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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Camp Tales - Underground Railroad

Many camps offer a variety of activities that not only get the kids outside and having some sort of adventure, but also teach. At the camp I spent the most time working, we offered an Underground Railroad program. It was a combination project that gave the kids a background in the Underground Railroad, then divided them up into groups, and sent them through the woods to go through a number of "Railroad Stops", while not being caught or shot (water gun) by slave chasers (often their counselors). Each stop had different things they had to successfully maneuver, while getting their entire "family" group safe into the North. It was a combination of adventure mixed with history. One summer one of the staff decided he wanted to bring an new element to the project and offered to dress like a runaway slave and give an mini scene as part of the presentation. He came to me about creating a costume for him.

Using an old white shirt from the paint shirts in the Craft Hall I went to work dying it in multiple couples from my tie dye buckets to give it a dingy appearance, let it dry. I even rolled it in the dirt, stomping on it as I went. (Receiving a few interesting looks from passing campers and staff that didn't know what I was working on) I placed it on his body then armed with a pair of scissors I went to work shredding the sleeves and edges, then made slips across his back like whip marks.

Using what I had on hand, which happened to be make up, I bloodied up the edges of the whip marks with red lipstick mixed with mascara and blush.

We completed the costume with an old pair of jeans he had, a beat up pair of unlaced boots, a chain we borrowed from something on camp, and a walking stick he found on camp. Using more of my make up, I made marks on his skin underneath the slits on his shirt with my light colored concealer (it looked great on his dark skin for this effect), red lipstick, black mascara and eye liner, with a mixture of eye shadow and blush.

He prepared his own scene to introduce himself as a runaway a slave before the kids were sent off on the journey and was waiting for the in the "North" when they got there. The reaction of the kids to his character and the whip marks we created was amazing to us both. A couple of the kids forget we were playing and were afraid that touching his painted arks would cause him pain. It had a definite impact on a number of us and brought a new depth to the project that any of them had participated multiple summers.

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