Deep Thoughts on the Summer Music Theater Camp Teaching Experience, written in Bossypants-ese. 10. Enrollment Axiom 1: If your summer theater camp has only two enrollees, both will be low-energy, gluten-sensitive tweens whose parents confused emo with interest in acting. The class will meet for six hours a day, five times a week, for a solid month. You will have to abandon your groundbreaking production of Oh, Calcutta! Jr. and endure their silent scorn as you desperately try to find something they can present at the camp showcase. With proper medication and diet, these kids can become excellent lighting designers.
9. Enrollment Axiom 2: If you are blessed with enthusiastic, energetic actors who are eager to learn and experiment, the head count will be 56. One of the five days of camp will be a national holiday so you will be expected to cram five days of rehearsal into four. Five years from now, one of these campers will win the Tony Award for Lead Actress in Musical Theater, having never forgiven you for relegating her to the chorus this summer.
8. Whatever you encourage hesitant students to do in rehearsal will be executed at Mach Level 3 in performance. "Move around the stage a little" will look like a human pinball. "Act sadder" will look suicidal. "Go ahead, be flirtatious" will look like Courtney Stodden.
7. Success stories are always inspiring. Invite professional actors to perform for your future Nellie Forbushes, and watch their little jaws drop when they see the pros go at it. It's even more fun because you can actually sightread the material the pros bring to show off their chops, which makes you feel like a bit of a pro yourself. (No snark here, that is really fun. And wow, Marvin Hamlisch still sounds good in 2012.)
6. Each day you shall hear at least two of the following: "I'm more of an actor-dancer" . . . "I'm a really low alto in school" . . . . "Can't you just transpose it down? That's what my choir teacher always does" . . . . "These pages of the song don't fit my voice, so I just leave them out" . . . "I just can't remember all the words to the song you gave me last week and the concert is in an hour, so my parents just said I should do Meadowlark again, you have the music around here, right?" Try to figure out a way to extract money from students for each utterance.
5. You will teach this lesson continually: Unless you are rendered unconscious by your own greatness, the performance isn't over when you stop singing. No, Oliver Twist, you will not lower your arms and shrug two seconds before the final chord of "Who Will Buy?" and ruin all the good work you did in the previous two minutes. We will practice it nine times until you hold those arms up for the duration of the final chords of music. The performance ends when I say it ends, mister. And it starts when you are walking onto the stage, so we're going to rehearse that too, until you stop shuffling and start walking. (Half of the campers will be so excited that they will forget to bow at all, but a few will do it perfectly and make me glad I took the time.)
4. Stop looking at me like you're drowning. I told you this performance would be memorized and you didn't believe me.
3. Just look at me if you forget the words. I will help you. You'll be okay.
2. If you are not the parent or relative of a camper, do not view any videos of summer theater camp performances. No matter how successful the showcase, if you watch it on video, you will deflate. Cherish the hazy memory. It actually went well.
1. Honor tradition. After the show is over and the kids are gone, treat yourself to mint chocolate chip ice cream. This dates back to your childhood, when your dad took you and your little sister to McDonald's for a Shamrock Shake after each piano recital, which was usually held on a cold gray Sunday afternoon in March. You didn't perform today, but you did work your butt off and it's time to celebrate. The iciness also helps to reduce the inflammation in your throat from weeks of shouting over preteens. If there is no ice cream, alcohol is an acceptable substitute. Long live theater!