After a blistering, drawn-out winter, Torontonians are finally blinking in the hard-won warm sunlight, watching the crocuses that survived several surprise frosts bloom, and daring to imagine what the summer of 2016 will look like, who they will be this season.
Our children are the first to daydream up their summer adventures… maybe they begun not too long after New Years. Summer camp glitters like a crown diamond in those daydreams for a lot of kids. It’s a time when they get to step temporarily out of their regular communities — school, family, neighbours, and let’s not forget the online communities that kids are now part of. Summer camp offers a chance for a child to re-cast his or herself in a new role.
A child who’s known by their regular communities to be withdrawn and self-conscious might continue to be so because it’s expected of them. But stepping into a airy, sunlit room with new people for the first time, he or she can discover new, uncharted aspects of his or her personality. Likes, dislikes, reactions, responses, roles… all of the sudden there is no more pressure to behave according to who people think they are.
I’ve been visiting CATS classes for several weeks now, and I’d like to share with you I think CATS Drama is a magnificent place for a child to explore new territory. To even re-chart areas they thought they already knew by heart. I’d like to share why I can’t wait to visit summer camp sessions: I haven’t just seeing kids rehearsing roles for our upcoming end-of-term show “Enchanted”… I’ve seen them jump into new personal roles in how they interact with others and how they feel about themselves.
During a recent rehearsal, a child in the 7-11 group offered a suggestion about how to deliver a line based on her character’s context in the scene. Head Director Mark Keller enthusiastically encouraged this suggestion, and then turned to the rest of the class to say “And if any of you ever have ideas like that, ideas about your characters and how you think they’d react in a scene, tell us! We love anything like that.”
The children had ownership of their characters, and this empowered them to take on a role they might not have a chance to try in school for several more grades: that of a creative voice taken seriously enough to effect the finished product of a mounted production!
This empowerment came with responsibility– I saw too that the kids diligently remembered their scripts and to take down notes on blocking. Someone who had forgotten his was given a spare, and reminded that he’d feel more comfortable if he kept all his show notes in one place. In talking to the kids in interviews later, I observed a sweeping pattern of accountability in the classes– they knew what it took to be a part of an on-stage production at the end of the year, and sincerely wanted to do their part to make it a success.
Most fascinating of all was hearing the stories of how they’d noticed themselves transform since becoming a part of CATS Drama. I was astonished to hear several very outgoing, self-assured kids tell me they were much shier before starting the program. One credited it to the pride his parents had in him after they saw him in the show, and another to the feedback she got from instructors. Most told me that just being given permission to be expressive and uninhibited in this space was enough to change how they defined themselves in their regular communities.
If your child has already been enrolled in CATS, maybe you have anecdotes of your own already. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll give us a try. Sometimes a chance to step into a new role, try it on like we might try on an outfit, is enough to spark budding qualities we didn’t know where there to be proud of.
Who are you going to be this coming summer? What new selves might you try on? It’s the best time of year for children to try on a new role and see what comes of it. Camp begins in seven weeks… I hope we see you in the studio!