I’ll never forget when I first heard of the Atlanta Workshop Players.

It was 1985. I had a massive crush on Gary Martin. He rushed up to me after final bows in the school play (I was spectacular) and he excitedly gushed, “Are you going to camp?!?”

I had no idea what camp was, but of course I said, “YES!”

Cut to: Me convincing my mother to let me go to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, to be with a half-dozen classmates from North Springs High School… and another 60 or 70 kids from all over… under the supervision, guidance, and loving leadership of a woman named Lynn.

I remember all the improv, all the singalongs, all the dressing up and putting on characters, all the writing and the acting and the dancing and the thrill of creating our own little movie on the sprawling campus. Yes… we wrote, shot, and edited a short during camp. In the summer of 1985. On a bulky shoulder-mounted camera attached to a small suitcase of a VHS recorder. And it was fabulous.

What was best about AWP performing arts camp was the massive invitation to be ourselves. To self-express in genuine ways. To allow the muse to move through us at will. To celebrate our enoughness in full view of everyone else, also celebrating their enoughness.

That summer changed me in so many wonderful ways.

Today, as we drove up to the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee campus, I saw the familiar signs designating we were in the right place. Only this time, I’m here as keynote speaker. Tomorrow, Keith and I will teach several classes. On Wednesday, host an AMA to wrap up our time here before heading back to Atlanta to do a wee bit more family stuff before getting Keith off to Comic-Con for the premiere of his film.

I’ve done a lot with Lynn and Don Stallings and the Atlanta Workshop Players over the years — both in Atlanta and when they’ve brought groups to Los Angeles — and it’s always a blast. But there’s something so ridiculously special about being at CAMP.

As Lynn gave me a little overview of the group this year before my keynote, she didn’t leap into info about the latest bookings or tours or acceptances at performing arts conservatories or anything else. She talked about how much love is in this group of 75. How much they all look out for each other and cheer one another on and celebrate one another’s differences.

After my talk — which of course was about setting your true north and maintaining your enoughness throughout your showbiz journey (something I’m especially passionate about conveying to the kiddos out there, before bitterness even has a chance to set in) — I was approached by a handful of these lovely humans. “May I hug you?” and “I’ve never heard anyone talk about haters that way before. Thank you!” and “I love knowing it’s okay to not want to cuss in movies” (about knowing your NO line), were some of the things they said.

And as I was heading out after the hilarious and inclusive improv show, an actor who’d spent a decade in Hollywood — another professional in the industry who is here to teach the camp kids this week — let me know that, had she heard what I shared tonight before she moved to LA, she’d have had a very different decade in show business.

I know.

It’s why this enoughness thing is so. freakin’. important. to me. The earlier I can get in front of folks who’ve chosen a career filled with “rejection” (air quotes because I don’t believe rejection actually exists) and help them feel safe in their own skin — and help them know that there is room for them exactly as they are in this business — the better.

Because when we’re really young? That’s when we KNOW we’re enough. It’s only over time that we shrink who we are, close off some of our boldness, turn off the light that was shining too brightly for someone else’s comfort… and then my work is about helping folks undo some of that. Reclaim some of that enoughness. Heal from the trauma of having turned your back on yourself rather than unapologetically taking the risk that your enoughness could, in fact, withstand messages that it was all TOO MUCH.

Being back at camp is filled with opportunities for me to see that celebration of enoughness that goes away thanks to so many factors as we grow up. Because even those older kids — or the adults who return to be camp counselors or instructors or speakers or industry guests — who’ve turned down their inner light a bit REALLY turn it back up while at camp. They jump up as volunteers during the improv jam. They join in the singalong even before they’re sure of all the words. And they gather in a group hug that has more healing properties than the strongest medication known to man.

Find a place where you can experience epic, unbridled, celebrated enoughness. Go visit it. Remind yourself that light still exists in you as well. Then excavate that enoughness of yours. It’s the light that may have been missing from your work lately. And getting it back? It’ll change your life.

Did you experience anything like camp? I’d love to hear from you about it! Let’s inspire one another! Share your stories in the comments below. I read ’em all and I thank you for joining me in this celebration!

PS — We’re closing registration on *my* little online camp. ๐Ÿ˜‰ SMFA Online! We’d love to have you join us for six weeks of hot-seat deep-dives (and right now the class is REALLY small… so that means a lot of Y-O-U time if you’re game)! Grab your spot here. We start Sunday! Don’t miss it!

