Tony Award Winner Kristin Chenoweth held her Annual Broadway Bootcamp this week. The camp wraps up tonight with the KRISTI Awards showcasing campers' new skills.
When you think summer camp you might think lake days, cabins, cooking out, and roasting marshmallows while singing and telling scary stories. Kristin Chenoweth's campers are singing and storytelling... just not around a campfire.
"They're getting to know each other from Ireland, England, the Philippines, I mean Alabama, Florida," Kristin Chenoweth said.
After an extended intermission, the curtain is rising again. Kristin Chenoweth's Broadway Bootcamp has gone global which is a byproduct of the pandemic.
"I didn't want the kids to miss out yet again," Kristin said.
Talented teenagers representing eight countries and several states were accepted into this year's virtual camp based out of Broken Arrow.
"Creation, being allowed to create. Being permission to fail and be encouraged by others and being permitted to be wonderful, and that's what I've learned in this business," said Chenoweth. "Those who let me fail and fail safely and be okay and those who let me win and be happy for me.... that's what I want to create mostly, and that's what I'm seeing. You go in their comments and their chats, and you see that. It's quite extraordinary."
First-time camper Anabel White and Kristin are cut from the same cloth because both are Oklahoma girls through and through.
"She's, ah, she's amazing," Anabel said.
That sounds very similar to how Rick White describes his daughter.
"Where did it come from... that voice, that beauty, that grace come from? She's got it all. The whole package," Rick said.
Campers took notes from the best in the business.
"My way more talented and famous friends," Kristin said.
Returning camper Taylor Herndon said everyone has an "it factor."
"Your quirks, your mannerisms, the way you think even. Just how you carry yourself," Herndon said.
Kristin agrees. She said all these campers have a unique gift to offer.
"First of all, I need actors. That's the most important thing. I need dancers who act. I need singers who act. I need belters, but I need healthy belters. But I don't want screamers. I want them to have a long career. I want them to be able to do all kinds of music," Kristin said.
The week-long camp includes panels, immersive workshops, and classes for grades 8-12 teaching students that scripts and sheet music are just the blueprint.
"Caring about what the characters are feeling, what they're doing, how the plot is going to advance," Herndon said.
"That's just so fun for me to be able to make a character my own and go out there and you know kind of be vulnerable," Anabel said.
This year the camp added the option to audit rehearsals, workshops, and classes.
Love took center stage this week. As you lean in, you'll learn Kristin's camp will always cast the outcasts.
"You know I feel like it's a responsibility not just being in the arts community, but it's our responsibility to listen to our kids, hear them, do our best not to judge them, love them for where they are, love them for where they are in their life, encourage them. If they need help, get them help," said Chenoweth. "When I was growing up, we had different problems. Now the kids have more complicated, much more complicated problems and things to deal with. And we have to help them. And therefore, that will help us too. That's the thing. It's a circle. It's a circle, and it's a circle I'm glad to be in."
Kristin said younger generations have so much to offer. She said she hasn't always been the super happy-go-lucky person.
"We all have our crap, right? But we have to see that there's a mountain. That we're going to get to the top of the mountain. We might go back down a little bit, but then we'll come back up and it's called life," Kristin said.
She said she's impressed by all the campers who have shared their life stories with her not just through music but through their experience.
The camp celebrated PRIDE earlier this week. Kristin said the trials we've faced as individuals and collectively are an inspiration for art. She said COVID-19 allowed people to take a step back and reflect.
"I've seen people who maybe didn't understand before, take a pause; this pause that's been so important. Not just with COVID, but a pause, and go, 'Oh wait, maybe I didn't see it that way. I didn't look at it that way,'" Kristin said.
She told Channel 6 that there are a lot of lessons one can learn through the arts.
"You know, one of the themes of Wicked, a show that I was in on Broadway many, many years ago, is about looking at the people and things a different way," said Kristin. "There's a green girl. A girl with a green face, and everybody judges her. But then there's this very popular girl who everybody thinks has it all together, but neither of them really do. They're both good and wicked. It's just life."
Kristin said people are starting to realize that we need to listen harder and speak less. The instructors, Kristin included, aren't just invested in these campers' lives for a week. They're invested for life.