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In what used to be a Catskills hotel, 300 children participate in Theater camp every summer. Natalie Portman and Bryce Dallas Howard were here in 1996. Mandy Moore was a student for two summers.
There are many more such camps for students, including the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan and the French Woods Festival of the performing Arts in Hancock New York. These are considered, along with Stagedoor Manor, as the gold standard of theater camps.
According to the American Camp Association, there are slightly over 800 accredited performing arts camps: a 40 percent increase from 2001. For aspiring performing artists, attending such a camp can be a steppingstone into the best schools.
Mainstream pop culture is getting clued in. MTV is filming a documentary at the French Woods Festival. The film, “Camp Rock” was successful enough that a sequel is in progress. There is an “Idol Camp,” where American Idol castoffs hold master classes for students.
While the average overnight camp costs between $400 and $700 a week, the gold standard camps can cost $5,000 for three week sessions. According to Jennifer Rudin, director of casting and talent development for Disney Theatrical Productions (and a Stagedoor alumna), “Parents want to get quality for their money.”
The owner of French Woods, Ron Schaefer, says the camps aren’t trying to one-up each other. “New programs are what kids want,” he says.
A precocious careerism has become more common among young performers, say theater industry veterans. David Stone, a producer, says their questions after watching “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on Broadway, were surprisingly sophisticated: “How do you get an agent,” and questions about an actor’s process.
But whatever else they want, most kids admit the real drawing card is intensive theater training. And the earlier, the better, say some. Eight-year-old Jack DeVilliers pushed the pause button on his DVR and ran to get his mother after he heard about Camp Electric Youth on “Entertainment Tonight.”
“He said it was his destiny.”
source: this is based on Micky Rapkin’s article in the NY Times on Sunday July 27, 2008. Read it at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/fashion/27camp.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=theater&pagewanted=print
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