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From Cathleen – Summer Camp

June 12, 2012

Cathleen as a happy camper, circa 1989

“A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp.”
-Raymond Duncan, American dancer, artist, poet & philosopher

“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
-Albert Einstein

Ever since I was a child, I have marked time by the academic calendar.

On the eve of each first day of school, as I carefully arranged and rearranged my sharpened pencils in their case, my heart would swell in a torrent of hopes and yearnings for the year ahead. “This year,” I would vow, pressing this most fervent prayer between the glossy covers of my unicorn folder set. “This year I will be COOL.”

While quite fond of the rigors of school, I never quite lived up to these grand expectations on the social front. I was scrawny and shy, rather small for my age, sensitive and trusting, didn’t take well to teasing, plagued with a tentative nature that was too often overrun by more confident and self-possessed friends.

Then, at the end of 4th grade, everything changed. My parents sent me to Summer Camp.

Ah… camp! Where schoolyard oddities become summertime trendsetters! Where February’s weird is July’s cool!

At Girl Scout camp, all the adults were slightly batty – with counselor names like Breezy, Piggy and Pooch – who encouraged us to sing “loud and proud,” find someone new to sit with in the lunchroom and find the magic in the everyday. Every morning started with a song.

The next year, at Creative Writing camp, I learned how to illustrate my own picture book, and blend colors into a glowing sunset.

Touchstone Campers making masks last summer.

Leadership Camp taught public speaking skills, diplomacy and, memorably, a few choice moves of self-defense. Followed by Poetry Camp and momentously, a summer of Theatre Camp- my first practical exposure to drama and performance.

That summer I learned what a “black box” was; how to create different characters through movement; I experienced a “guided visualization” and imagined myself floating around in the womb– the womb!– how to stay awake while dreaming; and I learned to make a mask, molded from my own face using vaseline and plaster gauze (a technique I introduced to Camp Touchstone kids last year). This I molded into a bold, extravagant face– very much unlike my own– painted with shining red lips and dramatic patches of thick turquoise eyeshadow, at first haltingly, then exuberantly applied.  “Are you sure?” I had asked my instructor, buzzing and incredulous. “I can paint her any way I want?”

I was hooked. Summer Camp became my annual escape– and freedom to shed the confines of a school year identity and start anew. Summer Camp offered a laboratory for creative experimentation, developing skills in the arts, communication, and self-expression, and for building peer relationships based upon shared interests rather than the social ordering of the public school cafeteria.

This is the promise and blessing of Summer Camp– students out from behind the desk, a fresh start with a new group of peers and (as is often the case) the company and attention of generous, quirky, imaginative teaching professionals who are equally delighted to be out from under the confines of the school year, guiding kids into creative terrain for which there may be no time, support or resources during the typical school year.

Summer is for camp.


Interested in sending your child to camp this year? Camp Touchstone runs weekdays July 16-27, culminating in a final performance for friends and family. Students learn about acting, playwriting, improvisation, and creating theatre as an “ensemble”. For more information, check out the brochure HERE. Space is limited – sign up today!

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