Pirkei Avot records our ancient sages attempts to identify the three pillars on which our world stands. In this spirit, I want to offer my own statement of the three things upon which the World of Theater at Ramah Darom relies: Courage – Ometz, Kindness – Chesed and Flexibility – Gimishut. Reflecting on over 10 years of experience as the Rosh Drama (Head of Drama), I would like to share with you three powerful stories from the stage that really capture the magic of how children’s lives are transformed because of the immersive life at Camp.
Courage – Ometz
“I have terrible stage fright, I just can’t perform”, says a quiet, fearful camper. She decides to try a different chug (activity). I try to convince her that there is nothing to be afraid of, that her friends will support her and she can have a smaller role in the play. There was no convincing her, she moved on. A week later, I’m at a Shabbat Tefilah and I see and hear this same camper, chanting from the Torah, completely confident in her ability. I can see that she has the ability to be on stage, the “Bimah”, not yet the “Bamah”. I approach her and praise her for her beautiful reading and how confident she was. I drop a hint that she really has the capacity to get over her stage fright. She smiles. A week later, she walks by a rehearsal of a dance that I’m conducting on stage during free time. She sees what’s going on, and gives some suggestions for the choreography. It turns out she loves to dance, and I invite her to join. She finds a partner and jumps on stage. After the play, she grins from ear to ear. “I did it! I got over my stage fright.”
Kindness – Chesed
“I know he can do it! He’s very motivated and really excited about having the lead role”, says a devoted counselor about his camper. I hesitate, will this be too much for this camper who is being supported by our Tikvah program? I decide to wait until the auditions. The auditions go really well, and based on his talent, he gets the part. I still worry. Have I given him too big of a role? He is really struggling with the Hebrew. I continue to encourage him, give him transliteration, shorten his lines – anything that will help him to succeed and feel good about himself. I still worry. The days go by, the play is only a couple of days away and he is not ready. Did I make the right decision? Then, I watch the interactions of the counselors that are helping and encouraging him. I especially become aware of his fellow campers, how they come up with ideas to help and take the burden off of him while still allowing him to feel completely successful. Tears well up as I watch the love and kindness of his peers gently lift him up and he says, “I did it!” “I had the lead role!”
Flexibility – Gimishut
Another play, it’s dress rehearsal and the night before the actual performance. Two of the actors don’t show up. Where are they? Why aren’t they coming? When we find them, at first there are excuses, but then the truth comes out. They really don’t want to perform, even though they helped create the script and their own characters. It’s just not what they are comfortable doing. I know these campers very well and I must find a way to involve them. I tell them that we will try to find two other campers to fill in the next day. I look at the two actors, their faces relax and a whole new determination takes over, as they step into their roles behind the scenes, moving the set pieces and walking signs across the stage. The next day, two very excited actors join. They have no problem getting up in front of their peers and are grateful for another chance to perform in a play. “We did it” Another successful production, with happy campers fulfilling their dreams.
These are only a few of the many stories I have been privileged to witness over the years. I have watched many children grow and mature before my eyes. They are like my very own children. We pray together, eat meals together, sing, dance and laugh together. I see them fulfilling their roles as counselors, nurturing the next group of Chanichim. It always warms my heart to hear them sing songs in Hebrew from their Kochavim Play that they still remember from when they were campers.
Theater at Camp is so powerful because we plant the seeds and we are privileged to watch them grow. This is the transformational Torah of Theater at Ramah Darom. Etz Chayim Hi – It is a tree of life to all who hold fast to it, and all of its supporters are happy. While the doors to the stagehouses have finally closed for the summer, many hearts have been opened.
It’s amazing what can happen in just a few short weeks. Below are a few pictures of our campers making magic on stage this summer.