On Friday night, July 13, the standing-room-only audience poured out at the end of “Sister Act,” having seen the fabulous, rollicking, and tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the musical, which in this version takes place at the hippie “Camp Jesuswocky” here on the Vineyard. Thirty-two campers with a range of disabilities and ages, along with their 34 counselors, deliciously acted, sang, and danced the story of Deloris Van Cartier, hiding away in the witness protection program at the camp after having witnessed a botched robbery.
Deloris and her backup dancers are assigned to the choir, which they whip into such fabulous singing shape that it attracts the Pope’s attention when vacationing here on the Vineyard. Hearing of their dire straits and desperate need for funds for the all-volunteer-run camp in which campers pay what they can, his Holiness generously bestows Vatican funds to save the day. Everyone bursts out singing “Oh Happy Day,” which, like the encore, “We Are Young,” moved the audience to its feet, resulting in that spine-tingling feeling you get when you’re deeply moved.
The musical, which had full sets and outstanding costumes, was put together in just a week’s time, demonstrating the dedication and amount of teamwork that exemplifies the camp’s foundational belief that “in this age, when cultural and individual sense of belonging is waning, a community that works together is a light of hope.” The performance itself manifested this belief by including the audience in singing and clapping away with everyone onstage to create a single, glorious, hopeful whole.
Camp Jabberwocky’s website has a blog post that was written during one of the days they were preparing for the musical, and it reflects the intensity of the entire group’s effort: “We spent most of the day reading through lines, perfecting the script, and choreographing dances. After breakfast, we all went to music class, where Mike [the director] yelled at the counselors for knowing our song lyrics about as well as we know how to fold fitted sheets (our fitted sheet section is a mess). After hours of reading through the script, we decided to take a break, and camp split up to either visit the YMCA pool or go into town. Aaanndddd thennn … More play practice!!!”
The musical is just one of the maney special and daily events campers enjoy. The website explains that “Camp Jabberwocky offers children and adults with a wide range of disabilities the chance to enjoy the summer in a small, family-like community — living together and enjoying jam-packed days filled with adventurous activities and experiences that are safe, empowering, exciting, and fun. At Jabberwocky, people with different abilities form the majority in the community. Their needs become priority needs; their concerns become concerns.”
Parent Suzanne Reppert shared how powerful and transformational an experience it is for the campers as well as counselors, and that the bonds between each pair often remain strong for many years afterward. She says, “There’s no difference between the abled and disabled; everyone shares everything together. Here, it’s letting the campers know that anything is possible.”
Come to a Camp Jabberwocky musical. I promise you it will restore your faith in mankind.
To learn more about Camp Jabberwocky and how to donate time or money, see campjabberwocky.org.