By Carrie-ann Pishnak
Executive Director of the Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts

As the summer sun paints the sky with hues of warmth and possibility, parents across Los Angeles find themselves embarking on a quest to enrich their children’s lives with experiences that foster growth, creativity, and confidence. For many, the journey begins at the Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts (YADA), where the magic of musical theater summer camps has flourished for the past 27 years, producing alumni such as Lily Collins, Kiernan Shipka and Lilla Crawford.

The benefits of summer camp include:

1. Develops Lifelong Skills
2. Promotes Independence
3. Teaches Teamwork
4. Cultivates Resiliency
5. Encourages Connection
6. Builds Self-Esteem
7. Nurtures Friendships
8. Instills Respect for Differences
9. Engages Intellectual Curiosity
10. Provides a Safe Environment

Studies from the National Library of Medicine reveal “a strong association between social isolation, anxiety, and depression in children and adolescents”, making inclusion in the arts critically important for fostering a sense of belonging, understanding, and value. The magic of summer camps and the arts extends far beyond the stage. Children will spend their time forging lifelong friendships, discovering hidden talents, and embracing the joy of self-expression, all while building confidence and resilience for their life’s journey. Give them the safety they need to find their joy, give them community, and give them a summer camp.

Imagine a stage alive with the vibrant energy of young performers, their voices soaring in harmony, their spirits ablaze with the joy of artistic expression. This is the world of YADA, where children aged 3 to 17 come together to explore the transformative power of the performing arts. With three bustling locations in West Hollywood, Studio City, and Playa Vista, YADA offers a diverse array of two-week and one-week summer camps tailored to suit every budding talent.

A recent National Camp Impact Study from the American Camp Association demonstrated that “camp experiences among children not only support social connectedness and the development of perseverance, responsibility and the willingness to try new things, but also that these traits last well into academic environments and their early careers.” Character development is foundational to the camp experience and in today’s world, the benefits of bolstering traits such as gratitude, kindness, creativity, curiosity, resiliency, empathy, courage, and teamwork are arguably more important than ever. From beloved full-scale musicals like “Willy Wonka” and “Legally Blonde” to themed musical revues celebrating the likes of icons like Taylor Swift, Barbie, and even the disco era, where kids truly become rockstars, YADA practically has a summer camp for everyone. But it isn’t just about putting on a show—it’s also about nurturing holistic development, foundational learning, and creative exploration through musical theater. At YADA, students learn to integrate counting, music, choreography, and blocking skills, as well as delving into character creation and vocal techniques, all under the guidance of our dedicated Teaching Artists.

For children attending multiple summer camps, YADA embraces Rotational Casting, which means shows are built into tracks and each track has a skillset to be learned. A-tracks develop leadership skills, B-tracks focus on character development, and C-tracks hone in on ensemble mindset. YADA rotates children based on previous tracks to create a well-rounded experience.

Ultimately, the journey is the goal. Success at YADA does not mean flawless dance moves and pitch-perfect songs. Success means a child has braved center stage in front of an audience to passionately sing their heart out. It means they are blossoming and coming into their own. They’re finding their voice. Magic.

For those drawn to spontaneity, YADA’s one-week improv camps offer an extraordinary opportunity for children to immerse themselves in the world of improvisational theater. Led by passionate professionals, kids embark on a journey of self-discovery and artistic expression through engaging theater games. These activities not only foster creativity but also instill essential life skills like collaboration, active listening, and confidence. As children navigate the exhilarating realm of spontaneous creativity, they develop crucial abilities such as emotional intelligence and critical thinking. Ensemble-based games help students learn to transcend their own thoughts and fully engage in the collective energy of group dynamics. It’s not just about learning—it’s about tapping into imagination, intuition, and heart while collaborating with others. This transformative experience, rooted in Viola Spolin’s philosophy of “thinking less and responding with heart,” empowers children to unleash their creativity, build meaningful connections, and make something truly amazing together. Beautiful.

But the spirit of improvisation doesn’t end with the classroom experience. Every Saturday, the stage comes alive with the “Rockin’ Awesome Improv Show,” (RAIS) a high-octane family-friendly improv show made just for kids. What sets RAIS apart is its interactive nature, where families become active participants in the comedic chaos unfolding before them. From shouting out suggestions to joining the cast on stage for impromptu games, every moment is infused with spontaneity and laughter, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Community.

In the quest to provide enriching experiences for children, summer camps stand as pivotal milestones in their journey toward growth and self-discovery. For parents, these camps offer more than just entertainment—they provide a vital space where children are empowered to thrive, equipping them with tools to navigate life’s stages with grace and joy.