Written by Tracy Coogle
Last Friday night was anything but quiet. Sixty-five Girl Scouts, 20 or so chaperones and scout leaders, plus about 15 volunteers and theatre teachers all packed into the historic Empire Theatre for Theatre IV’s first ever professional children’s theatre camp-in.
Barksdale has worked in strategic partnership with Theatre IV, the Children's Theatre of Virginia, since 2001. As a general rule, Barksdale works with teens, adults and seniors; Theatre IV works with children, families and schools. And now scout troops too.
This theatre camp-in was designed as a fun way to introduce young girls and boys to the wonderful world of theatre. The program meets Girl Scout and Boy Scout badge requirements, and (shhhhh….don’t tell the kids it was educational) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the performance presented at the camp-in) also address several SOLs.
Friday night was all girls and all scouts. The evening began with all the kids checking in and getting their sleeping assignments. Many brought bag dinners and giggled and chatted excitedly, waiting to enter the theatre.
At 6:45, all 100 of us were seated in the beautiful, 98-year-old Empire for our own private performance of the creepy October classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This is the same show Theatre IV takes on tour around the country. Did you know Theatre IV tours to 32 states?!
Following the performance, the cast answered a barrage of questions from the excited girls, ranging from the theatrical—“How do you change costumes so quickly?”—to the personal—“What’s your favorite food?” I think the cast enjoyed it as much as the Brownies and Girl Scouts..
Following the Q&A, the kids were sent out to the first of five workshop stations: Stage Combat, Lights and Sound, Acting, Mask Making, and Stage Makeup. The teachers at each station were theatre professionals—actors, teachers, technicians and designers. Since Theatre IV is the Children’s Theatre of Virginia, we have a LOT of outstanding resources at our disposal.
After the first three busy, fun-filled stations, the girls all went to their assigned sleeping spaces, rolled out their sleeping bags on the floors, and went to bed. Bedtime was 11, lights-out 11:30. So that I could “keep an eye and ear” on the lobby (I’m a light sleeper when I’m working with kids), I decided the Box Office would be the best place for me to sleep…WRONG!!! City buses come by every five minutes!
We repeat the program tonight, and I’ve already staked out a cozy, out-of-the-way spot in the balcony. Bring on the ghosts and spiders; I don’t care as long as they’re quiet.
This morning (Saturday), my fellow volunteer Stephanie and I set up breakfast tables at 6:00 am. Christina and Slade Billew picked up the coffee (hallelujah), milk, juice and bagels (yum) from Panera, a generous sponsor of our sleep over program.
The girls ate between 7 and 7:45, packed their bedrolls, and then went on to the two final stations.
Two girls were nearly in tears and threatened to quit their soccer teams when they had to leave the theatre early to attend soccer games. One leader said it was “the best overnight camp-in we’ve ever attended!” I responded, “Great…since this is our first, we welcome any constructive comments that we can apply to future camp-ins.” The scout leader stared in disbelief. “No,” she said, “you must be wrong. This can’t be your first. It’s so well run and organized!”
I assured her that this sleep over was indeed our first, and it began as just a fleeting suggestion on a train ride home from New York last March. (Thanks, Bruce & Phil, for humoring my crazy idea!!)
But trying to be objective, I have to say I agree with her. As an observer and “extra pair of hands” volunteer, it was the best-run camp-in I had ever seen. I lead two Girl Scout troops, and co-lead a third—so I have 7+ years of kid camp-in experience!
All the well-deserved kudos go to Christina Billew, our head teacher and organizer. Her children’s education background, acting experience, and the fact that she grew up with Theatre IV made her the perfect staff choice to run this event. None of us realized HOW perfect. I was very impressed with her level of detail, organizing every little aspect of the evening.
We have our second camp-in tonight, and this time, MY troops and three daughters get to attend. I’m really excited to be returning. I love my job!
--Tracy Coogle, CPA and Controller of Theatre IV and Barksdale Theatre, recipient of 40 Under 40 recognition from STYLE Weekly, 2009