Updated: Mar 20
Say hello to our Digital Media Intern, the extremely talented Sammy Webb! Sam (they/them) is currently hard at work designing a variety of artwork for The Story School and plans to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (affiliated with the MFA in Boston) in the fall. We wish them only the best of luck but before they step into the future, let's take a look back at their past...
DISCOVERING A NEW ADVENTURE
Before experiencing camp, Sam always enjoyed humanities like art, history, storytelling, and making things, taking advantage of their dad’s machine shop at home. The rest of the family is more into STEM; their dad is an engineer, their mom works in the pharmaceutical industry, and their brother wants to build computers. That certainly doesn’t stop any of them, least of all Sam, from enjoying the fun of creating.
Back at age 13, their friends became more interested in sports, but Sam’s interests were nerdy, like playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and reading stories.
Sam is a voracious reader, they were the kid always taking piles of books home from the library, with interests in fantasy, mythology, alchemy, and science fiction; always with secrets, adventures, and heroes.
One day, while watching Doctor Who clips on YouTube, there was an ad for our camp that captured their attention right away. Soon after they started attending our Blackwatch Camp, the grittier and darker roleplaying class designed for teenaged heroes (and villains). Blackwatch introduced them to the world of live-action role-playing (LARP), all comfortably set in an educational, teen-friendly environment.
“It was the setting I needed to be in, where I could be comfortable in my own skin,” they explain. “It was my first exposure to the LGBTQ community. I got to meet people and learn about that, and I could talk about it with friends. It’s where I was first exposed to neuro-divergent campers. The first thing that changed me at camp was the people, interacting with everyone, being part of a diverse crowd. I attribute my introduction to various aspects of my own identity to camp, and am really thankful for it.”
FINDING THEIR VOICE
When Sam first arrived at camp they “had a whole world to explore. You’re part of it, and can change things and make things magical. As a kid, that’s the dream, peak fun! It kept encouraging me to be creative, in a way that’s easy to explore. Public school is a little more stifled, but at camp you go for the crazy ideas, and friends say ‘that’s cool, let’s turn it into this!’ and you run with it.” Their personality blossomed, and storytelling developed, which went everywhere in their daily life: when it was time for gardening, they’d pretend to be a faerie or have a laser beam or a shield.
Sam is now “comfortable being the weird, nerdy kid. It’s what’s normal at camp. Everyone is into that stuff. I may want to hit people with [foam] swords or tell stories, and I can indulge in interests that I wouldn’t otherwise have started exploring, [like] D&D, game design versus straight [narrative] writing, improv and presenting to someone, create a character or an essay, completely built at camp. By the end of my time at camp, I was practically giving lectures to bad guys, being secure in my interests and my identity.” This changed how they interacted with others, too. “I’m eager to hear about other people’s interests even if I don’t know a lot about them.” Sam went from being “a shy, 13-year-old kid who didn’t know what to do with their life to being somebody who is more than excited about storytelling, and is confident in myself.”
BECOMING A MONSTER (CAMPER)
By their late teens, Sam was fascinated with The Story School camp’s magic and became a Monster Camper: a teenaged assistant camp counselor. This magic was a combination of stories that campers not only viewed, but could actually be a part of, and could influence the outcome, with interesting, costumed characters that kids could comfortably learn from.
Sam had opportunities to play many different characters at camp, but their favorite role was Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, from Greek mythology, and a powerful fighter. Sam’s background in martial arts helped when they battled Hercules. After this dramatic scene, campers wanted to spar with Hippolyta. But Hippolyta was multifaceted, and also needed to help Orpheus deal with grief. A few years before that, Sam had also experienced a major loss. So they appreciated learning “how to portray grief and the process of dealing with it.”
The crowning moment of that year’s experience came when Sam was asked to again portray Hippolyta and give the order to start the final battle. “It was a gratifying feeling of ‘we’re gonna win this,’ and watching the kids have the time of their lives throwing water balloons on a really hot day.”
Being a Monster Camper provided a lot to them: “My first look behind the scenes. I was hooked on ‘how do we make this magic happen?’ I hadn’t been in a theatre group. But I learned how to portray a goblin, versus a werewolf, versus a snake. There’s physicality, and acting [and] improv lessons.” So, Sam thought, “Here’s something you can be good at that makes other people happy.”
...WHICH BRINGS US TO NOW
After meeting Junior Counselor Matt Behrle at their first years at camp, they combined the stories they’d created separately and created a website called Mundus Mutans. The name is Latin for “Changing Worlds,” and represents the stories they wish to tell amidst the turmoil of the rest of the world.
Sam has worked with Matt to write plots for a fae named Floriash, the Lord of Roses, who was poisoned by his brother, who’d in turn been cursed by a demon lord. The campers collaborated with another fae, as well as an alchemist (Sam’s Blackwatch character) to cure Floriash, and the campers celebrated his recovery.
At the Festival of Roses, the “demon lord was in disguise and made deals with the campers, then summoned them to his realm.” The campers that had made deals and had to stay with the demon. “[My character], the alchemist, got dragged off and the kids were heartbroken. They tried to get [them] back, but the character had been mind-controlled.” The kids shouted the character’s name repeatedly, to wake up the alchemist. It worked! “It was so worth it to see the kids invested in the story, and being part of something magical.”
Sam has maintained other friendships with many of the people they met at camp, including the person they’re dating. These collaborative and supportive friendships have only grown stronger over their years of story-based adventuring. Sam would like to thank the wonderful camp counselors who made such a difference, especially in learning about acting, mental health, and having a voice.
Interested in helping your young hero find their own voice? Contact us today and we'll help you find the perfect program to get them out and adventuring in no time. Want to see more of Sam's artwork? Check out their amazing portfolio!