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.
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. 😉 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,