Finding good day care for parents to entertain their children during the summer is always a challenge. That is why many parents look to the schools for creative activities that will grab and hold their children’s interest for a few weeks before parents can whisk them away for a family vacation.
Schools try to come up with ideas to fit as many needs as possible from academic enrichment and remedial help, to fun Hip Hop or Robotics classes. Over the years many day camps have used a rotation schedule with groups of students passing through a series of organized activities for about 35 minutes each day. The school will try to arrange the groups by age, (Kindergarten through 6th grade). With Drama being one of the activities, it is difficult to pull something together for a final performance. I have had years where I used five different scripts with different sets and scenes to accommodate the ability of each group. This is an incredible amount of work when you have only three and a half weeks to pull it together. There is usually a song and dance thrown in to ensure every child has a “part”. That is what it really boils down to; everyone has to participate. Keeping in mind some students are only there because Mom thought it would be fun, plenty of patience is needed to keep everyone motivated.
Last summer I took one script, Happy Feet, and broke it into pieces with the different groups being responsible for a scene I wrote from the story. It sounded like a good idea, but some groups were just not strong enough to carry the scene. The groups began to overlap and it threw off scheduled rotations. They all learned the same songs and dance, which was a huge hit. I always have the students help design the choreography. This gives the students a sense of ownership. The hard part was remembering what we came up with, thus the need for someone to write down all the steps.
This year has a new set-up. I’ll teach academics in the morning, and direct a two-hour rehearsal for Peter Pan in the afternoon. This group actually signed up for the play of their own free will. I start tomorrow, with three and a half weeks to audition, cast and practice the abbreviated show. I always cut the play down to fit about a forty-minute performance. My remaining problem is dealing with students who decide to take “Mini Vacations” during rehearsals, or those who don’t show up because they had something better to do. Commitment is important, but trying to accommodate parents, we can’t dismiss a child because they missed rehearsals. My favorite line about a week before curtain is from the child who calmly tells me, “I’m not sure if I’ll be here the last day”. Let’s see how it goes this week.