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Yellowstone TheatreMakers camp helps students develop creative skills for life

October 15, 2020 | Kristin Hammargren

August brought Yellowstone TheatreMakers Summer Camp to YTI. Eight campers, with the guidance of educators Kristin Hammargren and Alyssa Hershey, created an original play in just five days.

A Pizza Carrol – Building a play from scratch!

A Pizza Carrol is a rollicking romp through time as the sorceress Eve (“Eve-il” – get it?) traveled back in time to stop the invention of pizza. Why? She’s lactose intolerant and if she can’t enjoy pizza, no one can. Eve is chased by some good-hearted pizza lovers who eventually take her to see what a pizza-less future would look like. (In a word, bleak.) With a change of heart, Eve restores the inventor of pizza to his kitchen and embarks on an exploration of lactose-free cheese. Definitely delightful, silly for sure, and 100% born of the imaginations of eight young people. They learned about what makes a play captivating—a dynamic plot, fully-developed characters who want something, and a deeper message for the audience—and they brought it to bear in A Pizza Carrol.

Developing creative vision

This year, YTM was fortunate to partner with Bozeman Actors Theatre. Accomplished theatre artist, BAT Board President, and Montana Shakespeare in the Parks Resident Technical Director Gordon Carpenter visited camp to introduce campers to the basic concepts of design with a focus on how to turn a creative vision into a tangible piece of scenery or prop. We deliberately use materials that students can find at home, so this year the material of choice was cardboard, cardboard, and more cardboard. Campers used boxes, paint, and ingenuity to create a magic portal, a ship, an evil lair, an oven with a functioning door, and pizza with detachable slices.

Camp culminated in a performance for friends and family on Friday afternoon. There were so many supporters (and the need for distance) that the production was moved to the YTI parking lot. All the world’s a stage, after all.

Learning through creating

Yellowstone TheatreMakers is part of YTI’s community programming for youth. It operates on the unique philosophy that the best way for young people to learn about theatre is by making it themselves, from top to bottom and front to back. Campers learned about and then took on the roles of playwright, actor, director, designer, stage manager, and most importantly—ensemble member. YTM believes in letting students drive the creative process as a way to develop their imaginative brains, gain leadership experience, and hone collaborative skills. These skills will serve them throughout their lives, in their artistic pursuits and beyond.

Now, more than ever, young people need the opportunity to socialize safely and express themselves. YTM was especially fortunate to be able to establish comprehensive safety and social distancing measures and continue to hold camp in-person again this year.

Kristin Hammargren

Kristin Hammargren is Director of Yellowstone TheatreMakers. Based in Chicago, she works as a professional actor and teaching artist. Among her extensive acting credits, Kristin is a veteran of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks.

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