The month-long Governor’s Honors Program summer camp was “one of the best experiences of my life,” said Ari Avila, a member of Dalton High School’s Class of 2022. “It was so great.”
“I got to spend my days with people in my major – theater – who were genuinely interested in theater and who could take me to the next level,” said Avila, who attended last year’s summer camp. “I’ve had so much personal growth.”
“I learned how to improvise (improvisation) – (before) I couldn’t improvise to save my life – and at all our shows every seat was filled with people who appreciate theater,” she said. “I had so much experience as a dancer and singer, but not that one-to-one acting (guardianship, ie) that certainly made me a more versatile performer.”
The Governor’s Honors Program summer camp is “something every kid should do when they have the opportunity because (because) it’s a once in a lifetime experience and it’s like a big family there,” said Jayden Richmond, a rising senior at Southeast Whitfield High School, which also focused on theater at last summer camp. “I’m really glad I went and I would recommend it.”
He keeps in touch with his theater mates via group chat, he texts some friends he’s made through his game design Minor, and he keeps in touch with his roommate on Instagram, he said.
“He was a chemistry major, so I kept hearing about his[experiences]and as roommates we all hung out, had lunch and played games.”
“There were also seminars by escorts with games, art and parties,” he said. “There is a sense of togetherness” in the camp.
Georgia is the only state that doesn’t charge students or families for attending its summer camp, according to the governor’s Office of Student Achievement. Georgia’s is the longest-running Governor’s Honors Program in the country and the largest on a single college campus (Berry College); At camp – the 2022 edition is currently underway – students will focus on a ‘major’ and a ‘minor’, theater and game design for Richmond respectively.
Richmond and about two dozen others learned about the elements of theater, from direction to improvisation and puppetry to an in-depth look at the works of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson. He said, “I had a great time there.”
About halfway through camp, Richmond and his colleagues presented an impromptu show with comedic games and audience suggestions.
There were “funny jokes and everyone was involved,” he said. “I had no experience with improvisation so I was very scared because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but we practiced (the show) beforehand which gave me a bit of experience and I was able to enjoy it myself (even ), although it took me out of my comfort zone.”
At the end of the camp, the theater department put on a final show with plays taken from different plays “stitched together” into one, he said. Each student acted in a scene and directed a scene.
Richmond chose a comedic coin toss scene from Tom Stoppard’s critically acclaimed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to direct, he said. “A lot of others have chosen tragedy, so I wanted to add a bit of lightheartedness.”
Richmond far preferred comedy to tragedy, he said.
“I like to make people laugh – and I’d rather not make them sad.”
He also starred in a scene from Craig Lucas’ 1988 play Prelude to a Kiss. In Richmond’s scene, a woman has been turned into an old man in a Freaky Friday situation, and he plays the elderly gentleman , who is actually a young woman – still in love with her fiancé.
“It was a bit weird to play at first, but I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I carried a stick around and it was amazing.”
Because of his theater experiences at camp, Richmond has become better at expressing himself with other actors on stage, and he’s “more comfortable” with making suggestions that “could make a show better,” he said. “I used to be a bit nervous and awkward, but now I’m generally more comfortable (with) public speaking,” also as a member of Southeast’s sham trial team, which earned a trip to the state.
For his game design minor, Richmond and his teammates designed their own original game after studying other existing games, he said. Their game was centered on the Gold Rush and the Wild West, where the main objective was to collect the most gold.
Each large group “showed what they did” at the end of camp, so while this was a performance for drama students, the music majors put on their own performance, engineers showed things they built, social science students did an impersonation Supreme Court available, Richmond said.
“I can see it all, and it’s really crazy how[talented]they all are in their fields.”