EDGE OF STEAMBOAT

What is going on at Perry-Mansfield?

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— A friend from Perry-Mansfield gave me a call at work Sunday night. I asked her how things were going, and she immediately began buzzing about what was going on in camp this week.

She said something like, "It's so exciting out here," and then she said something about plays and that this person was in town and there were Broadway actors and directors and the kids were there. It was all summed up to me that it's a good time to be at Perry-Mansfield.

When I walked onto the campus Monday, I realized my friend was right. The place was buzzing with energy. Every person I talked to shared a little part of that energy with me, and by the end of the day, after numerous interviews and lots of time to soak in what was going on, I was buzzing like everyone else. So what is going on out at Perry-Mansfield?

For some reason, I'm confident this is not the first time that question has been asked. Imagine two women from the city, Charlotte and Portia, setting up shop at a bear-hunting camp in the beginning of the 20th century with a dream to create a performance art school. People around here must have thought they were crazy.

You know that famous old photo of the line of ballet dancers in one of the Perry-Mansfield studios? I always believed a bunch of local cowboys were hiding around the corner of that building, peeking at the girls and wondering what the heck was going on.

Charlotte and Portia's dream obviously wasn't crazy. They knew the beauty of the valley is a perfect opportunity for city folks wrapped in the arts to breathe some fresh air and find some inspiration.

That's what's going on at Perry-Mansfield. It's a little place where Broadway actors and respected directors and writers in the theater industry are hanging out, taking it all in and working.

That's true now more than ever with the camp's New Noises program, which pulls in professionals in the theater business to workshop scripts. The goal, explained Burgess Clark, who heads the program, is to have New Noises become for theater what the Sundance Film Festival has become for film.

With the two great scripts on the workshop this June in New Noises, Clark said the buzz felt in camp this week is also being felt in the theater world.

That's exciting.

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