Thinking Outside the Box: Murray's Playhouse in the Park Transitions to Virtual Summer Camp

May 28, 2020

As social distancing guidelines continue into the summer months, summer camps are being forced to find new ways to adapt their traditional format. Lisa Cope, executive director of Murray's Playhouse in the Park, speaks with Tracy Ross about Playhouse's upcoming summer camp program and the process of transitioning to an online format for the first time. 

Murray's Playhouse in the Park is used to hosting an annual summer camp for kids of all ages, but within our new, socially distanced "normal," the camp's format was required to change. "This is brand new to us," Cope says of the transition to virtual camp. "We're used to that, 'oh, camp sold out in two hours, we're done.' People just have a lot of questions about it, and rightfully so."

Cope explains that many parents were wary of a summer camp program that required large amounts of screen-time. After schools were required to switch to NTI [non-traditional instruction] programs to finish the school year, parents told Cope, "we don't want our kids sitting in front of the screen all day. We don't want this to be like school." To help keep kids engaged in the camp program without sitting at the computer all day, Playhouse has split their daily schedules into two video conferences and a self-led activity, task, or assignment. 

After completing the daily task presented in their morning Zoom meeting, "they'll meet back in the afternoon...and talk about what they did, what they made, whatever the activity is," Cope explains. "That way, they can break it up during the day [and] do it on their own time. We've tried to make [activities] that mom and dad don't have to really oversee and help with. We've tried to be really mindful of all those things and still make it really fun and not feel like school. I've got some creative [camp instructors]. They are doing good stuff and coming up with some really good ideas...getting the kids up and moving around. I think it will be good. I really do."

"Each class will have an instructor that's with the kids every day," Cope continues. "I think most of [the instructors] are planning to bring in guests for certain days or certain activities. The main instructor for each class will be the person at the Zoom sessions, because that's part of what our camp is - building those relationships - so we wanted to keep that."

Along with the daily Zoom meetings, camp-goers will also pick up their own 'camp box' the week before camp starts. The boxes contain a bag for each day of camp. "You can't open your bag until that morning of camp during your Zoom meeting," Cope explains. "Then inside that bag will be all the things the kids need to do these activities." 

Playhouse in the Park will be offering eight summer camp classes

Grades K-4:
Princess University, June 1 - 5
Spend a week where everything is magical! Act out a princess story, make an artist design - there is sure to be singing and dancing! 

Pirates of Playhouse, June 8 - 12
Aaaarrr, matey! Activities will include a treasure hunt, cool pirate crafts and games, a pirate snack, and other secret, pirate-y plans! 

Grades 1-3:
Screen Sing, June 15 - 19
Mr. Todd Terry and his friend, Puccini, will keep you smiling as you learn different elements of music. Each day will bring its own fun, new activity - but every day will include drumming! 

Grades K-9:
A Wizarding Experience, June 22 - 26
Are you brave or loyal? Maybe wise or cunning? Find out with a fun house sorting game! You will create illusions, cast spells, design your own wand, and many other wizarding activities. 

Grades K-7:
Pip Frozen Over, July 6-17
Enjoy many of the activities that make camp so much fun, all with a Frozen theme. Do you want to build a snowman?!

Grades 1-7:
Glamour and Gore, July 27-August 1
Face off in this virtual make-up camp! Each day you will explore the wonderful world of theatrical make-up. Learn how to create fantasy characters, old age, villains, animals, and some gory wounds!

Grades 4-7:
Thinking About Theatre Workshop, selected dates during weeks of June 8 and June 15
This camp is designed for the "serious-minded" actor, although every day will be so much fun!

Grades 4-6:
Puppets 101, July 20-24
Create your very own puppets, then entertain your family with a puppet show! 

For more information, visit the Playhouse in the Park website or contact executive director Tracy Cope at 270-759-1752 or playhouse@murray-ky.net. 

As far as "normal" performances go, Cope says, "we do think it will be a while before we're back in the theatre just because of what we do and the space we do it in. So in trying to think about that, we are thinking about some outdoor things. Hopefully, we'll have some information...as early as next week as to some things that we're hoping to put into play. Of course, we have to wait on the park for their opening day and all those kinds of things. I've had conversations with the health department."

"We want to be safe. We want to do this right. We don't want to get in a hurry, but of course we're anxious to get back to doing what we do. These are hard days...it'll keep you awake at night," Cope concludes.