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Camping at Stagedoor Manor

Guest TMU contributor Robert Kopf details his return to the popular performing arts camp. logo

Robert Kopf

Day 1: July 30, 2012

As my mother and I depart the city and drive into the bucolic countryside of upstate New York, she begins to reiterate the philosophy of Stagedoor Manor, the performing arts camp I've attended for the past seven years. "Just go and have fun," she says with maternal reassurance. "There are no small parts - only small actors."

This is an aphorism, an age-old philosophy that has reassured me since I was a 12-year-old first year camper. Although I acknowledge the importance of the concept, the exciting adrenaline that comes with the prospect of getting a good part commences. To some, doing one's best in an audition is a source of distress but to me, it is one of the reminders that I'm going home. The prospect of getting a good part eludes me and I start to think of all of the friends I haven't seen in almost a year. I personally am not very adept at keeping in touch so Loch Sheldrake is generally the only place I get to reconnect with old friends.

Before long, the hillside gives way to the iconic sign that accompanies Karmel and Jacobs Road and we arrive at the front entrance. After being checked in by a member of the artistic staff dressed as Elizabeth of Russia (or perhaps Lady Bracknell), I greet Ant, my dorms admirable group leader of five years and ask him how the season has been thus far. After moving into my room, my mother and I make our way up to the Main Building to check in. The hustle and bustle of handing over my cell phone (just for the first week), having my temperature taken by one of the nurses of the infirmary, and rekindling the friendships that seemed forgotten during the winter is underscored with select works by Jonathan Larson, Jason Robert Brown, and, of course, Stephen Sondheim.

Before long, we are called to the lobby to be cordially and officially welcomed by the leaders of the camp. Most of the parents have left, everyone has congregated, and with the grand entrance of the leaders, which is welcomed with vociferous applause, comes the declaration that has initiated each session since I started in 2006 (and very probably before then): "WHAT TIME IS IT?" Every camper promptly replies with comparative enthusiasm. "SHOW TIME!"

Show time is the premise of this camp. It is the subsequent outcome of one's three weeks and the disyllabic summary of one's excitement that washes over a camper while they apply their make-up or practice their lifts for the last time before the directors give their opening speeches and remarks. From here starts the long, tedious, vexing, educational, social, fantastic process of putting up a show in two weeks, taking classes, and making friends that stay with the alumni long past the summers of their youth.

For more information on Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center, visit


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