"We keep building theaters but we made a conscious decision not to take more kids," says Kittrell. "If we were any bigger than what we are now, we wouldn't be who we are now."
Todd Roberts, who leads the eight-person costume shop, proudly shows off a mini-empire of rooms filled with costumes and bins of shoes, many donated from Broadway shows. He's survived his ninth summer at Stagedoor and says the experience is hectic but rewarding.
"If you can do a show here, there's nothing anybody can throw at you that you can't handle," he says. "You have to bring your A-game when you walk in the door and if you don't have it, you're going to have it by the time you leave."
Stagedoor, which was started in 1976 by Carl and Elsie Samuelson, has gotten a boost from the popularity of "High School Musical" and "Glee," which made theater cool. Kittrell has seen male applicant numbers recently jump, which has created its own dilemma.
"I cannot stand to turn the boys away. Because truly once they make that step and decide they're going to put themselves outside their comfort zone and go for it, I just can't stand to say no to them," she says.
Stagedoor, which has been invited for the past few years to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, has also become a proving ground for new and specialized works.
The camp is where school versions of "Rent," ''Phantom of the Opera," ''Aida" and "Miss Saigon" have been perfected. When Macy's wanted to create the new musical "Yes, Virginia," it went to Stagedoor. The camp even inspired the 2003 independent film "Camp," which lured Sondheim to stay a night on campus. (A moment commemorated with a little plaque.)
Stagedoor alumni have spread out into every part of the entertainment business, and revealing a connection to the camp is akin to sharing that you also attended the same Ivy League school. "You can't mount a Broadway show, make a film or do a TV series without running into somebody from Stagedoor," says Kittrell.
One alumna who looks back with great fondness on her years at Stagedoor is Rachel Antonoff, an up-and-coming fashion designer who pours her innate theatricality into bold outfits inspired by things like Alfred Hitchcock or "The Addams Family."
Antonoff, 31, attended for several summers starting when she was 12 and created powerful bonds with her fellow campers that she still marvels at today. She recalls her fellow actors doing insane feats — like learning to play the piano or, in her case, figuring out how to tap dance for "42nd Street" — in just a few weeks.
"It meant the world to me. I loved Stagedoor. I can't say enough good things about it," she says, quickly taken over by a wave of nostalgia. "Stagedoor was when theater was always fun and never scary."
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