Drama in the Woods: a summer camp experience
NOTE: I did not follow my own rule: puppet and drama workshops are not intended to result in a performance. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.
Camp Feliciana program overview:
I used rotation.org resources for a storytelling, puppet, and drama workshop that was a daily part of a weeklong overnight summer camp for the Presbytery of South Louisiana. Each day of camp had a focus Bible story or theme, which was explored in a morning small group Bible study. After that, campers had a choice of several different workshops or activities that they signed up for at the beginning of the week (things like art, drama, nature, service). In the Storytelling, Puppet, and Drama Workshop, campers creatively interpreted the Bible story or theme for an evening performance. The campers were not required to memorize “lines,” but they did learn the story “by heart” as they worked with it that morning. We had a brief rehearsal immediately after dinner before the rest of the campers arrived for the day’s performance as part of the evening activities. (On Friday night the performance was part of the closing worship service.) There were two sessions of camp, so the five workshops were repeated (and improved upon) the second week of camp.
Camp Feliciana Storytelling, Puppet, and Drama Workshop - My Proposal:
The goal of the Storytelling, Puppet, and Drama Workshop is to encourage the campers to creatively interpret the day’s Bible story through performance. In a 1½ hour session, the end product is not a polished performance, but a creative interpretation of a Bible story that promotes understanding for both the actors and the audience. Emphasis is not on the facts, but on understanding the feelings, thoughts, and motivation of Bible characters and also on the sequence of events, with a bit of personal life application added.
The campers will not be required to memorize “lines,” but they will need to learn the story “by heart.” That is, they will be able to retell the story in their own words. Some may want to spend their “FOB time” (Flat on Back, rest time) that day reviewing and studying and thinking about the story. Talent is not necessary for a quality experience in this workshop. However, a willingness to work with a small group to share the day’s story in front of the larger group is necessary.
The story and performance medium for each day’s activities will be selected in advance, but the campers will use their imaginations to create the production for the evening’s performance. There will be a brief rehearsal immediately after dinner before the rest of the campers arrive for the performance. (On Friday night the performance will be part of the closing worship service.)
Workshop time may include making props, puppets, and scenery as well as studying and internalizing the Bible story/ies. The troupe for each day is limited to 10 people. Each day we start from scratch, so it is not necessary to participate each day. Nothing is repeated so participating more than one day also is not a problem.
Bible stories were selected based on the overarching curriculum used for the week at camp:
- 2000: Belonging to God: A First Catechism (PCUSA)
- 2001: No Matter What (New Earth Christian Resources for the Outdoors)
- 2002: The StoryTeller Series: Stories Jesus Told (VBS curriculum from Christian Board of Publication, 1996)
My lesson source: the workshop techniques varied for each of the five days of camp and were gleaned from lessons at rotation.org and from the source curricula listed above. We included:
- Puppet shows (including making puppets - instructions for making the puppets are attached below)
- Object theater puppets
- Readers’ theater
- Storytelling (where the participants learned a parable and retold it)
- Creative dramatics (guided drama)
- Interviews/news report
- Creative movement
Some of my lessons are posted at rotation.org. (Others were adapted from lessons already at the site, so I did not bother reposting; and still others relied on scripts from other sources that were copyrighted, so I could not share them at this site.)
Budget: I was paid a very small honorarium for planning and leading this workshop. I used costumes and props that I had. The camp paid for consumables (supplies for making puppets and props) and made copies of scripts. Puppet stages were tables with tablecloths or big cardboard boxes.
Staffing: I led the workshop (which may be why, looking back, my lesson plans were outlines and not well fleshed out...). One or two camp counselors were assigned to assist me each morning. (They did not prepare – I’m not sure if they even read the lesson in advance….. It still worked.)
Useful applications: In addition to a module at an overnight summer camp, this type of activity could also be used for a Saturday morning program or could be a module in a weeklong arts camp (where art workshops and music workshops are also part of the activities).
This was before the days of digital cameras, but here are some some scanned snapshots to give you a feel for the setting and the variety. (click pictures to enlarge)