Camp Improv Utopia is not the name of an improv show. Instead, it’s a delightfully immersive retro camp experience for adults who improvise. As a loyal camper, my memorabilia proudly features decals, awards, hundreds of pictures and an ample number of new Facebook friends. I am a returnee to both East (coast) Camp and Yosemite since 2015.
I usually get a quick laugh when I say the name, Camp Improv Utopia. But imagine the actual scene: 120 adults go to a mountain camp complete with cabins/big lodge that’s usually home to summer scouts. We eat camp food, stoke late night campfires, do karaoke and camp songs, hike, do arts and crafts….You get the picture. If you ever went to a ‘sleep away camp’ as a young person, this is it. In place of morning flag raising, the whole camp performs morning warmups on a big field. Thunderdome anyone?
As far as I’m concerned, improv camp has two giant pulls: people and learning. As a camper I meet improvisers from across the US and, occasionally, the world. In itself, this is pretty exciting. This is part of my improv community. Friends are made. We get to compare notes on improv, our local communities, and we ‘play’ together as improvisers. The atmosphere is welcoming, affirming, and totally playful. It’s a weekend of growing together as people and players.
The focus on learning improv is substantial. We spend eleven hours in great workshops or, in the case of Camp Yosemite, studying one form with one instructor for the entire weekend and then performing that form. Learning takes place in a relaxed, non-competitive environment that is built into the entire fabric of camp by Nick Armstrong, camp founder and Director.
(In his non-camp life, Nick is a consummate actor, writer, director, improviser, longtime member of the acclaimed ‘King Ten’ at iO West, and Artistic Director at Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater in San Diego.)
Camp instructors are at the top of the field. They are accessible, readily share their knowledge and skills plus…are totally fun to hang with. I’ve had workshops with David Razowsky, Karen Graci, Craig and Carla Cackowski, to name just a few. (I went on to study with David Razowsky when he held intensives on the east coast the following year.) In Yosemite 2016, I signed onto the Harold with Karen Graci from iO West. Eleven hours of instruction, then the class performance. Live, eat and ‘study’ with your troupe for the weekend. Total immersion. Karen is a positive person who gives really useful notes. I had several epiphanies that upped my game. Karen is very big on having a clear POV and this approach put me on the learning path to commit to clear characters ever since.
Now it’s October 2017. I’ve just finished absorbing the JTS Brown with Craig Cackowski and 19 other eager improvisers. The JTS Brown lies on the other end of my usual play spectrum (a grounded style). I first saw it performed at Yosemite Camp 2016. I was mesmerized. It felt like I was watching a dream and I experienced it on a visceral level. Watch for more on JTS Brown in another Improv Now! Blog.
And in case you are interested: East Camp will be on Labor Day weekend 2018 in Stroudsberg, PA. Seven of us from the RDU Triangle camped East in 2017. We are getting ready to register for 2018. Predicted registration is November 2017. Registration closes out quickly. See you there?