French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts

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French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts is a performing arts summer camp co-owned by Ron Schaefer and his daughter, Beth Schaefer, and directed by Isaac Baumfeld, and founded in 1970.

It is located just outside Hancock, New York, on a private lake known as Sand Pond in the western Catskill Mountains. French Woods offers summer camp programs in dance, theatre (including technical theatre and musical theater), music, rock and roll, circus, magic, visual arts, skateboarding, sport and horseback riding, and in 2008, 2,400 children attended the camp, over some 12 weeks. According to New York Times, "Stagedoor Manor and French Woods, along with the Interlochen Center for the Arts, in Michigan, are considered the gold standard of theater camps."[1]


Schaefer wanted campers to make their own choices;[2] they each design their individual schedule, with 3 major activities and 3 minor activities each day. Majors are done every day for three weeks at a time, whereas minors are chosen daily. The camp mounts full-scale productions of more than 10 musicals in under three weeks.[3]

The winter office is located in Coral Springs, Florida.

Notable alumni[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Camp'd Out: I'm Going to Performing Arts Camp is a documentary television movie in the MTV True Life series that was filmed in summer 2008 and first shown on April 25, 2009. Filmed in summer 2008, the film follows three aspiring Broadway stars through nine weeks of competitive drama at French Woods.[1][4][7]
  • Scenes of Episode 17 (Season 9) of MTV's MADE were filmed at French Woods during the summer of 2008. The show featured Alex Mills, who wanted to be made into a skateboarder.


  1. ^ a b c d Mickey Rapkin, "Auditioning Round the Campfire", Fashion & Style, New York Times, July 27, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Frank Nestor, "Camping It Up", Backstage, March 23, 2011.
  3. ^ Michael Gioia, "Being Bold, Battling Bullies and Broadway: Why I Became a Counselor at French Woods Theatre Camp", Playbill, 7 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "MTI Meets MTV at French Woods Summer Camp", The Marquee blog, Music Theatre International, May 5, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Michael Gioia, "A Moment in the Woods: Aspiring Performers Tackle La Cage, Sweeney Todd and More at French Woods Theatre Camp", Playbill, 1 August 2013, p. 4.
  6. ^ Tea Price, "New music director for Phoenix Symphony crescendos to prominence through youth", Downtown Devil, September 18, 2014.
  7. ^ Robert Lloyd, "Review: MTV's Camp'd Out: I'm Going to Performing Arts Camp", Show Tracker blog, Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2009.

Coordinates: 41°55′02″N 75°11′04″W / 41.917112°N 75.184400°W / 41.917112; -75.184400