All the Camp’s a Stage

A reflection by James Gelsey, Eisner Camp’s Associate Director

Skimming the television listings the other day, the abundance of reality shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” “The Voice,” and “X-Factor” caught my eye. It’s hard not to notice how many incredibly talented people are out there. Which, when I stopped to think about it, is a lot like camp. We have a variety of amazingly talented campers who join us each summer, and many of them use camp as the chance to share their gifts with us.

This past summer alone saw some remarkable performances in “A Year with Frog and Toad,” “Seussical,” “Barnum,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “The Lion King,” and “Anything Goes.” And the talent extended from acting to dancing to musical accompaniment, from scenery to costumes to props, from lighting to sound to videography. And a lot of great artistic expression happened outside the Beit Am too.

Campers deepened their song leading and guitar skills on Green House Lawn, jammed in the recording studio, and ran around camp bringing musical moments to passers-by and activities everywhere. Some campers flexed their dance muscles through hip-hop, jazz and by interpolating their own unique styles. Choral groups and dance troupes enriched our worship, and everyone had the chance to show off their best Israeli dance moves on Shabbat. There was Hagigah, the big arts festival at the end of first session that showcased the full spectrum of our campers’ artistic creations. Macabbiah, as usual, enhanced camp’s outstanding song, dance, drama and visual arts traditions. There were also those quieter moments, during unit talent shows or around campfires or as part of other programs, when campers opened up and gave us a glimpse of their non-camp selves.

I think the thing that most impresses me is that camp continues to provide a setting where kids feel supported and encouraged to share so much of themselves. But unlike all those reality shows, there is no critique, no panel of experts sitting in judgment. Camp audiences are the best audiences because they applaud talent and courage equally, and because they embrace those things that make us unique. It’s one of the most remarkable things about Eisner Camp–how those moments of individual or small group expression bring out the very best in everyone.

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