Improvcamp has been held every summer on Gambier Island in some iteration or other for the past 20 years.
So when it was gifted to the Canadian Improv Games (CIG) in 2019, Allie Entwistle, Improvcamp co-director, says it was "passed on to a new generation of people."
The CIG is a national charity that has been getting high school-aged children and youth involved in improv through workshops, training sessions, performance opportunities, and annual tournaments since 1977. Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Alanis Morissette, Tatiana Maslany, and Andrew Phung have all performed on the CIG stage.
The week-long program at Camp Fircom sleepaway is a unique opportunity for kids aged 13 to 19 to cut their teeth with one of the most challenging and fun forms of comedy performance out there.
"One of the main tenants of improv is 'yes and,'" says Entwistle. "Which is acceptance. People are accepted for who they are at Improvcamp."
She says the value of a camp like this lies in creating an environment where "trying your best and being your weirdest self is the gold standard."
The camp is expecting around 50 campers who will be coached in small ensembles through workshops led by professional comedians and improvisers from around Canada. Racquel Belmonte who voices Clauida in the Netflix animated series The Dragon Prince will be making a guest appearance along with Toronto comedian Jackie Twomey.
In addition to classic summer activities like canoeing, swimming, field games, and dance parties, campers will participate in nightly shows as well as a final performance that is the culmination of everything they've learned over the course of the week.
"Everyone is such fans of each other," Entwistle says of the energy at camp, noting many wouldn't believe the support and standing ovations that the kids give each show.
Working in small groups allows the teens to get to know each other and their coaches much better.
The camp also offers a leadership program, designed for young people who are ready to take the next step, both as improvisers and youth leaders. Members of the leadership program take workshops to grow their improvisation skill set and attend seminars designed to enhance their abilities as leaders and mentors.
Improvcamp seeks to support kids in "growing as you go," says Entwistle. And that can look like providing safe spaces for them to be authentically themselves while learning too. Improvcamp uses improv as a tool not only to promote artistic expression, but foster skills like positivity, leadership, and teamwork.