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Theater Geek: The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, the Famous Performing Arts Camp

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  434 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
What do Natalie Portman, Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Braff, and Mandy Moore have in common? Before they were stars, they were campers at Stagedoor Manor, the premier summer theater camp for children and teenagers. Founded in 1975, Stagedoor continues to attract scores of young performers eager to find kindred spirits, to sing out loud, to become working actors—or maybe even s ...more
Hardcover, 220 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Free Press (first published May 8th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,062)
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Deana Greenberg
I really wanted to like this book as it's always been my "when I grow up" dream to be an actor AND to go to summer camp. But the author didn't bring it alive for me. He was too present and name dropped too often and didn't make me feel that I was there. I felt neither wistful for an experience I never had nor relieved to have avoided it. I don't feel like I got to actually know the kids he centered the book around. It was meh. I am disappointed.
Yael
Oct 02, 2010 Yael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this up since I am an unabashed theater geek and have always had a bit of an obsession with Stagedoor Manor. (Or more like I've always had a weird crush on the place, if you know what that feels like). While the book doesn't reveal much about the camp that isn't already known (I kinda get the feeling that he just really, really wanted to spend the summer there, and figured that this was the best way to do it), Rapkin does a truly fantastic job of capturing the moment of this colorful, m ...more
Marcy Auguste
I can't believe that someone wrote this book. I'm still trying to get it to read. I was there. I went to this camp as a real theatre geek when I wanted to be an actress. Until my mother told me I had no talent that is. I was there and it was great. Jack Romano, if he's even mentioned here, was a great acting teacher who studied with Fellini. He was so great, he died in the 90s. I don't know how, but I'll never forget him. He wanted me to be a comic, I wanted to be a great actress. He was probabl ...more
Camelama
Aug 24, 2010 Camelama rated it liked it
Having been to Interlochen myself for marching band camp, I expected to enjoy this book more. Unfortunately it was too much name-dropping, "omg" type reactions, and a little too caught up in "look at me!" kind of writing.

I did enjoy the descriptions and histories, and following the individuals themselves through their personal histories and along their journey.

Perhaps if I was more into the inner workings of the theater industry, I'd have enjoyed this more. Still, I don't regret reading it!
Jennifer Denney
If you're a "theater geek" like me, then you will get a kick out of all the name-dropping and show references in this book. If you're a "theater geek" because you're on track to become the next Broadway superstar, then you will get inside knowledge into one of the toughest and most prestigious theater camps around. Stagedoor Manor opened in the 1970s and gave kids a sense of what it might be like to be part of a true professional production. Running three sessions that last three weeks each, the ...more
Tarryn
Mar 18, 2015 Tarryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Growing up, I remember seeing the ads for Stagedoor Manor in the Boston Sunday Globe, and thinking that theater summer camp had to be some sort of nirvana. Looking back, I'm glad my parents refused to send me here ... because while I was in drama club and the spring musical and whatever, I was definitely not this type of THEATER KID (insert jazz hands here). These campers would have eaten my alive. With songs.

But still, reading about life at Stagedoor Manor was highly entertaining. I enjoyed th
...more
David Jay
I was excited to read this book. I was a camper at the upstate NY drama camp French Woods (mentioned a few times in this book) throughout my teens and had actually wanted to go to Stage Door instead (my mother thought Stage Door had too narrow a focus==nothing offered outside of the performing arts-- while French Woods had many activities in addition to performing arts--tennis, swimming, etc.).

The book was a disappointment, boring and overwrought. It is a story of teenagers at a performing arts
...more
Ang
Jun 02, 2015 Ang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it's the dabbling in high school musicals that I did (Shprintze in Fiddler, Chorus in Oklahoma), but I loved this book so much. The kids were so great; the story of the camp was great. And frankly, I never thought I'd listen to Sondheim at my desk, but here I am. Now I feel like I need to watch some Sondheim, and I, historically, do NOT appreciate Sondheim. So we'll see. Really good. Really really good. (Pitch Perfect the book is by this author, too, and that's queued up on my reading list ...more
Snogged
Jan 07, 2016 Snogged rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 Stars.

I bought this book back in 2013 as a set with Mickey Rapkin's other book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Capella Glory. After feeling disappointed with Pitch Perfect (especially considering how much I love the movies), I was reluctant to put this book near the top of my to-read list. This year, I decided I'd put enough distance between the two books to give it a shot.

