Let me take you back to April of 2010. I was deep into Phoenix Improv Festival hospitality management – making sure that all our visiting troupes were checked into the Holiday Inn Express downtown. I had just said hello to my one of my favorite visiting improvisors Nick Armstrong in the hallway just beyond the lobby – as we split up to go our separate ways and I was on to my next order of business – Nick shouted down the hall to me “you won’t have to work this hard at Camp Improv Utopia!” and my immediate response was “I’m in!” He had just launched the announcement of the very first Camp coming up the next year in May 2011 at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, California. I was in – the concept sounded amazing. Going back to a camp atmosphere with a bunch of adult improvisors, taking workshops and sharing our passions with around 100 like minded people, learning, growing, networking – sounded amazing. And so, after Festival weekend that year – I registered and put my check in the mail. Little did I know – I would be the first camper ever. It’s hard to revisit the experience that far back. I remember lots of great moments and the connections I made that I’d like to think are still prevalent today. I not only got to learn from Susan Messing at that camp – something I would have previously needed to go back to Chicago to do – but I also got to socialize with her on a peer level. Perhaps that is the most amazing aspect of Camp – or one of the amazing aspects. We all strive for greatness – therefore we all strive to learn from the greats before us and the Camp atmosphere is just that, a bunch of peers learning and sharing with each other. There are no egos – therefore – people like Craig Cackowski, Susan Messing, Paul Vaillancourt, Dave Razowski, Jamie Moyer, Karen Graci, Brian O’Connell, Kevin Mullaney – among a few to mention – are just another camper. Not only does camp connect you with your immediate community members who share the experience – but also the national community who are all just trying to bring things back home with them. Things evolved out of this camp – more festival submissions due to the amazing networking site for improvisors, now called Improv Network, which was born out of the Bill Binder, Nick Armstrong connection – more visiting cities outside of festivals, more sharing knowledge with other theaters and ultimately – a national community that is more connected – to the point that you can visit any city – on business, on vacation – passing through and you can find a theater to visit, play or even teach a workshop at, and those communities treat you like family.
I’m compelled to share this experience on my blog because I just returned from my third year at Camp East in the Pennsylvania Poconos. I had only gone to the first two years of Camp West. I chose not to continue because I was trying to have a baby – to no avail. Please don’t be sad about that – life is just how it is always supposed to be – but after that third year I chose not to attend again – Camp West blew up and sold out before it was even open a week – now going into it’s sixth year – if you don’t stay up all night and submit every minute – you may not make it. However there are great perks to being on the waitlist so submit anyway! In 2013 Nick approached me regarding his decision to add a Camp East – in the Poconos of Pennsylvania and assist in registration. I happily accepted as it was work that I was already doing for the Torch Theatre and felt very proficient at. And so it began – building the culture again and linking the East coast into the amazing community that is Camp Improv Utopia. Now after our third year and at a new Camp this year – Camp Trout Lake – East has become a beautiful thing – more beautiful than imaginable. Don’t get me wrong, the first two years were great – and many campers returned – as counselors and campers in the know, comfortable and excited. However, this year – going backwards for a brief moment, I missed the wonderful experience of year three out West – but so thrilled to have committed to it at East. I always say when teaching group games – it takes one to inspire the idea, it takes two to support it – it takes three to make it a game. And what a beautiful game it is! — please, please, please – as an improvisor of any level – I highly recommend this experience. This year in 2016, Improv Utopia introduced a third camp – Camp Yosemite – I didn’t go – as I was being reserved with travel and money – but the experience those campers had, at another beautiful location this time focusing on formats all weekend, permeates off of them like an aura of enlightenment.