The Upper West Side’s Play On! Studios is back this summer with their second year of in-person camp since before the start of COVID. From mid-June through Labor Day, campers Pre-K through 8th grade can immerse themselves in theater, from weekly introductory drama workshops to month-long musical theater reviews. At Play On! Studios, two summer programs run at a time: weekly sessions for kids K-4, and a month-long program for grades 4-8. In August, a five-day audition boot camp prepares students for upcoming auditions at the city’s performing arts high schools.
“It’s a great experience no matter what skill level they’re at,” says Lena Moy-Borgen, the executive director of PlayOn! Studios who notes the range of campers she works with each year. “Some kids are very beginner, and some kids can name all the different musicals they’ve seen. But they make their friends here year after year, and they want to go back”.
For younger campers, each week-long session culminates in a short play based off a book or musical — anything from “Where the Wild Things Are” to “Frozen.” At the start of each day, art projects and drama warmups get campers ready for a day of improv games, set creation, and rehearsing. Lunchtime is a trip to Riverside Park and outdoor play, before continuing prep for Friday’s performance. Campers can enroll in just one week or an entire summer of sessions, a perfect fit for busy schedules and summer travel plans.
For grades 4 through 8, Play On! Studios offers a musical theater camp, where campers spend a month preparing for a musical production. Taught by a team of dedicated counselors, campers are guided through drama exercises, vocal coaching, and set building. COVID guidelines allowing, they even get the chance to tour theaters backstage and attend a Broadway show. Past performances include “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Bat Boy” and “Pippin.”
But the fun isn’t limited to summertime. Play On! Studio offers sessions after school and during holiday breaks to relieve working parents and give kids a week of creative play. For young kids, a creative drama program is an immersive introduction to theater, where students pick a short story to be scripted and performed at the end of the semester. For older kids, scene study and improv skills are developed in theater lab. Twice a year, the musical theater program puts on a full performance.
“We have a lot of kids who’ve kind of been with us since they were very young,” says Moy-Borgen. And some love the experience so much they don’t want to leave, returning years later to go through Play On! Studio’s counselors-in-training program to become teachers themselves. “One of my very first students was a counselor in training for years and years,” recalls Moy-Borgen. “And then she became a head counselor once she graduated college, it was really special.”
To register for a summer session or learn more about Play On! Studios, visit: https://www.playonstudios.com