Photos courtesy of Lauren Alexander.
Anita Maynard-Losh is Arena Stage’s director of community engagement and co-director of Camp Arena Stage. She is also one of our neighbors in Southwest.
Anita has taught in college theater departments and directed plays at Arena, as well as conceived and directed an Alaska Native–inspired production of Macbeth, and collaborated on creating original works with communities in India and Croatia.
Anita has spoken about the impact of programs in the arts on young people to Friends of Southwest DC (FOS), who has provided grants for scholarships for students to participate in programs like Camp Arena Stage and Voices of Now.
Recently I talked with her to find out more about Camp Arena Stage, which is now opening for the 13th year this summer in a four-week session (June 26-July 21) and a two-week session (July 24-Aug. 4).
Q: How did Camp Arena Stage start? Do you remember what the first summer was like?
A: Camp Arena Stage started in the summer of 2005 on the beautiful campus of Georgetown Visitation. We were a lot smaller then—I think we had 101 campers for one session, and now we have 175 in each of two sessions and many more choices in activities.
Q: What are some of the most popular activities offered at Camp Arena Stage?
A: There are more than 75 activities offered and the campers get to create their own schedules from offerings in theater, dance, music, visual arts, film-making, and writing. Some of the most popular are Improvisation, Hip-Hop, Musical Theater, Sculpture, Newspaper, and Short Films.
Q: What’s a a typical day like?
A: We start outside on what we call the Field of Dreams, where every camper meets with their small group leader and warms up for the day. Then they go off to their first of three chosen activities of the day, followed by lunch.
The highlight of the day is the Noontime Show—a variety show that campers can sign up to be in. Every day after the show, we have a recreational period full of surprise activities, and then the campers go to their last two classes of the day.
The regular camp day is from 9-4, but there is early care and extended daycare available if needed.
Q: What have campers come away with from this experience?
A: Frequently we hear the campers say that the most important thing about camp for them is the positive, supportive community that they are part of. They love the opportunity to explore a lot of different art forms taught by professional artists. They make friends and try new things and remember this as their best summer ever!
Q: What have you learned from being co-director of this program?
A: I’ve learned how important it is for young people to have a place where they are recognized and celebrated for their uniqueness, where they can try things and not need to be perfect right away, and where everyone supports each other in an atmosphere of kindness and respect. I’ve also learned what a remarkable capacity for growth and transformation young people have, and have enjoyed seeing that particularly with campers who come back year after year.
Q: Have some campers been in Arena Stage’s professional productions?
A: Yes, Emma Sophie Moore will be in Arena Stage’s production of Carousel this season, last season Sebastian Gervase was in Oliver!, and Molly Yesselson was in Akeelah and the Bee.
It is not just about making it to the big stage, but also about the possibilities of the arts. One of the FOS grantees who started as a camper went on to become a camp mentor and is now one of the teachers.
Q: How does one enroll in Camp Arena Stage? What are the requirements and deadline for applying?
A: The easiest way is to go online to the Arena Stage website: www.arenastage.org/camp/. Campers need to be between the ages of 8 and 15. Other than that there are no requirements. We have spaces now and registration stays open until we are full.
By: Sheila Wickouski