It’s never been about the money. It’s always been about the art.
Theater kids will feel their own hearts beat along with Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman’s directorial debut Theater Camp as they witness a hilariously genuine and relatable ode to the drama we call theatre and the chaos we call camp. The film was co-written by Gordon and Lieberman, as well as real life fiances Ben Platt and Noah Galvin. Bringing their own individual experiences as theater kids into the film seasons the project with a bold ingenuity that roots this absurd mockumentary. During the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Gordon mentions that the structure of the film comes from their desire to play and improvise. This is undoubtedly the best part of the movie. The combination of mockumentary-style editing along with endless witty improvisations make Theater Camp play differently than other summer camp classics. The movie bubbles with love and soul, guaranteed to warm the hearts of theater lovers all over the world. PSA: You don’t have to be a theater person to laugh at this movie, you just have to think theater people are absurd.
Gordon and Platt star as Rebecca-Diane and Amos, two camp counselors and dedicated thespians at AdirondACTS struggling to keep the operation afloat once their founder falls into a coma and is replaced by her influencer son, Troy (played by Jimmy Tatro). The film boasts a hilarious cast—Gordon and Galvin recently shared the screen for Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart in 2019 starring Beanie Fieldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. Tatro delivers his best performance yet, acting as a perfectly nuanced contrast to the other characters. On the same panel at Sundance, Galvin confirmed the four of them had basically written the role for Tatro. Audiences will also be impressed by the ensemble of talented young actors whose characters’ outrageous commitment to the craft serves up dose after dose of laugh-out-loud moments. Although, the star of Theater Camp is Noah Galvin, who plays Glenn, the camp techie. Apart from his hilarious moments running around the camp and rolling down hills, Galvin flexes his impressive vocal talents and performative pedigree. A humorous addition to the ensemble is Ayo Edebiri from The Bear who plays Janet, a teacher at the camp who lied on her resume and has literally never taught children before. Some of the films funniest moments revolve around her interactions with the kids and other counselors.
Shot with a timeless tone on an old camp helps the film play up its elements of nostalgia. Being shot in a sixteen millimeter cinema verite style allows it to truly feel like looking back on old videos of when we ourselves grew up at theatre camp (which was intentional, according to Lieberman). The first time filmmakers felt like since they grew up living through this themselves, they felt they had the right to make fun of it—as well as the experiences to draw from in order to make it feel real. Theater Camp is a call to artists during a time of discourse to remember our purpose and mission as storytellers. Like the film says, theatre people can turn cardboard into gold. While the WGA and SAG both strike for the rights to fair compensation for their work, movies like Theater Camp display exactly why this fight is so important. Joan, Founder of AdironACTS, could have sold her land to her opposition years ago. But instead of selling out, she persisted in believing that the art they created at AdironACTS was more valuable than any dollar sign Camp Lakeside could conjure up. We, as artists, have been moulded from a very young age to word hard and push boundaries. Since the days where we were introduced into the craft at summer camp, we used art and imagination to become storytellers and performers. For any of those losing faith and wondering how we got here, Theater Camp is a great reminder of why we all started on this wild pursuit of purpose through art. What we create together is invaluable, but those involved should always be compensated for their contribution. Even if you can’t put a price tag on that closing-night or last-day-of-camp feeling.
“What we do on this stage tonight… That’s eternal.”