Dear Magical Families:
Today, I write to let you know that I have taken what has been one of the most fraught and difficult decisions of my career: I have decided to move the Magischola Prep summer camp experience online for 2020.
While we had hoped against hope that it would be possible to bring the community of campers and staff together for the magical week of fun, transformation, and friendship, ultimately, I do not feel that we can produce an in-person experience that is both safe and satisfactory in this current environment.
In all things, the safety and consent of our staff and participants must come first. One of the key parts that make any summer camp special, but especially Magischola Prep, is the bonding and intimacy that only an in-person experience can fully create. During these times, with everything going on in the Philadelphia area and the rest of the country, we must use an abundance of caution to protect the well-being of everyone. There are simply too many variables and dangers to mitigate risk to an acceptable level, and I hope you can understand and support this difficult decision.
As a parent of a camper who attends Magishcola Prep and other summer camp programs each year, I know the struggle of wanting to give your child what they deeply and strongly desire, but knowing that you have to protect them and keep them safe using your judgment and wisdom. I hope that the move to an online experience relieves that conflict and allows everyone to be excited about the upcoming camp again, without worry.
I had been reluctant to offer an online experience if it would not meet our goals of allowing campers to express themselves in an engaging, inclusive, empowering, and safe environment. We spent a lot of time exploring options and hiring professionals to design a program that will be unlike any other. I am now convinced that we CAN (and will!) offer an online experience that will be immersive, fun, and transformative by bringing our campers together in online spaces and using our theatrical, community-building, and storytelling resources to make a unique and memorable experience together.
We hope that campers will come with us on this journey and are as excited as we are about the possibilities. We are looking forward to welcoming your camper in the virtual Great Hall, where the realities of physical distancing will help keep them safe, but the magic of friendship, togetherness, acceptance, and story will take them to new worlds. We have openings for up to 20 additional participants in the online format, and you can sign up through July 6, 2020.
Camp Executive Director
Presenting: P2A4 on The Cat!
The Catoptrics Network (our in-universe magical version of the internet) is a series of magical mirrors used by wizards and mages throughout the world to communicate with each other, scry and divine, and, for particularly advanced users, travel through space and even time. Every participant in the P2A4 summer program this year will use the Catoptrics Network – aka “The Cat” – to attend class, interact with their court, and travel to hidden rooms and places in pursuit of truth, knowledge, and justice.
The Logistical Details
P2A4 on The Cat will be conducted via a private Discord server with voice and text channels, as well as through a private Zoom account with various meet-up rooms. There will be a combination of live video sessions, such as magic school classes and challenges, text-based ongoing roleplay in Discord channels, and voice-chat on Discord Channels. The servers and Zoom meetings are private and will not be accessible to anyone other than camp participants and staff with the permissions and passwords. Live video sessions will be opened and conducted by a staff member and the Discord server will be moderated by staff.
P2A4 will be held the same week that the in-person experience was scheduled: July 12-18, 2020. We will keep the Discord server open after camp for continued online roleplay and meet-ups with supervision from our amazing staff for 90 days post-camp. We wanted to honor the dates already set aside for the full immersive experience, and then allow campers to continue interacting online through the remainder of the summer.
What will it look like:
While we are still building all of the activities and schedule, the basic structure of the P2A4 on The Cat experience will include:
- Live video magic school classes in the morning, with students selecting their classes from among those offered in a particular time period.
- A break for lunch and free play on the Discord server. There will be story prompts, ongoing activities, and pop-up appearances throughout the week on Discord. Campers will have plots to discover, puzzles to solve, and homework to do after class, or they may want to hang out in their Court’s Cat Lounge.
- A late afternoon live session that will be class, a challenge, or meetup.
- A break for dinner (Discord server remains open).
- An out-of-character social activity for two hours in the evening. This would be similar to “hanging out in the dorms.” We are considering games, karaoke, open mic, and other activities and we definitely want camper input for what they think will be fun in the evenings. Campers will have choices among the live sessions or they can also continue to text-based roleplay. Or both! We know most campers are amazing at multi-tasking with screens!
- The events schedule will be in Eastern Daylight Time, but we are designing so that our campers from other time zones can easily participate.
Will I still get a character?
You bet! Our character writer is hard at work this week and next writing up amazing characters for each camper. We’re using a new template this year to make the character sheets easier to read and roleplay. I think you’ll like them.
Will there still be Court Plots and the Main Plot and Personal Stories?
Absolutely! We’ve been working hard translating narratives and wizard school classes to engaging online formats. Some classes will use ingredients and objects in your own homes. There are also many opportunities to search The Cat for additional information, solve puzzles, go on quests to unlock mysterious hallways or subterranean dungeons, and uncover conspiracies and dark forces working to sabotage wizard safety and security. Along the way, you’ll find ethical quandaries and tough decisions – and consequences from those for your character.
Will there still be a Sorting Ceremony?
Yes, on Sunday night. Classes will begin online on Monday.
Costs & Confirmation
As you might expect, pricing such an online experience hasn’t been easy. I can very safely say that nothing like this has been made before, and we are planning something extraordinary. We’ve hired producers from Third Rail and other theatrical professionals that have helped to host online LARP or interactive theater events, as well as programmers, linguists, and artists to make this happen. It is going to be personalized and immersive, and we are very excited to bring this concept to you.
While there are online summer camps, most offer two hours of video sessions and two hours of independent work per day for a total of 8-15 hours of supervised sessions over the course of a five day week. We will be offering our campers ~70 hours of moderated and curated video, voice, or text-based participation options with individual characters in the story.
We will continue to integrate the same adaptive elements to allow the experience to change as the students make choices throughout the week. This online camp is more than a single subject, such as photography or coding. P2A4 campers get multiple tracks (e.g. Charms & Hexes, Divination, Ciphers & Runes, etc.) as well as special sessions such as clubs and custom small group activities. PLUS! After camp, we will keep the Discord server open to campers for ongoing moderated role play and communication.
In a normal year, about 50% of our budget is for food, housing, and facilities. This year we want to pay all our staff their regular salaries and bring on several additional collaborators and skilled individuals to make this digital experience event just as engaging. With this in mind, we will offer this exclusive online camp experience for $775 per camper.
The price includes and gives our camp the ability to:
- Host 7 days of online summer camp from the afternoon of July 12 to the afternoon of July 18th. This includes:
- Multiple online classes
- Overall story
- Court Plots
- Personal storylines
- Online collaborative role play
- Facilitated online role play
- So much more!
- Provide an ongoing Discord server support and moderation for 90 days post-camp
- Provide personalized character sheets to help campers create unique characters for this online experience
- Personalized storylines for individual and group role play
- Staff to support emergent storytelling and camper needs as the week progresses
- Ability to pay our staff, counselors, NPCs, professors, collaborators and skilled individuals for their contributions
This experience is personal and unlike any other. While some camps kept the same charge for their online version as their in-person version, I felt it best to remove the costs of lodging and food that we will not incur with the online experience, arriving at the $775 per camper.