Last night I had the great joy of attending the final performance of our Midsummer Day Camp, part of our Life Long Learning program. I use the word “joy” very consciously, because that’s what the Blackfriars Playhouse was so full of. As I took my seat, I could see that the thirty-odd campers waiting on stage could barely contain their excitement. Their energy was reflected by Doreen Bechtol, Director of Youth Programs, and Laurie Riffe, this year’s Day Camp Director, both of whom greeted the audience with enormous smiles and buoyant enthusiasm.
This was the fourth year of the Midsummer Day Camp, and this year the camp returned to its roots by producing an hour-long version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bechtol explained that she hopes the camp will return to Midsummer every third year for many years to come. Riffe described the performance as a chance for the campers and their friends and family to “celebrate their joy and their creativity.” I could see so much of both in the campers. It was such a delight to see nine-to-twelve-year-olds embracing Shakespeare’s text with so much eagerness — and with no fear! Though counselors were on hand to prompt or to feed in lines, none of the campers got flustered when those supports were necessary. They all seemed to just be enjoying the experience of a play, in the truest sense of that word.
I hope we’ll be seeing some of these kids back for YCTC in coming years. There was some real budding talent on that stage, some ingenues in the making, and some born comedians. I’m so thrilled that the ASC has the opportunity to reach kids so young — I really think that’s the key to making sure they appreciate great words and great theatre their whole lives.
The Midsummer Day Camp was presented this year as part of a grant sponsored by the Bank of America — thank you, Bank of America!