A notable young theater group is hosting its first weekend camp in the mountains of Northern California – where kids under the age of eight stay overnight to learn about the “art of drag.”
The three-day, two-night workshop was organized by The Young Actors’ Theater Camp, and was described as a safe place for campers to “create their drag characters”.
A recent, unspecified donation allowed the Santa Cruz Theater Group to also introduce a “pay-what-you-can” price point this weekend — which means Many who wanted to attend the “very special weekend camp” could do so for free.
The inaugural camp was announced last week, on Friday, March 31, and has seen students learn the history of drag, take part in character workshops, and come up with performance ideas for a final show in front of friends and family.
But like a slew of other drag events taking place across the country, the event has proven polarizing, and it’s already starting to attract a backlash online.
“Parents who take their children to this place should be caught,” one Twitter user tweeted on Sunday, as the artwork advertises the workshop as “Kids Classroom!” It continues to circulate on many platforms.
The three-day, two-night workshop in Santa Cruz was organized by The Young Actors’ Theater Camp (staff and campers seen here), and billed as a safe place for kids.
Dedicated entirely to the “art form,” the nightly workshop in the mountains of North Carolina is open to anyone between the ages of 8 and 18, who will in turn be taught how to “create their own drag characters.” The group members were spotted at a non-overnight event last year
Another called the concept “disturbing” and demanded that adults “keep children out of[drag shows].”
Others have expressed a more open mind about clouds being part of the stage as a whole, but decried the idea of teaching it to very young children.
“I have no problem with withdrawal offers,” one user wrote.
‘I He grew up in Vegas and there are a few great (sic) female imitation shows out there.
‘Just keep the kids away from it. You wouldn’t take them to a burlesque show or strip club, either. While I’m at it, the baby (sic) beauty pages aren’t very good either.
“It’s up to the peer group,” reasoned another.
Contests are a competition between peers. Drag shows are conducted by overly sexualized adults. Children do not belong in that environment.
Undeterred by the backlash, however, is event organizer Sean Ryan, who said he has brought in stars from shows like Drag Race, RuPaul’s Parks and Recreation and American Horror Story to take part in the billed festivities.
We’ve always been inclusive and we’ve always taught our kids that love is love,” Ryan, the camp’s founder, told a local LGBTQ outlet this week of the planned walk, which is open to anyone between the ages of 8 and 18.
Criticizing recent legislation passed in states like Florida that bans events like “transphobia,” Ryan, a gay man who started the group way back in 2021, explained how he and other faculty members plan to “educate” young people during their stay.
“In the last 22 years (of the camp’s history), this was not the first movement for homophobic or transphobic legislation,” Ryan told the Bay Area Reporter.
But as camp managers we find this is what we can do in the future. Children are literally the future. The more children who see this expression and creativity, yet welcome the kindness you bring into this world, the better.
As to why it took him more than two decades to dream up the concept, the playwright, speaking to online theater publication Broadway World, referred to similar ‘drag nights’ that his group had already been doing for years, during which great actors participated in such a celebration. in front of young children.
Citing a complaint he received from a parent when the practice began, Ryan said he felt exasperated since he began an entire nighttime session devoted solely to retreat.
“About a decade ago, when we first started Drag Night at camp, we had a parent who wrote a hateful comment on Yelp and it really got under my skin,” the outlet recalls, recalling how the guy got into trouble not with theme nights, But the young audience was being moved.
In the review, he said, “I’m fine with skits and skits… I mean I loved Mrs. Doubtfire…but teaching (the art of drag) to kids?” My blood really boiled.
Announced last week, the camp’s inaugural ride is scheduled for March 31st, and as with a slew of other drag events taking place around the country, it’s already starting to attract online backlash.
A recent, unspecified donation to the Santa Cruz Theater Group has allowed them to offer a “pay-what-you-can-can” price point this weekend – meaning many who would like to attend their “ultra-special weekend camp” will get that option.
Recent online hype didn’t disappoint camp organizer Sean Ryan, who enlisted stars from shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race to tutor the kids during their three-day stay.
Artwork advertising the workshop – described as a “classroom for kids!” It has been circulating on social media since the camp was announced last week
RuPaul’s Drag Race star Nina West, seen here at a drag event in 2019, is one of the featured faculty at camp
The self-appointed consultant went on to equate high-profile examples of A-listers wearing drag costumes on the silver screen, to young adults learning how to do it from an all-male faculty.
“Why is it admirable when Robin Williams does it — flawlessly, I might add — but suddenly off the table when your child might want to wear a costume previously known to be the opposite sex?” Ryan wrote in a statement.
In his statement to the reporter, the camp’s creator also insisted the modern concept of drag dates back to the days of William Shakespeare, when female roles were played by male actors.
Films like 1982’s Tootsie — featuring Dustin Hoffman — and 1996’s The Bird Cage, Ryan says, are proof that the ‘art form’ is as alive as ever and should therefore be passed on to aspiring young actors.
Furthermore, citing the growing popularity of popular reality stars and shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race — whose star Nina West is one of the camp’s stellar faculty — he added that drag is no less a part of the stage than melodramas or musicals.
Other campers include actress Naomi Grossman, who was seen here with Ryan during a group event last year. Rossman is best known for her role as Pepper in the second and fourth seasons of American Horror Story
Actor Jim O’Hare, who played Jerry Gergich on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, is also involved.
Regarding the recent surge of transgender bills making their way through state legislation, Ryan said the current discourse revolving around transgender teachings provides more evidence that there is no better time to introduce such a program.
“We’re known as the go-to place for all the teen dramas and teens that come every summer,” he explained.
By creating a safe and supportive environment where anyone can express themselves without limits and without fear, in a supportive peer group – that’s what’s special.
“It is something many children said is missing from their daily school lives.”
He added: ‘Inspiring children to express themselves through the performing arts and encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones to try something new and perhaps a bit scary.
“You can only achieve this if they know they are safe and will not be ridiculed for taking a chance or making a bold decision.”
Camp runs for three days through today, April 2nd. At that point, Ryan plans to welcome the aspiring cast with open arms.
Other campers include Parks and Recreation actor Jim O’Hare, who played Jerry Gergich on the long-running sitcom, and Naomi Grossman, best known for her role as Pepper in the second and fourth seasons of American Horror Story.
Meanwhile, Ryan said of his mind’s child: “There must be a place for our young people to feel they can explore the arts without judgment.”
The Young Actors’ Theater Camp has been contacted for comment but has not responded to DailyMail.com.