All my love,

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

(Visited 75 times, 1 visits today)

6 Comments

  1. Avatar Constance July 16, 2019 at 7:43 am

    oh, Bonnie-bon!
    thank you for sharing. i so love this post on so many levels.
    1. i think about “the when/how” of that inner bold light receding in myself (it was well before & much during high school), and reading this makes me leap for joy with the experiences you had as both younger Bon and now as you revisit these folks. the hugs and recognition from the participants there thrill me so much. give me hope.
    2. i, too, had a similar “camp” opportunity when i was in HS in NC, but turned it down — probably because that light was absolutely not encouraged and was being turned in a different direction of expectation. it’s so interesting to realize that many of the regrets & anxieties in life that i harbor have more to do with outside expectations that did not clearly align with myself, but i was not conscious enough to understand.
    3. i revisited that “moment that i missed” via my spouse because it was through that “camp” that we met! he was a theatre arts teacher there for many years for these young adults and i visited him there. (he was on faculty with a good friend of mine who was a dancer.) it was incredible to witness the atmosphere there & this work played such an important role in encouraging the light within so many students. so much so that the school was threatened closure in my conservative state & he fell prey to the political climate.
    full circle. stunning. shine that light!

    Reply
  2. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie July 16, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Wow! All those revelations, Connie! Just amazing, all the way around! I’ll be sure to do extra hugging at camp today and tomorrow just for you. ๐Ÿ™‚ So glad you’re resetting some of those long-ago set expectations that were never yours. That’s amazing and right on time! Love you.

    Reply
    1. Avatar Constance Z. July 16, 2019 at 10:50 am

      thank you, love!
      here’s another crazy memory (just remembered!) of all this that is sooooo telling: i applied to this “camp” for academics (english) and voice/choir (for which i had to audition). they did not take me for the academics; they accepted me for voice. i TURNED THEM DOWN because i felt like (the expectation was) that if they could not take me seriously (as a student) then i would go do something else with my summer. and i (“i” includes my family) did not value my practice as a singer, cuz i wasn’t *really* going to sing…! what a bummer that it was drilled into me then how little we truly valued artists! or merely, the freedom of exploration and curiosity. no wonder it’s taken my enoughness so freakin’ long…!
      oh, wow. it’s all good. choosing vision & kindness now.
      & loving YOU!

      Reply
  3. Avatar Jess Sabatini July 16, 2019 at 10:12 am

    As I read this BonBlast, I couldn’t help getting a little emotional. I had a summer camp similar to this and it was called The Geva Theatre Conservatory in Rochester, NY. Usually under the impressively wise and calm eyes of Skip Greer. One of the first people, by the way, who told me that if I wanted to be in TV, LA was my best bet.

    My experience was extremely similar to yours, Bonnie. Lots of hugs and lots of talk of enoughness. It fueled me to study acting in college and to take my brilliance to LA.

    I’m so glad you had that special place when you were young. For me, it made all the difference in the world. It taught me resilience, patience, and self love. All important things in life and in this industry.

    Thank you for sharing. Much love!

    Jess

    Reply
  4. Avatar Heather July 16, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    I loved camp SO MUCH. Mostly because it was strangers and they weren’t bullying or teasing me because they didn’t know me either. I had a chance to be anyone I wanted. Even though it was church camp and I didn’t agree with everything, I agreed with fun and unbridled artistic expression. We put on plays/skits and did art work and swam and explored nature. I remember thinking this is what school should be like. Something you said rang a bell for me. My son is a high functioning autistic. He’s now 20 and it’s been a LONG ROAD to adulting. He has a lot of fear. But, I remember the baby’s first words were “I do” He was barely 3 years old and had innate autonomy and curiosity. “I do” was his way of saying “now it’s my turn. I’ll do it” and he tried everything. It all started to fade when he started school and judgments curbed his adventurous spirit. But, I remember and I keep reminding him. Today, I reminded him of this and reassured him, that I have always had faith in him because of those first words. I told him to start each day with “I do” and put the same passionate, proud smile into his heart. He gets to explore again. (He’s going to college to be an actor)

    Reply
    1. Avatar Ninja Erin July 17, 2019 at 3:35 pm

      โคโคโค

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.