Bored kids this summer? Wild Swan Theater has suggestions

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

If this were an ordinary year, Ann Arbor's kid-focused Wild Swan Theater would be staging performances both locally and around the state, and holding dramatic workshops and summer camp for kids at their studio.

But this is no ordinary year.

So Wild Swan, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has risen to the challenge, scheduling what they're calling "Camp DoYaWanna ONLINE" sessions for kids 8-13 in July, as well as mounting Wild Swan in the Wings -- a series of free games and dramatic exercises on their website,, to keep your kids busy during the long, hot months.

Ann Arbor's kid-focused Wild Swan Theater may not be able to stage performances, but they have a range of fun activities on offer at their website as well as Zoom summer camps coming in July.

"Some of our activities are things children can do at home on their own or with family," said Co-Artistic Director Hilary Cohen, "while others are activities they can participate in with us online."

She added, "As theater artists, it’s challenging to think about being at a distance. Just like all arts organizations, we’ve had to be innovative and think about how we can engage with our community in a different way."

Camp DoYaWanna ONLINE has two sessions next month, each with three hour-long Zoom classes in one week -- Playmakers, for kids 8-10, runs July 14-16, while Storymakers for the 11-13-year-old set will take place July 21-23.

Cost is $45 per kid, and there's a limit of 12 campers per program. Register by July 1 for Playmakers, and July 8 for Storymakers.

Wild Swan in the Wings features games like You Be the Playwright, with suggestions for scenes in a three-act play -- starting with an "overheard conversation" for Act 1, "Following the trail" for Act 2, and a surprising discovery to wrap things up in Act 3. 

Budding playwrights are encouraged to email Wild Swan what they write so they can give kids feedback. Through the summer, Wild Swan will continue adding to their list of free activities, said Patricia Kowalski, marketing and volunteer manager, including games for children with disabilities.

Many of Wild Swan's activities for children draw from the actor's repertoire of dramatic exercises -- the sort of things you learn in acting classes in college, and are designed for kids to play at home with a group of friends. For example, find a ruler and then turn it into something else -- a sword, a flashlight or a pen, say, and act that out.

"You don’t tell the group you’re playing with what you’re doing," said Cohen. "And your partners have to guess."

It all gets to the root of theater -- it is, remember, all about play -- something children instinctively understand better than adults.

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy