October 18, 2010

Theatre Geek

Mickey Rapkin's book, Theater Geek (The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, the famous Performing Arts Camp) is a very insightful look at this magical place in the Catskills which has provided a haven for theatre geeks for 35 years.

Rapkin, an editor at GQ and a self-confessed theatre geek, took three weeks off in the summer of 2009 to immerse himself in the camp to see what it was all about. You see, Stagedoor Manor has been building a name for itself as the premier training ground for theatre actors. It has produced household names such as Natalie Portman, Jon Cryer, Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman, Robert Downey Jr, Lea Michele, Zach Braff and well known theatre professionals such as Jeanine Tesori, Adam Pascal, Julia Murney, Michelle Federer and Jeff Blumenkrantz.

In Rapkin's book, he relays the history of Stagedoor Manor but also interwoven with it are numerous anecdotes by former campers who fondly recall their camp experience. One can tell from the interviews that the camp has been a huge part of not only their careers but also of their evolution into adulthood. Rapkin also closely followed three campers of that season: Brian Muller, Rachael Singer and Harry Katzman. All three were on their last summer at camp before they went off to college pursuing what they loved, musical theatre. The book also discusses the back story of these kids and how Stagedoor has been a safe haven. Where they could either escape a difficult family or school life, be accepted for who the are, allowed to make mistakes and also just enjoy being with friends who also love the theatre.

I found myself being taken into this world and witnessing the camper's difficulties as well as their triumphs. I have to admit that at one point I found myself wiping off tears as I had been so invested in the lives of these kids. What's also touching reading this book is coming into the realization that these incredibly talented campers have a tremendous work ethic but are also remarkably generous towards their fellow actors. Traits that they have developed because this nurturing place have instilled it in them. I would have loved to have gone to this camp!

(photo from Amazon.com)

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