She may be a Broadway, movie and TV star, but some of Idina Menzel’s favorite childhood memories are from sitting around campfires at Camp Olympus near Monticello, New York. These summers inspired her to partner with the Women’s Leadership Institute and the Harlem Children’s Zone to create Camp BroaderWay, a free performing arts camp for underserved girls in the New York metro area. “I just couldn’t wait to get to camp,” Menzel says. “I loved it so much, but as I started my career, I realized many young girls don’t have that opportunity.” This month, for the first time, 31 seventh-grade girls (selected by the two organizations based on who would benefit most) will be bused to Belvoir Terrace in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Although Menzel doesn’t plan to teach classes, she’ll be on-site, working one-on-one and building mentor/mentee relationships with the students. Fellow actor and husband Taye Diggs, co-founder of dre.dance, is on board as a leading faculty member. The students will create an original production, and Tony-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori will compose original music for the performance, to take place in August at the Miller Theater in New York City.
While the entire camp only lasts 10 days, Menzel hopes the involvement won’t stop there. “The last thing I want is for the girls to come, have a magical experience and then just go home,” she says. “I want to have field trips throughout the year, and if they want to return next summer, they can, along with a new group of seventh graders. In the future, I'd like them to return every year until college and create BroaderWay scholarships. But I have to start small."
Photo by Adam Taylor, copyright 2010 Fox Broadcasting Co.