A Moment in the Woods: Stagedoor Manor Immerses Students in Theatre With In the Heights, Bloody Bloody and More

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08 Aug 2013

A scene from <i>Tommy</i>.
A scene from Tommy.

Stagedoor Manor, the famed theatre camp that inspired the 2003 comedic drama "Camp" as well as the 2010 novel "Theatre Geek," immerses aspiring performers in a world of theatre in the Catskills of New York State. Playbill.com spent a moment in the woods at Stagedoor, where students are challenged to mount a full production in approximately ten days.


It was "Dress Rehearsal Day" July 25 at Stagedoor Manor — the famous performing arts summer camp located two hours outside of New York City in Loch Sheldrake, NY — and makeup was being applied at 9 AM. Campers ages 10-18 were preparing for their first audience members: each other.

Thirteen productions at Stagedoor were getting their first run-throughs — complete with lighting and costumes — following a limited rehearsal period, in which students were learning the entirety of musicals and plays Les Misérables, Our Town, The Young and the Fair, Pilgrims of the Night, A… My Name is Alice, Annie, Elsewhere in Elsinore, Chicago, 42nd Street, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Who's Tommy, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and the highly-anticipated In the Heights. Half of the shows performed in the morning (with the remaining casts acting as the audience members), and sets were changed during lunch for a switch in the afternoon.

Although each production looked practically polished for its dress rehearsal, it was only a ten-day rehearsal period — with limited access to a cell phone and the Internet — that led the campers to the finish line.

"You have ten days to put on a show," explained the 17-year-old star of Tommy, Derek Speedy, who came from Chester, NJ, for his tenth session at Stagedoor and played the title role. "By the time we find out what show we're in [and] what our role is, we have ten days to get it all up and running, and then it's tech week. You have three days of tech, and then you go into your dress rehearsal, and it's the first time that another cast will watch you perform. It's the first time we have an audience."

"It's a totally different feeling, really," added Speedy's younger version in the show, Owen Cumming, 13, who played Young Tommy.


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