Let’s Get Physical: Synetic Theater’s Summer Camp

This article is written in partnership with Synetic Theater.

Since 1996, children and families throughout Northern Virginia and the DMV have delighted in Synetic Theater’s Summer Camps, which offer fun, friends, and arts-based movement experiences that culminate in performance fit for the stage. 

Here, Synetic Artistic Associate Vato Tsikurishvili, the son of Synetic’s Founders, Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili – and this year’s Camp Director-a professional mainstage performer and lead teaching artist – shares a bit about what makes Synetic Theater Summer Camps special.

Synetic Theater is known as one of America’s preeminent Physical Theaters. What is Physical Theater and why is it well suited to kids and adults?

Physical theater is a form of performance art that emphasizes the use of body expression as the means of storytelling and communication; blending elements of theater, dance, mime, circus, and other physical performance techniques to create unique and immersive experiences for audiences.

In physical theater, performers use their bodies as the main tool for conveying emotions, characters, and narrative arcs, sometimes with minimal or no dialogue. Movement, choreography, spatial relationships and music are crucial components, and performers often undergo rigorous physical training to develop strength, flexibility, and control over their bodies.

Physical theater can range from highly stylized and abstract performances to more narrative-driven and character-based works. It often explores themes related to human emotions, relationships, societal issues, and the human condition, using the language of the body to convey complex ideas and stories.

Physical theater is well suited for adults and kids alike for many reasons:

  • Visual and Physical Engagement: Physical theater relies heavily on movement, gestures, and visual elements rather than lengthy dialogue or complex language. This makes it accessible and engaging for audiences of all ages, including children who may not yet fully understand verbal communication.
  • Universal Appeal: The themes explored in physical theater often revolve around universal human experiences such as love, loss, joy, and fear. These themes resonate with both children and adults, making the performances relatable to a wide audience.
  • Imagination and Creativity: Physical theater often encourages the use of imagination and creativity to interpret abstract concepts or stories. This stimulates the minds of both children and adults, fostering a sense of wonder and curiosity.
  • Multisensory Experience: Physical theater productions often incorporate music, sound effects, visual projections, and other sensory elements to enhance the overall experience. This multisensory approach appeals to both children and adults, making the performance more immersive and memorable.
  • Interactive Potential: Some forms of physical theater involve audience participation or interactive elements, which can be particularly appealing to children. Adults may also enjoy the opportunity to be actively involved in the performance, breaking down barriers between performer and spectator.
  • Non-verbal Communication: Physical theater relies on non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, body language, and movement to convey meaning. This can be especially beneficial for children who may be still developing their language skills, as well as for adults who appreciate the subtleties of human expression.

Overall, physical theater offers a rich and diverse experience that transcends age, language and sensory barriers, making it a compelling form of entertainment for both kids and adults alike.

Parents that grew up as “theater kids” might immediately understand what a theater camp is all about. But for those that are new to the theater world, what do they need to know? Do their children need theater experience, a headshot, and a resume? Do kids need to audition for Synetic Theater’s Summer Camp?

No prior theater experience is necessary and no headshots required! Kids just need to show up to camp with a desire to have fun, be creative, and get moving! We do have advanced programs that are geared to students with prior experience and a well-developed skill set, but camps are fun first.

Most first-time Synetic Theater’s Summer Camp campers are new to the performing arts, and our teaching artists are well-versed in teaching students of all levels. One of the best parts of Synetic is the sense of community, and in my opinion, we do a great job of cultivating a place where all campers and their families feel that they belong. 

For those coming to theater for the first time, it might be helpful to think of our work as creative play or collaborative storytelling that is both fun and skill-building. Just like our kids learn teamwork and strategy on the soccer field or on the debate team, kids and teens can gain these life skills and more through theater.

What types of kids thrive in Synetic Theater’s Summer Camps?

It may seem obvious, but people of all ages need outlets for their physical and mental energy. Summer is the time for trying new things, informal learning, and making friends. Synetic offers all of this and more, with age-appropriate camp sessions for elementary-aged kids, and middle schoolers. 

Many of the students who enjoy Synetic the most are curious problem-solvers or kids that benefit from high levels of physical activity. And while we have many students who enjoy the spotlight, some of our proudest moments are with campers who are shy or tentative, but blossom when they’re given the chance to express themselves through movement.

Every year, we hear about parents who missed camp enrollment deadlines or just couldn’t line up family summer plans with camp schedules. Is it too late to sign up?

There is still time to enroll in Synetic Theater’s Summer Camps, and we accept registrations throughout the summer. The first sessions start June 17 and July 8, with new sessions starting every 1- 2 weeks. 

Camp sessions are 1 and 2 weeks long, which gives many families the flexibility to plan other activities and it gives students  a relatively low-commitment chance to try out physical theater!

What’s in store for kids this year?

Students work with Synetic’s professional team of teaching artists to create and learn a play written for them! Each session ends in a performance for their families.

This year, campers will Backpack along with the Andrews–Raul and Mortasia Andrews, their Children, Tuesday and Shrimply and close family members Uncle Pester and Grandmama, their Butler Lurk, Shrimpy’s imaginary friend, Socrates, and of course whatever that thing is too–as they head off into the magical forest of Fallswoods and rediscover their family values over an evening of storytelling round a campfire. What could go wrong?

Or campers could choose to take an epic journey with friends through a fantastical world full of magical creatures and hidden mysteries. A group of intrepid adventurers finds themselves in a mystical maze…can they learn to work together to escape the deadly Labyrinth? Who created it, and why? Join us this summer at Synetic theater and you can create your own character, duel monsters, uncover secrets, find treasures, and become a legend!

Synetic Summer Camps are open for enrollment now, and enrollment will continue throughout the summer until all camps are full. Camp sessions are 1 and 2 weeks long, with new camps beginning throughout June, July, and August. Visit https://synetictheater.org/camps/ or email [email protected] for more information. 

Find Synetic Theater on Facebook and Instagram too! 

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Courtney Whittington
Courtney was born and raised in Louisiana where she met her husband (married in 2005). They have moved several times, but finally feel very settled in NW DC after moving back in 2016. She has four energetic kids: Cormac (2010), Evangeline (2013), Solomon (2016), and Antoinette (2019). She thinks motherhood is absolutely wonderful, but is constantly trying to figure out how to manage it all. She spends her days talking Star Wars, playing with legos, doing crafts, having tea parties, and chasing her toddler. Motherhood is wonderful and wild and in 2017 she banded together with other mothers to start DC Area Moms to inspire, learn, and grow together. She loves morning coffee, chocolate, chatting with people since she's an extrovert, a clean house (which is rare these days). She dislikes when her kids don't listen the first time, she abhors littering, and doesn't enjoy shopping. 


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