Y Camp Story: The Show Must Go On

By: Mollie Shauger | Tuesday, August 4, 2020 | Summer Camp

Children rehearse while wearing face masks.

The audience was at home, the actors all wore face masks and stood 6 feet apart. This year’s Creative Theater Camp at the South Mountain YMCA in Maplewood looked a little different, but the shows still went on, all in an effort to ensure campers had the best summer experience possible. 

The camp recently finished its first session with performances of “Alice and Wonderland,” and “Peter Pan Jr.” During their two weeks at camp, campers learn lines and choreography and create sets, culminating in final shows. “Alice” was put on by first and second graders, and “Peter Pan” by kids in third through eighth grade. 

The South Mountain Y, like its sister branches part of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, adopted new health and safety guidelines for camp this year, meant to protect children and counselors and minimize the spread of COVID-19. While many camps were not able to run this year, camps that opened made adjustments to their activities and routines to comply with the new protocols.

Under the direction of four counselors and a choreographer for each show, Creative Theater campers were coached in acting, singing, and dancing. They also painted backdrops. Kids took on multiple roles. Instead of sharing costumes, each child brought their own from home and fashioned accessories to go with it during camp.

Instead of an in-person audience, the final show was filmed, edited, and distributed digitally to the families for them to watch at home with their campers. Staff also emailed families a link to the digital guide for each show, with each child’s role and a short bio. 

When not rehearsing, kids kept cool with water activities, enjoyed outdoor games, and fun special events.

Despite some apprehension in the beginning, the children adjusted well to new rules, especially wearing masks, said Gailmarie Sprague, Director of Enrichment & Family Programs at the South Mountain Y. 

“They’re very happy just to be here and be around other kids,” she said. 

Families enjoyed seeing their children socializing again, and exercising their talents and enthusiasm.

In reflecting on her 10-year-old daughter Talya, who starred as “Peter Pan,” Jan Kaminsky said: “Just to see her reconnecting with a small group of kids...she just came back to life. It was amazing.”

When the Y sleepaway camp the Kaminsky family had planned on was canceled, they were grateful to have South Mountain Y to turn to, especially since they already knew and trusted the staff from years of attending child care there. They felt reassured by the Y’s new safety practices and procedures.

Talya loved camp so much that she’s signed up for another camp session, her mom noted. “We were just very impressed with the Y as usual,” she said.

“What you got those kids to accomplish in less than two weeks boggles the mind,” wrote parent Christopher Peterson in a thank-you email to Sprague.

”We are so proud of our son and relished seeing the fruits of his hard work up on screen,” he went on to say. “This was also very emotional for us - seeing something positive created during such difficult times.”

To learn more about the Y’s Creative Theater Camp and other in-person or virtual camps and programs, visit metroymcas.org.


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