• Chris Cyrus

Creatures and Characters Coming to Camp

Nobody likes a spoiler so we won't remove any of the elements of surprise from your camp experience, but we just can't resist and not share a little sneak preview of the types of characters that may appear this summer.


WHAT MAKES OUR CHARACTERS WORK


We like to keep things fresh. Creatures and characters will be rotating and changing fairly regularly. Some will only appear in the virtual camp, others only at the in-person camp in Sturbridge, and some will only be around for one session or even less! Every character is interactable with the campers, providing unique opportunities for roleplay. Just be careful who you choose to trust, heroes.


According to Haley Mosher, our Camp Director, the curriculum writers will make a plan “and then see what the kids like.” Sometimes campers respond to a wicked villain with “this is our best friend,” and then teach the character to become good. The campers' ideas directly influence the characters, as well as the needs of the story.


Paul Spanagel, our Curriculum Coordinator, observed that sometimes campers are “suspicious of people who are overly friendly. Here’s Robin Hood. I don’t know, he seems shifty; you’re really trying to trick us.” Heroes will have to figure out which characters are good or not, and their roles in the story may change. Nothing's set in stone in Sidleterra.


Some classic, long-standing characters will return to Sidleterra this year, including the ever-popular fairies, who are usually not evil. Paul said they are “benevolent tricksters” who can “be helpful or make things complicated or confusing.” Goblins and cyclops will show up, and the Naga will also be there, the “serpentine folk who live in rivers and bogs; they’re proud, stand-offish, and territorial.” Hsss.


BRINGING CLASSIC STORIES TO LIFE


Paul disclosed, “there will be three important narrative worlds this year: Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, and Greek epics like The Odyssey and The Iliad.” Paul will play the role of Friar Tuck, from Robin Hood. We can expect characters like Robin Hood, Lady Marian, Little John, King Richard the Lionheart, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Prince John. Oo De Lally, golly what a summer!


From Alic in Wonderland, there is a “good versus evil paradox,” Paul noted. “Many characters are bound up in patterns that are dissonant to others. Some cause chaos and confusion, like the Mad Hatter, but the White Rabbit tries hard to keep things running smoothly. There will be appearances from the Queen of Hearts and her retinue.” Haley said that since the Woodland Realm speaks to animals, the Cheshire Cat may show up there.

Paul remarked that “there are always some particularly strong monsters or entities that you can’t really talk to, so when they show up, everyone’s in trouble. For example, the Jabberwocky comes from [the] Wonderland [sequel] and will show up and cause some problems. Odysseus came across creatures of the land and sky.” Paul hinted that some villains at camp might have similar weaknesses to some of the dangerous characters in those books.


INTERACTING WITH EVIL


One summer, the camp theme was based on George Orwell’s book 1984. One of the campers figured that out, went home, and had read half the book by the next day. He then helped his fellow heroes figure out which characters to trust. “Reading the books won’t provide all the answers, but can be helpful,” Paul said.


Haley explained that having evil characters at camp “teaches conflict resolution skills. It’s not just about defeating villains, but [conflicts can be more subtle, like] understanding their value system. Some kids are from different cultures. There are villains that have to resolve turf wars. Kids learn team building and solve puzzles. If it all went OK all the time, it’d be boring. Conflict makes it interesting. Why am I invested? Because you want to figure out the solution.”


Haley and Paul realize that heroes can learn both life skills and academic skills at camp. Paul commented that “conflict resolution” [is a] way to explore ethics and morality. Not every conflict needs to be solved by the point of the sword. They may just disagree on two valid things, on which is more important. We may still agree that something is just wrong. [Heroes] employ critical thinking skills: Is the person evil? Are their intentions selfish, malicious, or simply desperate? Did they have no other options? Are they the only skills they’re comfortable employing? Without people doing wrong, it’s impossible to separate the intention from the behavior. If this was an accident, you didn’t mean to hurt people, but you did; is that OK?”


PACE YOURSELVES


Some battles might be fast and physically demanding, while others may go more slowly and require more thought. Haley observed that “pacing is really important. We find a mix of fast and slow conflicts. We make sure there are enough things to engage kids and also have a break so they don’t have to be in character all the time.”


Paul calculated that the Lord of the Rings series was about 10–12 hours of film, equivalent to 2–3 days of camp plot, “but much of the time, those characters [in the movies] aren’t having fun. Our participants are kids who have a ceiling after which they need a break.” Haley assured us that “our hero leaders make sure the kids are engaged [and that we keep up with what’s popular because it] changes over time.”


Sometimes, taking a break is for a meal. This year, meals will take place in the historic Publick House Inn, complete with a gourmet chef. Paul added that the building is “not just the place where we’ll eat, it’ll be part of the story. It’s one of the most immersive venues we’ve had in many years. You can feel the age and the stories when you’re walking through it. We’ll layer our stories on top of it. We’re excited to have such an enchanting venue this year.”


We can't wait to share these stories, characters, and our new location with all of you this summer! If you haven't yet done so, we strongly encourage you to register for camp sooner rather than later as some sessions are 1 to 2 spots away from being sold out. We also offer virtual day camps for those not ready for in-person, want a shorter commitment, or live in another kingdom. Contact us today and discover which adventure is the perfect fit for you!


You can also register now at https://www.thestoryschool.org/2021-summer-camps

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