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Ben Platt and team on the “Theater Camp” love letter

One of the most anticipated comedic debuts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, receiving multiple standing ovations upon its premiere, is the ensemble mockumentary Theater Camp. Directed by Shiva Baby stars Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, and starring Gordon alongside real-life best friend Ben Platt, the comedy was critically acclaimed (and snagged by Searchlight). IndieWire’s Kate Erbland made it a Critic’s Pick, writing that “early comparisons to ‘Waiting for Guffman’ without the bite are spot on,” and called the film “a crowd puller for the outsider in all of us.”

Platt, Gordon and Lieberman met with cast members Noah Galvin, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison and Owen Thiele at IndieWire Studio in Sundance, presented by Dropbox, to discuss inspiration for the project.

“Theater was inseparable for many sensibilities,” Platt said. “So we have the ability to love it so much that we can send it up and have a lot of fun with it and roast it pretty hard.”

Having all met at theater camps or done productions, much of the core creative team sees themselves as theater kids.

“This is definitely a love letter to that kind of experience and the intensity of those three weeks in the summer where nothing matters except who your friends are and what this world is at that time and maybe the adults who want to stay in this world, forever,” Lieberman added. “And it’s a love letter, but you know, especially in the world of theater, we have to make some jokes about how the theater world works.”

Gordon and Platt play two consultants still in charge of summer production when their camp manager suddenly falls into a coma. Despite taking inspiration from wacky former acting teachers, they both insist they love and respect their mentors immensely.

“We dedicated the film to all of our acting teachers, even if we make fun of them,” Gordon said. “Because when they tell you to do crazy things, it’s that first moment that makes you feel seen. I was never that good at school, and when I was in my acting class anything was possible and there was no wrong answer. That first moment where you can really own your intelligence, even if they’re asking you to crawl like a lion or whatever.

Theater Camp premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

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