Technology gaining ground at Improv Playhouse's camps

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Lights; camera; action: Improv Playhouse’s most technologically involved camp trains filmmakers. After shooting footage, campers edit a five- to 15-minute movie using Mac computers and software such as Adobe Premiere of Final Cut Pro. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

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Technology has greatly improved how businesses run their operations. Summer camp is no different.

Improv Playhouse, a performing arts training center based in Libertyville, runs several day camps during the summer that encompass several performing arts aspects including music theatre, play production, improvisation, filmmaking and fashion.

Technology in its camps, geared toward first-graders and older, plays a significant role in administrative capacities.

David Stuart, owner and executive producer, said his staff communicates mainly through Google Groups emails and text messaging.

“The staff is trained ‘You keep your cell phone on you and on.’ We want you for accountability,” he said.

Improv Playhouse runs its camps out a few facilities between its Libertyville and Highland Park locations, so campers and staff move among them on a regular basis. Thus, having real-time access to his staff for communication is key.

He added that his camp uses Google Groups, a Web-based group discussion service, for both staff and campers. He said that the service is the primary resource for notes and meeting announcements. Messages posted to the group are sent via email to staffers.

“Whether our staff has Gmail when they start here, they’ll have it once they get here,” he said.

Social media also plays a role in communicating with campers, both past and prospective.

“On Facebook, we do weekly postings. It’s our primary touch-point with pictures and updates,” Stuart said.

Improv Playhouse operates two Facebook pages: one for the Playhouse itself and one for the performing arts camps.

It also operates a Twitter account (@ImprovPlayhouse), which updates registration and events information a few times a month.

Stuart said dedicated members of his staff are responsible for updating social media accounts, and during summer sessions, more staff members will gain access to post updates or photos day-to-day. Additionally, young campers may request to “friend” the Playhouse on Facebook, but Stuart’s staff exercises care when deciding to approve them and only does “if we sense that the kid has parental permission.”

Among the camps themselves, the most technologically involved is the filmmaking camp. After shooting footage, campers edit a five- to 15-minute movie using Mac computers and software such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. Stuart noted that because of the breadth of technology available to the public today, many campers arrive already having a good handle on video editing.

In light of some new tech tools the camp incorporates, the website still serves as the main resource for prospective campers and their families. He added that the website used to allow for online registration, but that the utilization of the service was “about 50-50.” After the company that originally designed the online registration tool closed, Stuart said he decided to revert to manual registration, which parents still seem to prefer.

The key thing about incorporating new technology, he said, is being able to ask: “Is it good for the organization? Does it work well?”