Before there was Glee or American Idol, there was Stagedoor Manor, a theater camp in the Catskills where big-time Hollywood casting directors came to find the next generation of stars. It’s where Natalie Portman, Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Braff, Mandy Moore, Lea Michele, and many others got their start as kids. At age thirty-one, Mickey Rapkin, a senior editor at GQ and self-proclaimed theater geek, was lucky enough to go, too, when he followed three determined teen actors through the rivalries, heartbreak, and triumphs of a summer at Stagedoor Manor.
Every summer since 1975, a new crop of campers has entered Stagedoor Manor to begin an intense, often wrenching introduction to professional theater. The offspring of Hollywood players like Ron Howard, Nora Ephron, and Bruce Willis work alongside kids on scholarship. Some campers have agents, others are just beginning. The faculty—all seasoned professionals—demand adult-size dedication and performances from the kids. Add in talent scouts from Disney and Paradigm and you have an intense, exciting environment where some thrive and others fail. Eye-opening, funny, and full of drama and heart, Theater Geek offers an illuminating romp through the world of serious child actors.
Mickey Rapkin is a senior editor at GQ magazine. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, TimeOut New York, The New York Post, Entertainment Weekly, and other publications. His first book, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory, was published in 2008 by Gotham Books. He graduated cum laude from Cornell University in 2000. He lives in Manhattan.