The best parts of this book were the times when Mickey was focusing on the camp and the campers that were th
...more
Katie
Jul 17, 2011 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this 4.5 stars, because I could have used a little more story as opposed to the recurring research tone it took on sometimes, but other than that, this book made me depressed/hopeful/jealous/at home all at the same time on almost every page. I'm depressed that I didn't know this existed when I was in highschool and could have had the chance to go, because I know I would have adored it at Stagemanor. I was hopeful because of reading about all the hard work all the kids put in a ...more
Matthew Frets
I thought this was a fascinating, quick read for fans of theater. Theater Geek (TG) is a fast paced look at one summer at Stagedoor Manor, a renowned performing arts camp. Unlike some books that could stand to lose fifty pages, I really thought that Theater Geek actually could have added a couple of hundred more pages. Yes, it was informative to read about the history of the camp and its founders, and the inside look at one summer was great. But though I only lasted a semester (or was it a quar ...more
Elizabeth
Sep 19, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Author Mickey Rapkin takes the reader into the crazy sometimes stressful, but ultimately rewarding world of the summer theater camp. This is not just any theater camp though, it's Stagedoor Manor where some of the campers have gone on to be world famous celebrities. What is refreshing about this camp is that while small parts of it are audition based, there are no auditions to be in the camp, and everyone gets cast in a show.

Rapkin follows three students during their last summer at camp, periodi
...more
Sammy
Oct 26, 2011 Sammy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A really lovely read. "Theater Geek" is a loving profile of Stagedoor Manor, one of the most famed performing arts camps in the world. Nestled in the Catskills, it nurtures a few hundred non-auditioned teenagers for three to nine weeks each summer, as they prepare thirteen high-quality productions of plays and musicals (often including the 'highschool premiere' of newer works, and challenging or forgotten musicals that rarely see non-professional performances). Rapkin tells two stories: the firs ...more
meghan
Jan 13, 2012 meghan rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book - I enjoyed reading about the history and evolution of a place that obviously is doing great things for kids in the arts - even in this current age of YouTube and American Idol... The Post-Kids Incorporated Era.

My biggest critique of the book, however, is that it seemed to be a compilation of articles or short essays... with no adaptation for a BOOK format.

What I mean is, as a reader, I didn't need to be reminded with every anecdote who someone was or what that had m
...more
Jason Scoggins
Jul 04, 2015 Jason Scoggins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So to be fair, I started reading this book when I dropped off my son for the first time at Stagedoor a few weeks ago, so my review is somewhat biased. I found this book very enjoyable... Name-dropping, or not, it gives a great insight into this phenomenal camp. I found the stories following the three "current" campers very engaging and I was invested in each of their stories. Definitely a must-read for anyone associated with Stagedoor or anyone who identifies themselves as a theater geek.
Shauna Elias
Oct 06, 2010 Shauna Elias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I need to be honest....I really enjoyed this book because it gave me greater appreciation for what goes on at Stagedoor and the people who run the camp! I thank the author for giving me a glimpse into my child's life. I was able to ignore the "name dropping" aspect that bothered some of the other readers because I believe the author was mentioning them so that people could appreciate the range of the outcomes of the people who trod the Stagedoor stages. And though the author focused on three of ...more
Ally
May 23, 2011 Ally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd love to be able to split my review into two ratings - 4 1/2 stars for part of it, 2 stars for the other. The part that is about the camp, the productions, the day-to-day is great. It's exactly what I wanted from this book. The idea - a guy going in and spending one session at Stage Door and telling us what goes on, laced w/camp history, is what the whole book should have been. Though, I would have liked if he'd followed more than just the 3 kids. The "thesis" part of the book, where the auth ...more
Kdevoli
This nonfiction book about a kids' theater summer camp - Stagedoor - had some interesting anecdotes and good photos, but the disjointed writing and the insider jokes and comments made it a little offputting. If you are intimately familiar with the work of Stephen Sondheim, for example, you may be more intrigued with the various stories and quotes from people involved in the summer camp productions. And when I say disjointed writing, it just felt like the author bounced around from this to that, ...more
Katrina
Jan 30, 2014 Katrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may be the closest I will get to a book that is made just for me. So my review is more than a little biased - this is the camp that I wish I had been confident enough to attend as a kid. I have never really been a performer (teaching is as close as I get) but I have always loved the magic of the theater, and my love has only grown more pronounced as I have grown up. Reading about all of the in jokes and theater references that I got as easily as the campers was a joy in every sense.
Sarah
Nov 03, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I just couldn't resist having watched and rewatched "Camp" so many times. The author Mickey Rapkin writes for Entertainment Weekly and is just a bit too "gushy" and free with his exclamation points! Anyway, seeing as there is no other book that profiles campers at Stagedoor Manor in such detail, I tried to ignore the hyperbole and let the jazz hands! just roll! over! me!

