines with each other in the mornings, forming friendships in a matter of hours. When the entire cast insisted on singing the show's opening number for the tenth time in thirty minutes...I sang along. I smiled as previously introverted campers left the two-week session with renewed confidence after performing onstage, often for the first time. I watched these kids start the first chapter in what would one day be their own book of theatre stories. Sometimes, I helped to write a page.

Perhaps my most meaningful example of this occurred halfway through the summer. We had spent two weeks helping campers sing, dance, and stage the second play of the season. At long last, it was performance day. The kids buzzed with excited energy, frantically running through their lines and listing family members coming to see the show. Amidst all the excitement, one camper stood off to the side. We initially worried about her, as she'd struggled with performance anxiety throughout the session. However, we chalked her morning hesitations up to general nerves and continued in the hubbub of the day. A few hours later, after agonizingly long costume changes and more pep talks, it was showtime.

Despite the expected chaos, the show's opening number ran smoothly. It wasn't until the second scene that disaster struck. Our initially nervous camper strode on for her first line, saw everyone in the crowd, and ran offstage. After a moment of stunned silence from both actors and audience, I took the camper outside the theatre and the show pressed on. As members of the artistic team and I talked with the camper outside, I felt my heart break. She was visibly upset, shaking her head, insisting she couldn't go back out. We tried to comfort her, saying things like "there's no pressure!" "You're doing a great job!" "We're so proud of you." Nothing was working. Then, we hesitantly asked...do you want someone to go out there with you? Pause. The camper looked up at me. I took a deep breath and spoke up. "Do you want...me to go out there with you?" Pause. Longer pause. Small, small head nod yes. I was now a member of the cast (this would look good on my resume). I took her hand, we stood back up, and slowly walked inside the theatre.

The rest of the show passed in baby steps. The first time she approached the curtain was a hope. The first step she took onstage was a little win. The first line she said out loud was a victory. By the end of the show, she and I were singing the final number together onstage. Her voice was quiet, her hand was gripping mine so tightly I lost feeling, but she was out there. Singing. It was an amazing moment.

As I stood on stage with her, hearing her recite those lines in her own voice, I felt a part of something bigger than myself. For this camper, the performance could have been "the day I ran offstage." It could have completely rocked her confidence, dampening future passion for live theatre. But it wasn't. With a little bit of encouragement, this became her "day I went back onstage." She was amazing. I was in awe of her bravery.

I'll probably never see this camper again, but I hope she grows up to view that performance as a triumph, a challenge she overcame. She can be secure in the knowledge that she can do those hard things again, whether in or outside of the theatre. And for me? I realized the potential everybody holds in theatre to lift each other up. Theatre isn't just a show to steal. It's a collaborative effort, one we accomplish only when working together. It doesn't matter if you're the lead on Broadway or backstage at a children's summer camp. Everyone works together to write theatre's collective story.

That day at work, I helped rewrite the way that camper viewed herself and the theatre. I changed her story. And in doing so, she changed mine.

TodayTix Black Friday

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From This Author - Student Blogger: Leah Packer


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