Theater Camp Report: Creative Stage

Show-Score | Jul 13, 2017

A fun summer theater program for your kids to foster creative collaboration!

Tell us a bit about Creative Stage. What do your summer programs offer and what does a typical week look like?

We have two wonderful summer programs. They’re designed to nurture musical and theatrical development in an imaginative, fun, and supportive environment.


Musical Theater Builders allows campers to create, direct, and produce musical theater. Kids use imaginative play, simple props, and a variety of improv games to create their own characters, stories, and sketches. These form the basis for a devised script with original (often hilarious) lyrics. We set the lyrics to existing music, using anything and everything from Rossini, to Rodgers and Hammerstein, to Mozart, to Lin-Manuel Miranda, to Queen.  Kids rehearse the work, then perform their “world premiere” show for friends and family on the last day of camp.


Instrumental Story Tellers combines singing, and instrumental playing with storytelling, movement, and improvisation. Each child selects a solo piece for his or her chosen instrument (including singing/voice) to focus on for the week. The group then collaborates to create theatrical sketches, stories, or poetry readings that relate to each camper’s musical selection. At the end of the week, the group performs their multi-disciplinary "world premiere" showcase at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater at Symphony Space.


Parents are amazed by the quality of the performance or artwork their children create in just one week!


Who are your teachers? What’s their background?

We seek out high-level professionals—people who are not only gifted artists, but gifted communicators eager to share their skills and experience with young people. And they aren’t just “instructors”—they become collaborators with the kids, guiding them through their own creative process.  


Musical Theater Builders is led by Madeline Bender, a conservatory-trained professional opera singer who’s worked worldwide with leading conductors and directors. She is joined by pianist Jon Dyktra (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), guitarist Mack Walters (recently recorded with Grammy Award-winning artist John Scofield), and assistant director Christina Beck (Edinburgh Fringe Festival, off-Broadway at the Tank Theater).  


Instrumental Story Tellers is team-taught by Madeline Bender and Tanya Bannister, an international concert pianist, chamber musician, and the Founder and Director of the AlpenKammerMusik Festival in the Austrian Alps.


What kind of camper would most enjoy Creative Stage’s summer programs?

Musical Theater Builders is a great program for everyone from quiet children looking to come out of their shells, to more naturally theatrical kids ready to shine as individuals. Some kids embrace the storytelling component of the program and enjoy generating scene ideas, while others love the challenges of learning, memorizing, and executing musical works by great composers.  Because it’s a project based, multi-disciplinary experience, every child contributes to the process in his or her own way.  


Instrumental Story Tellers is specifically geared towards supporting young instrumentalists or singers who are already taking private lessons and want to sharpen their skills—and who are enthusiastic about music-making!


What is your goal for each camper—what do you hope they get out of their camp experience?

Educationally, both programs encourage children to "think on their feet," and articulate their ideas. They get a taste of both imaginative brainstorming and the rigor of disciplined rehearsal as they work to build a final performance. They strengthen their literacy skills by reading and memorizing scripts, they gain confidence by speaking in front of a group, they learn to collaborate with others, and they improve executive function as they see a project through from start to finish.  


We often hear from parents that these programs are transformative for their children.  Kids come away with a deeper sense of confidence in their unique creative identity, and learn to trust and “own” their ideas. Instrumental Story Tellers gives kids a new connection to their music, and shows them that there are stories in every piece of music they practice and perform. And it’s pretty common for former campers to sing Musical Theater Builders songs around the house. Parents say it’s wonderful to hear their kids singing perfect renditions of Verdi arias—with fun-loving new lyrics, of course!


What’s this year’s camp schedule?

The two remaining Musical Theater Builders sessions run from July 17 to 21, and from July 24 to 28. Instrumental Story Tellers runs from August 28 to September 1. Both programs last five days, 9am to 3pm each day. The kids have lunch and recess outside at a local playground.


What’s the cost of the program?

The cost is $575 for Musical Theater Builders, and $595 for Instrumental Story Tellers.


What else should parents know about registering? 

There is no audition required to participate in either program. We usually book all available slots, but we do have a wait list. Contact us to hear more.


Does Creative Stages offer other programs?

Musical Theater Builders is also offered as a weekly after school class for kids in grades 1-5 at the Peter Norton Symphony Space, along with other innovative programs such as Dancing Designers, in which kids work with a professional costume designer to design and construct the costumes they will wear for a final dance showcase, and Hip-Hop, Sing! in which kids help create original choreography for a song and dance performance. Parents should check out for more details.


Any Creative Stage grads currently starring on Broadway or playing Carnegie Hall?

No famous alumni…yet.  Our oldest grads are just in 8th grade, though—so we’ll see what the future holds!  


But of course, our goal isn’t limited to producing the next theater star, or great musician.  With the skills they learn, I fully expect our alum to go on to be entrepreneurs, activists, and innovators, as well.

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ALSO: Check out our ever-expanding guide to theater camps in the NYC area, and read all our theater camp reports.