by Susie Gidseg, Managing Director of Changing Lives
When I was notified by SafePlace and Theatre Action Project that they wanted us to take our Changing Lives students on a retreat this year, I was nervous. I’m not much of an outdoorsy person. I vaguely remember retreats in middle school and high school being in nicely air-conditioned bunks— food cooked and prepared for us. The idea of taking a bunch of teenagers out to the middle of nowhere— was, to be said, a bit daunting.
But then I visited the campsite, Candlelight Ranch. Way out between Marble Falls and Cedar Park, this beautiful campground boasted an air-conditioned cabin (yes, please!), the largest wheelchair accessible treehouse—possibly anywhere, a teepee, a serenity pond and much more.
We arrived, after many weeks of planning and something happened. Our Changing Lives students, both old and new, bonded.
Late night card games took place in the pavilion and outside of the cabin to all hours of the night. They threw water balloons across the yard. Students had talks at the serenity pond. Volunteers and Changing Lives teens cooked and served food, and we all sat together in the cabin talking about school, friends, life, work, theatre. We challenged our fears by ziplining over canyons and supported the members of our ensemble who may have been afraid.
When we arrived at the camp—we were students, teachers, volunteers and ensemble members new and old. When we left, (and our bosses were right about this), we were one ensemble. There is something to be said about a retreat, and I was thrilled to experience it at Candlelight Ranch. Changing Lives is stronger because of it.
Susie Gidseg is the Managing Director of Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble is a very unique and exciting program that Theatre Action Project and SafePlace created to address social problems now and to train leaders to generate solutions for them in the future.