Okay. I’ll admit it. I was a skeptic. I had been asked by founders Michelle Goldblum and Alison Leipzig to attend Soul Camp East 2016 (a sleep away camp for adults) at Camp Echo Lake in the Catskills last December. I had just finished performing in a cabaret and immediately after the performance they both ran up to me and asked me to lead a workshop on musical theater improvisation. I said yes. It looked like a lot of fun. Could all those campers be so happy? Could there really be that much love? Could it really be that much fun?
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon (8 months later) with the intention of creating space. It was good to get out of NYC and play in open fields and stare at the stars. We don’t look up in Manhattan, it’s not only a dead give away that you’re a tourist, but we’re also moving quickly on to the next thing. We have a subway to catch, or running late to an appointment, or meeting up with a friend who lives five minutes away who you still only manage to see once a year. I took advantage of every opportunity to rest, eat and laugh. There was intenSati, Yoga, chakra clearings, numerology workshops and conversations with Shamans. It was Hogwarts for the Soul.
In my accountability as Musical Theater Improv Teacher and MC for the Talent Show, I didn’t quite know how best to serve the campers. With Fearless Communicators, I work with clients to unlock their voice and unleash their story. I was not clear on how a one hour workshop, creating mini musicals, could have a similar impact. No need to worry on my part, in the three workshops I led, voices were unlocked and stories were unleashed! In teams of 5-6, campers improvised and performed original mini musicals set at Camp. They plots ranged from an Alien Invasion to Mother Theresa running away from a traveling circus to become Camp Director. The teams created a narrative arc using 5 snippets of songs to tell the story. The five songs fit into the following order: Opening Number, I Want Song, Song of Villain/Antagonist, Climax Song, Grand Finale. Several participants shared that they were terrified of performing and had a breakthrough in allowing themselves to sing and dance in public. Some participants had been shutdown as children and told they had no business singing. Some participants had studied theatre and had not performed in years, embittered by the business of "show business". Most participants who attended the workshop said they came because it was the course on the schedule that most terrified them. Perfect opportunity to give away FEARLESS bracelets! One woman shared with me that after my class, and with the fearless bracelet on her wrist, she went to the sky village obstacle course that included a zip line. She confessed to me that she would never have done that before my class. From show tunes to zip lines! How's that for Fearless!!!!!
Being the MC for the Talent Show proved to be an even greater gift. More than the witty banter and silly introductions, I was most pleased with the intention of generosity for the festivities. The occurring to me of most talent shows is a selfish and unbearable. "HEY THERE! LOOK AT ME! LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!" The evening was anything but unbearable. We sat for three hours - without an intermission- mesmerized as campers, counselors, and teachers shared personal stories, original songs, silly acts, and choreography. People bared their souls and it was a gift to behold. The performances also became an opportunity for the performers to practice being acknowledged. Several times I had to call the performer back onstage to give them the space to receive the acknowledgement of their community.
So I’m now back in Brooklyn, caverns of internal space created, and reflecting on the experience of Soul Camp 2016. The work that I do now with clients: voice, body, fearless self expression, acknowledgement was all present not only in what I was teaching at the camp, but most importantly in who I was being at the camp. It didn’t look exactly like the workshops I lead now and none of that matters. The campers were courageous, playful and fearlessly self expressed. I'm excited to see what they create.
I am not a Soul Camp skeptic any longer. I’m all in. Can't wait 'til next year. #namaste #nailingit #yas