My experience at Summerstage Camp

First Posted: 7/28/2014

If offered a spot at a performing arts camp for 10 days, I would normally either ask for another option or say no, plain and simple.

But when your mom already enrolled you for a good sum of money, it is hard to say no. So, I decided to attend, even though I had no choice.

My brother Manan and I arrived at the Scranton Cultural Center (SCC) at 9:15 a.m., and I signed us in, situating him with the smaller kids before sitting down with my age group. We were all in the same room for the morning, singing the SCC theme song and talking about our upcoming day. I scanned the room and immediately saw my old friend from school, Kyra Beckish.

After Miss Sheri, music director for the older age group, finished outlining the schedule, my group gathered our belongings and headed upstairs to the main stage. Kyra and I were still catching up when Mr. Bill, the stage director, called everyone to line up.

One activity we completed that I remember most vividly was writing down our desires for the camp. In order from most to least favorite, we listed three things: singing, acting and dancing. I wrote mine in that exact order because I loved singing, I didn’t hate acting and I disliked dancing.

We then jumped right into our production, “Newsies,” a popular Broadway musical. The first song we learned was “Seize the Day.” That night I memorized the whole thing. After we worked our voices, Miss Tina, the choreographer, began teaching us part of the song’s dance. We worked on it endlessly because “repetition was the key to her choreography.”

Then came lunch, where we all gathered in a room on the third floor and sat at our respective tables. Kyra and I sat alone and talked. The lunch they had for us that day was “pizza,” but it didn’t smell like it, and bared little resemblance to the normal taste of pizza.

Once we survived lunch, it was time to go block (act out) the scenes surrounding “Seize the Day.”

Mr. Bill worked us through lines of dialogue and side stories that went on during the main scene. Before we departed, Miss Sheri handed out CDs of the music to put in our binders for practice and composition books for journaling. We were supposed to either write more goals for the camp, or doodle.

So, while everyone else wrote hopes and dreams down on the sheets of paper, I drew pentagrams.

Overall, I wasn’t enamored with the camp just yet.

The rest of the week was relatively the same each day: Sing, act, dance. Sing, act, dance…

On the second day, I made friends with a few girls named Erika, Ava and Shakira. Kyra and I sat with them at lunch and we talked about the camp and our similarities as a group. As the week went on, I got more small ensemble singing parts and acting roles, causing me to throw myself into practice at home. I didn’t even watch Netflix for the first week. I started to make more friends and get more into the camp as a whole. I danced more enthusiastically, sang with gusto, and acted with a New York accent.

I immersed myself in the camp I thought I would hate.

I became outgoing, and flourished in my new environment. I was even disappointed when the first week came to an end. But I was also excited, because that meant the next week was nearer. It was jam packed with special events. We were participating in advertisement filming as background dancers, getting a lesson in percussion, and going to see “Newsies” on Broadway. I previously attended Broadway to see “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Phantom of the Opera,” but something about this trip made me twice as excited.

The next week was extremely busy. On Monday, we practiced a lot more and ended the day with a mellow percussion lesson. In the morning, we met our drummer, who was to accompany Miss Sheri for musical backup. We practiced everything, putting all the pieces together and creating an amazing show in less than two weeks.

After a hard day of work, we retreated to the main room downstairs while the younger campers practiced their performance on stage. We drummed on the instruments for a while and created duel beats, call and response mechanisms, and other fun things.

The day ended with art, where we worked on our sets, which mostly consisted of boxes painted like newspapers. We were having trouble figuring out what that would look like, so we decided to tear newspapers apart in chunks and stick them all over the boxes, overlapping and creasing everywhere.

On Tuesday, we filmed an advertisement for a food and clothing drive at Boscov’s called Christmas in July. We had to record a jingle and memorize a dance the morning of the performance. As a reward, we were all treated to Auntie Anne’s before heading back the SCC. The rest of the day was filled with practice, practice and more practice.

On Wednesday, I arrived a half an hour early and rushed inside to converse with my fellow campers. We were gathered in the middle of the main room just like on the first day, only now the two groups intermingled. After Miss Sheri finished, the Summerstage crew left on a bus bound for New York City. We were dropped off nine blocks from the theater, and went sight-seeing for a few hours.

When we arrived for the musical, we were seated in the last three rows of the balcony, but the view was mesmerizing. During the whole show, I sat there praying I would not pass out and miss it. The cast was amazing at dancing, acting, and using body language and expressions to convey certain feelings. At the end of the show, I got my playbill signed by the best actors I had ever seen in my entire life. The whole experience was life-changing, and I have no words to describe it and do the event justice.

On our last day, I arrived at the SCC in costume. The whole first half of the day was onstage practice, with lights, costumes, and song with dance. I started getting nervous about five minutes before the show.

My mouth felt itchy and my stomach fluttered constantly while I worried about forgetting my lines.

Everyone else had at least a little experience in acting, but this was my first time. I managed to dodge it the past 14 years, but not that day. We watched the younger campers’ performance from side stage and waited our turn. I felt sweaty and kept fidgeting with my newsboy hat, which was too small for my head.

Then it was time.

The curtain fell and the small kids cleared their props and we unloaded ours in their appropriate positions. I took my spot at downstage center and saw the darkness of the curtain change to the bright spotlights on the balcony. I heard the music start and my duet partner began singing his lines. My head felt heavy and I was extremely nervous until I sang. Then I wasn’t as nervous anymore. I was still tense, but not as much.

The rest of the show went smoothly and we finished with roaring applause.

Overall, this camp made me a more confident person and a better performer. I am definitely going back next year, and I urge other shy, talented people to join me.

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