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Interview: Director of Educational Programming Lori B. Lawrence and Summer Arts Camp at THE GROWING STAGE

Lori B. Lawrence and Summer Arts Camp at THE GROWING STAGE

Interview:  Director of Educational Programming Lori B. Lawrence and Summer Arts Camp at THE GROWING STAGE

The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of New Jersey, located in the Historic Palace Theatre in Netcong, is currently registering for their in-person this summer for camp July 12 through August 13. In a year that has been full of challenges, The Growing Stage remains committed to providing quality arts education for the community. The Summer Arts Camp program is designed for children who will be attending kindergarten in the fall of 2021 through students who have completed eighth grade in June of 2021. Each of our in-person sessions has a specific theme and concludes with special performance.

The camp is under the direction of Lori B. Lawrence, Director of Educational Programming at The Growing Stage. Broadwayworld had the opportunity to interview Lori about this summer's exciting camp program.

Lori is the Director of Educational Programming at The Growing Stage. As the Director of our Educational Programming, she oversees our Creative Arts Academy, Summer Arts Camp, School Residency Programs, Touring Productions, New Play-Reading Festival and Studio Series All Youth Productions.

When she's not in the classroom, you can find her on the stage or in the director's chair bringing to life such productions such as The Wizard of OZ, Babes in Toyland and Dr. Seuss's The Cat In the Hat.

We know that your Summer Camp has been very successful in the past. What do you think makes it so inviting for young people?

I think part of the reason young people are drawn to our camp is because they are part of the creative process. We made the decision long ago that we wanted to create a camp that allows for instruction in all facets of the performing arts. Our campers not only learn about performing, but also about the "behind the scenes" aspect of theatre. Our camp group comes in on Monday morning and we present the theme and source materials/lessons for the week and we are off and creating! Each week, under the tutelage of our wonderful teaching artists, we create a show from the ground up. Each camper has a say in the creative process and we work together to bring that vision to life on the stage with our Friday evening performance. Along the way, there is a lot of fun, laughter, learning, new friends and self-discovery!

How does your experience as a performer complement your role as Director of Education at The Growing Stage?

That is an interesting question. I think perhaps it helps my role as Director of Education in that I have been through or experienced everything we are asking of our campers. It helps me to empathize and understand each camper's journey and to help make sure each young person that attends our camp is set up for success.

Can you tell us a little about the team that will make the Summer Camp happen?

We have a wonderful group of professional teaching artists who will be joining us for camp this summer. They have all been involved with our company as performers, directors, and/or teaching artists. Most importantly they are committed to our mission and camp philosophy. Our former Musical Director, Laura Petrie will be back at the helm of our music classes. Grace Noel, an accomplished dancer, performer, choreographer and teaching artist will head up our dance classes. Danny Campos, a long-time Growing Stage teaching artist and accomplished performer will be back to teach drama and our wonderfully creative stagecraft teacher, Jacob Burlas, will round things out as our stagecraft teacher.

What changes will participants experience as a result of Covid restrictions?

We are striving to give our campers as close to our regular camp experience as possible. That being said, we do have to adhere to local, state and CDC guidelines. Our camp capacity limits have been lowered and we have a series of COVID safety procedures, protocols and policies in place. Our day has also been structured a little differently, but in all, our campers will experience the same camp that they have grown to love. We have designated an entire section on our camp website outlining all of these procedures which parents can view at

The camp is open to Kindergarten to students who have completed the 8th grade. Why do you feel these age groups are important to target for theatre education?

Theatre education at any age is important and provides wonderful challenges, albeit different, for learners at all levels. Arts education can be truly transformative and we truly enjoy working with this K-8 age group at camp. They are so open and honest. Theatre is a wonderful discipline to help them in a wide range of areas - self-confidence, self-esteem, self-expression, communication, collaboration, problem solving, interpersonal skills, aesthetic awareness and, last but not least, imagination.

A large part of our theatre's mission is to educate young people in the theatre arts and to create life-long theatre lovers. Our camp is truly a collaborative program across many levels of learning. Although our campers are grades K-8, we have a team of high school and college aged counselors who work alongside our professional teaching artists. These counselors interview work here specifically because they have a passion for the performing arts and want to be educators themselves.

Can you give us a sneak peek of some of the surprises in store for participants?

I think some of the biggest surprises will be coming from our campers themselves. Many times they are surprised by their own creativity and by abilities they did not know they had. The overall growth of our campers from Monday to Friday - their self-confidence, willingness to try, lending their creative voices, their collaborative spirit and problem solving - it is a wonderfully fulfilling experience!

We are looking forward to the return of live theatre at The Growing Stage. What's in store for the future of your iconic performance venue?

As far as our venue is concerned, we have some exciting facility projects underway - the fly system above our stage is in the process of being restored allowing for enhanced production values. Our concession area is also going through a total renovation and will contain some new Perry Kroeger original murals to match the rest of our theatre design.

Throughout this pandemic year we have also taken the opportunity for self-reflection as an organization in order to make sure that we continue to create an inspiring space and opportunities for the young people and families we have the honor to serve.

For further information or to register for The Growing Stage's Summer Arts Camp, please visit their website at or call them at (973) 347-4946.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Growing Stage.

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