For many young people, camp is a first opportunity to venture outside their everyday worlds and away from parents’ prying eyes.
In Bradford Proctor and Alaina Kunin’s musical Bunked!, that summer rite of passage is explored through a quintet of camp counsellors, set to a pop score and not a little teen angst.
“Summer camp is such an interesting, heightened environment where these people come together for a few weeks and have this whole ecosystem that they are immersed in,” explains the 29-year-old Proctor from his home in New York City. “Away from their families, this is their opportunity to explore who they really are.”
Bunked! focuses on five 19-year-olds hired at Camp Timberlake during their last summer before they are expected to head off to college. Among the group is Oliver, a flamboyant gay man who, at first blush, appears more interested in finding his next hookup on Grindr than looking after his young charges. Dragged unwillingly to the camp by his twin sister, Anabel, the siblings find themselves mutually vying for the attention of Stewart, the hunky self-described pansexual of the group.
“Oliver is very abrasive, sassy and bitchy,” says actor Nick Rose, who can relate to his character’s relationship struggles, as a gay man himself. “I was the same age as Oliver when I first fell in love, and I can see myself in the sexual front that he puts on to protect himself. Oliver is very focused, at first, in wanting to bang someone, but as the story progresses he wants more.”
Proctor says that Oliver, as the comedic element in the show, was written as both a contrast to the other characters, who aren’t as experienced sexually, and as someone a younger musical-theatre crowd can relate to.
“Oliver gets a heightened sexuality to the piece since the others aren’t so overtly sexual,” Proctor says. “And besides, we all know someone like Oliver, and he is just a fun character that audiences seem to really like.”
Proctor readily admits that the play isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. “We really just wanted an audience to like the music and the songs,” he says.
The young team from Awkward Stage, given full rein to produce the show with the help of adult mentors, agree.
“The story has great heart,” says Alex Strong, who plays the object of Oliver’s affections. “It’s very funny but manages to balance those issues with the humour.”
But will Oliver get the guy? This cast isn’t about to offer any spoilers.