Sixteen years ago, Jordan decided that she wanted to go to theater camp. Without any parental guidance (sleep away camp was one of lifes most horrific experiences for me), she found a camp in the advertising section of the New York Times Magazine, and sent away for the video. Jordan has never deviated from her dream of success in musical theater, and this was her first step.
We were apprehensive about sending her when she was so young, but at the insistence of Joyce Kravitz –who actually liked sleep away camp, we made a million phone calls and eventually, reluctantly agreed it would be OK, but only for three weeks. In the spring preceding her stay, during Passover (it was close to where we celebrated), David and I took a ride up to look at the camp. It was horrible. Run down, overgrown, in the middle of nowhere, and a fire trap. I cried the entire way home, but it was too late to change the plan. She would never have forgiven us and, furthermore we had already sent a substantial deposite.
When we arrived for the second session at stage door, (she chose that one), we were relieved to find that they had tidied up. There were people in costumes, kids singing broadway tunes in the lobby/reception area, the children looked normal (for theater kids), and everyone was happy. When we left her at the old Catskill hotel, we were a bit nervous, but not as hysterical as we had been in the spring.
There was no communication the first week. It was difficult for us not to know what was going on in her life –we had been her life up until that summer. In the beginning of the second week we got the information about the shows, and how much fun she was having. We also got an invitation from the camp to join them for a special modeling program. Let me say this. They never expected any parents to come. And in fact, we were the only parents in attendance. She was embarrassed beyond words about our presence and at the end of the evening sign off (the Queen’s greeting, elbow, elbow,wrist,wrist, touch your pearls and blow a kiss) we escaped.
From that time one, until her departure eight years later, we showed up for nothing but the final performances and teary goodbyes –in which David always participated. Over the years, we watched all those kids grow, flourish and even become stars. But for us, the most joyous time were when they (too many to count), came into NY between sessions and stayed in our small one bedroom, one bathroom apartment. It was always a colorful pajama party and I think we liked it as much as they did. Jordan still remains friends with any number of those campers.
The year after Jordan completed her Stage Door tenure, our nephew decided he wanted to attend. So back we went for his performances. It was always a delight. What we learned over the years was that despite offering classes like swimming and tennis, there wasn’t a camper who participated in anything but the shows. You can see that in the final results. Every show is as credible as any community theater production (much better than a high school production).There are so many theater kids who feel that they don’t fit into the regular school programs. But here, they found that they were not weird, or the exception. They learn how to develop self confidence. They become comfortable with themselves and achievements. And even thoughthere are no sports, they become team players. There were no downsides – except maybe the costs. But well worth it for what they learn about the world and themselves. We are big advocates for Stage Door, and places that encourage children to be at peace with who they are. And don’t we all wish that as children, we had that opportunity. And so, we bid a loving farewell to Stage Door Manor, but we will always have the camp in our memories; Elbow, Elbow, Wrist, Wrist, Touch your Pearls, and we Blow You a Kiss. We're Just Sayin... Iris