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Moorestown Theater Company: Mark Morgan

June 28, 2010

From time to time, we interview camp directors to get their tips for parents in planning summer for their kids. This week, I spoke with Mark Morgan, the Producing Artist Director at Moorestown Theater Company.  We discussed theater camps and what makes Moorestown Theater Company unique.

With so many camps available, how do you find the right camp for your child?  Any specific advice on selecting a theater camp?

First of all, look at what your child wants to do. If you’re going to send your child to a performing arts camp, it is important that they really want to do performing arts. In choosing between theater camps, there are a number of things to consider. Is the theater camp doing a staged production or improv? A staged production will involve a lot of rehearsing. What sort of instruction is provided? Some camps that put on a staged production only work on the show. Others, like ours, rehearse the show but also provide instruction unrelated to the show. Also, theater camps stage all different types of productions. We largely produce well-known programs, which are popular with audiences. Other camps write and produce their own shows. It’s a very different experience.

What questions should a parent ask a camp?

I have three kids, so here is what I would want to know.

  • Why is your camp different or better than the other camps? Why should I send my child to your camp?
  • Who are your staff? Why are they working at your camp?
  • What is the ratio of adults to kids? This is very important to the quality of the experience and the quality of the instruction.
  • What do you do throughout the day? How do you keep the kids engaged? There are many different variations of theater camps, so understand what your child’s experience will be.
  • Don’t forget the logistical questions – what are the hours of the camp? What is the length of the day? Do campers bring lunch, or is it provided? What is the dress code?

Summer is long, with some kids attending 10 weeks of camp. Any tips on preventing camp burn-out?

We haven’t really seen this.  Maybe since our camps are 3 weeks long and the kids are engaged in a production. They are with the same kids and teachers throughout the process, as compared to other camps at which you’d have a new set of kids every week.  Even kids who attend all 3 sessions for 9 weeks of camp work on three very different productions. The beauty of theater camp is that there is always a new show. As long as the kids want to be there, it shouldn’t be an issue.

How should parents help kids prepare for camp?

Parents don’t have to do anything. There are no prerequisites for theater camp and we take all levels and experiences. Everyone has a first show, and we try to make it special. That being said, if your child wants to audition for the lead, there may be competition and they do need to prepare.  In addition, it is helpful if your child is familiar with the production. Everyone knows Beauty and the Beast, but if you’re doing an older show, like Oklahoma, it’s useful to have your child watch it, so they are familiar with it before camp begins.

Tell us what is special about the Summer Stage at the Moorestown Theater Company

One very special feature this year is that we are piloting the Camp Rock musical for Disney. Disney will be at our performances watching the show and fine tuning the script and music based on the results. It will be a very interesting experience for the kids to see how a production is put together. Here are a few additional aspects of Summer Stage at the Moorestown Theater Company that separates us from other theater camps.

  • Our staff to camper ratio is very low. We have 13 kids in each group and 2 counselors. In the morning, during classes, we also have a teacher, so 13 kids to 3 adults. I don’t think you’ll find a ratio this low elsewhere. It allows to provide truly individualized attention.
  • We provide classes in the morning that are unrelated to the show. The kids are building their skills, in addition to putting on the performance. The classes will often expose the children to other aspects of musical theater, such as tap dancing, so that they are building their experience base for future shows.
  • We produce popular productions that we then sell tickets to, such as High School Musical and Beauty and the Beast. (Some theater camps write and produce their own shows – this is a very different experience). Because we are producing popular shows, we are able to sell more tickets which both gives the kids an experience of being in front of a larger audience, and helps defray the costs of the camp and allows us to keep our prices very reasonable.
  • Lastly, our camp staff is fantastic. All of our counselors are majoring in either elementary education or drama. They have all directed before. They are doing this because they love theater. The counselors are dedicated and love coming to work, and they probably learn just as much as the kids.

Summer Stage at Moorestown Theater Company still has room in its Oklahoma and Camp Rock productions. We are offering a $150 discount for campers that enroll in both sessions.

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