Education and Outreach
For the first time in the history of the Drama Desk Awards, Camp Broadway (based in New York and offered annually in July at The Smith Center) received a special award on June 5 for its 20-year history of making a difference in the cultural life of kids.
The annual Drama Desk Awards honor outstanding achievement by professional theater artists on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. The awards are voted on by theater critics, journalists, editors and publishers who cover the theater. It is the independence of this group that makes this recognition so prestigious.
Kerry Dineen, Community Engagement Manager for Camp Broadway, explains the special award: “In our case, Camp Broadway is being honored for playing a crucial role in helping to cultivate tomorrow’s audiences. They’re acknowledging the fact that, through our programs for more than 20 years, we’ve introduced young people to the magic of theater and exposed them to this new art form that they can learn from.” The key, according to Dineen, is to inculcate this appreciation. “Whether they grow up to be a star on Broadway or grow up to be a veterinarian who likes to go to the theater, we’re helping cultivate those audiences,” she notes.
Camp Broadway has expanded to 12 cities around the country, including Las Vegas. Here’s how Camp Broadway works: For “Classic Camp,” 100 kids are split into two groups of 50 for two show productions. Camp Broadway sends a director who oversees the whole group, plus a choreographer, a music director, and two staff members (featured players) who serve as counselors for each of the two groups.
While “Classic Camp” is in 12 cities, “Shining Stars,” a program for six to nine year olds, is only offered in New York and Las Vegas. An alumnus of the Smith Center’s “Shining Stars,” Christopher Convery, is now on Broadway performing in Kinky Boots. He made his Broadway debut at the ripe old age of eight!
Las Vegan Brayden Zhang could become another Christopher Convery. He is eight years old and into his third year at Camp Broadway. His mother, Kari, sees the change in him since he started Camp Broadway. “I had to explain it to him” to sign him up, recalls Kari. “He was apprehensive at first, but after the first day, he loved it.”
Kari is delighted with “his confidence and just his excitement about it. I know he likes the arts, but it’s kind of hard to figure out how to introduce your kid to that type of thing in a positive environment.” Brayden takes the confidence he gained at Camp Broadway to his school, where he more fully participates in class. “The first year he decided he wanted to take drum lessons and so you can kind of see how the ball is rolling in his head from just getting the Camp Broadway start because that was his first introduction to everything.”
That’s the magic of theater, either stimulating kids to develop their talents to possibly perform on Broadway, or giving them confidence to try other things and perform better in class.
Both Camp Broadway, and the kids they inspire, deserve an award!