In normal years, the nonprofit Twin Cities Theater Camp (TCTC) offers professional quality theater training for seven dozen or more kids. Over five weeks, these six through fourteen-year-olds develop creatively in an environment where it is okay to spontaneously break into song, dramatically slide across the floor, talk endlessly about the energy of being on stage, eat lunch, play outside then go back to work. In five weeks they will evolve from kids at camp into a theater company. Friendships grow strong as they learn acting, singing, dancing skills, and expressing themselves through art.
Ninety kids were registered in less than thirty minutes for TCTC 2020, many returning for their fourth, fifth, sixth year. Then COVID-19 claimed center stage. Like many nonprofit boards, TCTC directors were faced with cancelling summer plans. Fortunately they had a management team of teachers and artists already working virtually with kids, who had ideas for building a different kind of program.
Four hours a day for three weeks, five teachers and 46 kids worked together virtually. Many parents called those hours the best their kids had experienced since March 17. In fifteen days, an eighty minute video YouTube presentation was written, produced and performed by kids and teachers for viewing by an invitation only audience. Technical wizardry made the show possible.
It’s always entertaining to watch TCTC’s productions. But unlike great finales, what stopped adult audiences this year was listening to nondramatic sections–kids talking about COVID lock down, about things they fear, and things that make them happy.
Their fears ran from scary movies and snakes to becoming sick, to losing others, to developing an illness that can’t be cured. Under their words, there is sadness about the abrupt changes with no known end. Immediate family and friends are what they value. They have sad times, days they aren’t sure they can keep going, they miss the hugs of friends and distant family, and they have sparks of happiness that keep them hopeful. Older kids also worry about societal equality struggles. While still optimistic, reality has diminished that sweet childish belief that destiny is in their hands. Until the future is more clearly understood, they get by with help from friends, parents, family and other adults who care.
A big thanks for all who are caring for kids. Virtual hugs for you.