I’m always grateful for summer gigs but some are harder than they should be. Young Audiences got this one for a discount, and, of course, it turned out to be a difficult audience.
I traveled about an hour and twenty minutes to a Jewish day camp in East Brunswick, NJ for an afternoon set for about 25 kids and counselors and I was glad that I could do it without sound equipment. I got there with time to spare and set up in the large social room. I had a good chat with Milton, the liaison for the camp.
As the campers drifted in, with some of the older campers coming in late, I was primed and ready. I started with I Like Peanut Butter and there was no center to the response, little singing along or physical movements. Nothing from the counselors. I knew this was going to be a problem. Some of the older boys were socializing amongst themselves. I had to spell out to the counselors that we were trying to establish a community situation and that it was important to join in.
As I did Tutti Tah, We Gave Names, etc., using my bag of instruments, scarves and all my tools, I never had the control and attention that I needed to do my best, and, eventually, finished out the set with kids and instruments scattered across the space, counselors drifting off and out of sight. It was a mess. Milt had the kids thank me and I said to him that I felt I hadn’t done my best. We talked about it being the end of the camp season, that the counselors had lack of respect for me and no responsibility to support my effort, but that, ultimately, the kids had fun.
The one counselor who chipped in turned out not to be a counselor but the life guard.
I really hate to think this, but this often happens with Jewish children’s groups: there is a strong sense of entitlement and independence. I came away thinking that I lacked the ability to entertain these kids and that my concept of a “show” was not what it should be. And, here I am, at 3 AM trying to figure it out.