The book needs editing, but is at its best when it recounts actual kids and their experiences there in 2009.

A sampling o
...more
Kristin
Jun 03, 2015 Kristin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I liked it. Quite a bit, actually. The retrospective on the camp's beginning was a little boring, but that's mostly because I just wanted to read about these kids and their shows. I was a theater kid all throughout high school, but I wasn't like these kids. First of all, my parents would have never spent $5000 to send me to camp for three weeks. And I wasn't planning on a career in theater. Perhaps if I'd gone to a camp like this I would have...? But I would have ended up in the drama troupe, an ...more
Lizzie Leach
Oct 05, 2015 Lizzie Leach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theater Geek is a documentary about a summer theater camp in the Catskills of New York. This theater camp is the same one I go to every summer, so when I started reading it, I was a bit skeptical that it wouldn't capture how special the camp really is. Mickey Rapkin really painted a picture of my second home beautifully with his many interviews with the kids who were leads in the shows.
Abbie
May 12, 2013 Abbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Hmm... I can't quite look at this the way I might look at another book.

Because, it's not so much a book to me as it is a catalogue of a camp where I considered going/where people I know have gone/where like EVERY actor I like (okay, not even close, but a LOT of actors I like) have gone. It's bizarre to think all of them had these childhood adventures together. I felt weirded out and amused every time the name of a celebrity I admire popped up with a comment.

But what struck me most about this boo
...more
Heidi
Sep 29, 2015 Heidi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was just sort of "meh" for me. The author took forever to get to the meat of the story. It didn't feel properly edited to me. It felt as if it jumped around.

I read "Theater Geek" after having read Jon Cryer's very entertaining book about his life, in which he mentions reading it. I appreciated Cryer's personal descriptions of Stagedoor Manor much more than in this particular book.

Parts were interesting, but this was definitely a "skim" read.
Laural
Feb 15, 2013 Laural rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rapkin has done an amazing job living vicariously through 3 Stagedoor campers and helping us to see what the arts can do for young people. Jumping back and forth between each week of a session and telling the history and characters of Stagedoor Manor, Rapkin let's his own love for theater shine through. I'm not sure everyone will like the book as much as me (it's full of inside musical-theater jokes that may be hard for those unfamiliar with Sondheim and there's LOTS of name-dropping), but it ce ...more
Kate
Dec 17, 2015 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a person who went to performing arts summer camp, this is great read. It's pretty much exactly how I remember camp, but a bit more professional. It's also easy to engage with the three campers that Rapkin shadows, none of whom are given to obnoxious diva-like behavior.
Jason Frank
Jan 12, 2014 Jason Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, I liked this book a lot. It's essentially a "genre flick," and I can't see anyone who doesn't at least know who Stephen Sondheim , Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse even remotely enjoying it, but as an unabashed "theatre geek" I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of other theatre camps and shows that I've been in, and I liked that. Could it have stood to lose a couple pages? probably. And would I have liked to see more interviews with the kids? certainly. But it's a great quick read if you l ...more
Amber
Jan 15, 2011 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a theater geek myself (although I don't sing or act very well), this was a really fun book. I heard the book being discussed on Sirius Radio and had to check it out! Loved learning about Stagedoor Manor (the summer theater camp in the Catskills where the book is set)...my "research" into Stagedoor led me to the movie "Camp" and the documentary "Stagedoor" as well. I would love to visit this place one day...it sounds like a really fun and welcoming community for a bunch of disgustingly tale ...more
Lisa
Jan 25, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
LOVING THIS - really interesting account of the theater camp that served as training ground and teenage safe haven for some of today's celebs and non-famous kids who had no other place where they could be themselves. Captivating stories
Tania
Jul 18, 2011 Tania rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I had known about this camp during my teenage years I would have done anything I could have to get to attend. These kids ages 10 to 18 put on 13 productions during the 3 week camp session! It is 3 weeks of nothing but eating, sleeping, and breathing theatre. This book traces the history of the camp and puts quite a lot of emphasis on the famous people who attended and then later made it big. There are even a few references to the girl who played "Annie" the first time I played "Miss Hannigan" ...more
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