Top 3 Acting Camps For Kids and Teens

The frenzy that many children face to get into the right acting school is acute for those who aspire to a career in the performing arts, and attending acting camps can be a steppingstone to Broadway or even Hollywood. The competition among these children, and among the camps vying for their tuition money, is more heated than ever.

According to the American Camp Association, the number of accredited performing arts camps grew to 804 in June 2007 from 527 in December 2001, a jump of 40 percent. Peg Smith, the organization’s chief executive, said the increase could be attributed in part to the elimination of school arts programs and the popularity of films like “High School Musical” and reality shows like “American Idol.”

Theater camp is pushing its way into mainstream pop culture. MTV recently filmed a documentary at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, a camp in Hancock, N.Y. Last month, Disney’s made-for-TV movie “Camp Rock” opened to 8.9 million viewers; a sequel is under way. Not be left out, 19 Entertainment and Fremantle Media, the companies behind “American Idol,” founded Idol Camp, where series castoffs like Bucky Covington hold master classes.

To compete in this marketplace, camps are expected to offer top-notch facilities and professional staff. French Woods recently installed a second recording studio. Last summer, campers at Stagedoor Manor participated in a youth-friendly adaptation of “Sweeney Todd,” with Stephen Sondheim e-mailing changes to the score.

Stagedoor Manor is tops in Acting Camps for Kids

Considered the gold standard of theater camps. Stagedoor, founded in 1975, caps its enrollment at 288 children a session, and spots fill up nine months ahead; campers — from precocious West Virginians to Ron Howard’s daughters — are admitted first come first served (with returning campers getting a first shot). The program is for young performers ages 10-18. Stagedoor Manor located in Loch Sheldrake, New York.

Variety article about Disney and Stagedoor Manor

Playbill article about Stagedoor Manor

Movie Maker article

Notable Alumni:

Mandy Moore
Robert Downey
Natalie Portman
Jon Cryer
Zach Braff
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Amy Ryan
Bijou Phillips
Mary Stuart Masterson
Jennifer Rudin (Director of Casting and Talent Development for Disney Theatrical Productions)

Stagedoor Manor Website

French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts

French Woods, founded in 1970, enrolls at least twice as many children as Stagedoor; over 12 weeks some 2,400 will attend the camp. French Woods is located on a private lake in the western Catskill mountains of New York State near the Delaware river and the Pennsylvania Border.

Campers are able to focus on one particular area of interest, or they may choose to select a variety of activities. We are at the same time, a theater camp, an art camp, a dance camp, a circus camp, a horseback riding camp, a sports camp, a magic camp, and a camp that offers all the traditional camp activities, with world class programs that each child can choose a-la-cart.

Notable Alumni:

Zooey Deschanel
Jon Favreau
Adam Levine
Nat Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band)

French Woods Website

Interlochen Center for the Arts

Interlochen Center for the Arts is a privately owned, 1,200 acre arts education institution in Interlochen, Michigan, roughly 15 miles southwest of Traverse City. Interlochen draws young people from around the world to participate in intensive study of music, theater, dance, art, creative writing, and motion picture arts.

In addition to participating in artistic endeavors, campers also are able to take part in traditional summer camp activities such as swimming, canoeing, sailing, camping, crafts, ping pong, billiards, cook-outs, mixers, trips to Lake Michigan, and playing sports such as soccer and softball in organized leagues, as well as tennis and basketball. Campers live in rustic cabins with up to 16 campers and one or two counselors. Campers begin their day at 6:30 in the morning to listen to announcements for that day, and end their day with slumber tunes. Slumber tunes rotate, and each night a different cabin is responsible to put something together for their cabin mates to fall asleep to.

Notable Alumni:

Felicity Huffman
Tom Hulce
Norah Jones
Kim Kashkashian
Jackson Rathbone

Interlochen Center for the Arts Website

While the average overnight camp costs $400 to $700 a week, according to the American Camp Association, Stagedoor Manor and French Woods charge closer to $5,000 for a three-week session. “Parents want to get quality for their money,” said Jennifer Rudin, the director of casting and talent development for Disney Theatrical Productions (and a Stagedoor alumna herself).

Nothing brings out the self-imposed competitiveness of these campers like a visit from an industry professional. Ms. Rudin of Disney has scouted at Interlochen and refers to Stagedoor as “one-stop shopping.”