Upstage Theater Summer Camp Experience

My daughter in the Upstage Theatre School’s performance of Madagascar Junior
photo by me (Ruby Hunt)

This summer, my six-year old daughter participated in Upstage Theatre‘s Westside Summer Program. It’s a three-week, 5 days/week, 6 hour/day camp that focuses on drama and musical theatre training, culminating with a stage performance.

I heard great things about Upstage Theatre from a friend of mine and other parents. Now that my daughter has completed her first session, I am now singing their praises!

My daughter wanted to take Upstage Theatre classes ever since learning about it from her classmates, who attended the once-a-week program during the school year. “Why can’t I take Upstage?” she constantly asked. My honest answer was, “By the time I learned about it, it was too late to sign up.” It is truly a popular program, and now I can see why. Thankfully, I was able to enroll her in the first summer session of theater camp, for kids ages 5-9, where they performed “Madagascar Jr.”

Below is the “diary” I wrote each week of camp, including my thoughts after the performance.

Pre-camp

Before camp officially started, I received communication from Upstage Theatre regarding logistics and “housekeeping” items such as reminders of what to pack (two snacks, a lunch, and plenty of water). I liked how the staff was responsive to my questions, and made sure everyone received the emails. There was a last minute location change for camp, but it actually worked in our favor, as it was closer. In addition, they sent links to three songs to prepare them for the week.

Week One

On the first day, the kids were sent home with song books for the musical. I was tickled to hear my daughter singing some of the songs to herself in her room already, particularly “I Like to Move It”.

Tuesday, they held auditions. Some of the kids who took class with Upstage Theatre before were invited to audition for roles, and some of the older kids could request to audition for particular roles.

Wednesday, they assigned roles. My daughter’s characters were “Candy Hammernose” (a News Reporter) and “Bird”. They split up some of the roles between kids, so everyone has a chance to say a line. Wednesdays are also “theme days.” The first theme day was “Pajama day”, so kids could show up in their PJs (one less step to worry about in the morning).

By the end of the week, we received e-mail updates and links to more songs. We were told the kids should be off-book by Wednesday! My daughter is loving camp so far and looking forward to the following week!

Week 2

Monday and Tuesday, the kids learned about blocking for the performance. A little more than a week away, the kids are progressing at a quick pace! I love that my daughter is learning theater terminology. She is really enjoying the camp, and I think the pace is right on target. The production team at Upstage have been doing this for years, and have extensive experience working with kids of all ages and skill levels. Daily class instruction helps with memory and focuses on the goal of performing on stage.

We have a routine after I pick her up from camp (at 3pm): my daughter has a snack and tells me what she did at camp. It’s nice bonding time and I love hearing about her day. She is always so excited, and it definitely helps that she has schoolmates who also attend.

Wednesday, they were off-book. My daughter had her lines memorized and has been singing the songs all week! Oh, also the theme for this Wednesday was “dress as your favorite animal”. My kid chose “unicorn”.

Besides theatre, they also do fun crafts. This week, we were instructed to send them to camp with an empty shoebox. They came home with a pet rock with googley eyes and an environment they created for it in the box.

Week Three

This is the third and final week of camp. We received e-mails about what shoes (jazz shoes) and clothing to wear under the costumes (which were provided by Upstage Theatre) for their assigned role(s). This week is all about rehearsals and blocking!

Wednesday, the theme was “wear your favorite color”. My kid wore pink and rainbow butterflies. I was told the kids had an obstacle course activity in addition to the dress rehearsal today.

They did a fun craft this week – candy sushi! My daughter said they used Swedish fish, rice crackers, fruit roll-ups, and other items to construct it.

The venue for the performance is Emerson Middle School, and there will be two shows. I bought tickets to both, with my husband attending one.

Friday, the kids had class at the venue. After normal class time, Upstage hosted a pizza party dinner. Then, curtain call at 5:30pm! Saturday, there is an 11:00am performance, with a 9:00am call time, and a parent-volunteer led party of snacks and refreshments after the performance.

I’m so excited to see my daughter and her friends perform!

Photo by Upstage Theatre Schools

The Performance

Friday’s performance

When the curtain rose, and I spotted my kid in the opening group number, I couldn’t believe it. There she was, singing with confidence and focus. I nearly teared up. This was my kid, my very “spirited” child, who I normally have to repeat directions to more than a dozen times – standing and singing with the group, doing what she was directed to do when it mattered most. Sure, I don’t doubt she debated during rehearsals “why” and demanding reasons for things like she does at home, but there she was: my little girl looking like a BIG girl, right before my very eyes. This is the moment that mattered most.

I was so proud of her performance. She delivered her lines with gusto, danced with pure joy and definitiveness, and had a blast with her cast mates on stage. It was truly a milestone in the making.

That evening, when we got home, she told me she didn’t need a bedtime story, washed up, and put herself to bed because she needed her rest for the second day of performance!

Saturday’s Performance

Saturday, my husband dropped her off at the venue at 9:30am to prepare for the 11:00am show. My husband and I attended the show, and I was so happy to see him experience what I saw the previous night. The kids were even better the second day. Nerves were calm, and they all truly had a good time. The kids were amazing and Upstage Theatre really delivered what they promised and more. The production was on-point, the costumes looked great, and they even did the makeup and hair. The staff and everyone who worked on this show did a great job. I can’t wait to see the video recording they will provide of the performance so I can show other family members and relatives.

Thank you, Upstage Theatre, for a truly fantastic experience!

Upstage Theatre Schools


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for Upstage Theatre Schools. WestsideMommy received a class discount in exchange for sharing our honest experience.