by Shannon Wade
Those who ventured into Portland Stage last week were lucky enough to hear the building filled with cries of “Expelliarmus!” “Lumos!” “Tarantallegra!,” the sounds of raucous games of Quidditch being played, and our campers working on scenes and exercises based on events from the first three Harry Potter books as well as Tales of Beetle the Bard. It was arguably the most anticipated week of the summer for campers and staff alike: Harry Potter camp. And what a week it was!
To give you a view from the organizational perspective, this was our biggest summer theater camp to date here at Portland Stage. The camp filled up so quickly that we decided to open it up and take almost double the amount of kiddos that we usually do. Jessica and I were each in charge of one group for the week, with help from some fantastic teaching assistants and high school volunteers. While we anticipated there to be some bumps along the way, the camp actually ran very smoothly.
What made me simultaneously extremely excited and anxious for this week was the opportunity to take on the role of lead teacher for this camp. Going in on Monday morning, I was confident in my skills as an educator but also nervous because I didn’t want to mess anything up! As a kid, I dreamed of the day I would receive my Hogwarts letter in the mail, read about Harry and his friends until the spines of my hardcover books were completely shot, and thought about what spells would be the most handy to fight off a Death Eater attack. I knew my campers were in the same process of excited discovery that I went through. Due to this, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it the best camp week ever. My group did pantomime work, rehearsed the “Wingardium Leviosa” scene in Charms class, created their own magical and/or Dark creature obstacle course, were reprimanded by Snape in a game called Late to Potions Class, learned Auror skills from Tonks, played three games of Quidditch, and much more!
We also had themed dress days throughout the week such as “Wear Your House Colors Day,” “Dress as your Favorite Character Day,” and “Dress Like a Wizard Dressing Like a Muggle Day.” These days were as much a joy to me as they were to my group of campers – dressing up and seeing others’ interpretations of the different characters and moments in the book made me step back and relive my childhood excitement for Harry Potter through the eyes of a new generation of readers. It’s safe to say that both the campers and the staff had a blast at Hogwarts last week. It is so exciting for me to know that my group of campers love these stories as much as I do, and I’m thrilled I could help them bring such wonderful stories to life.