Written and Performed by Courtney Antonioli; Directed by Chris Chan Roberson
Produced by St. Olaf Productions
Part of the 2017 FRIGID New York Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 3.4.17
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
by Emily Cordes on 2.24.17
Courtney Antonioli in 18 Days. 48 Girls. Photo by Chris Chan Roberson.
BOTTOM LINE: The true story of one woman’s brief, traumatic stint as a girls’ camp director.
Quarter-life crises, and the existential turmoil they breed, can lead us down some well-intentioned but ill-advised paths. In her solo show 18 Days. 48 Girls., writer-performer Courtney Antonioli recalls one such misguided choice, recounting her particularly hellish summer running an all-girls sleepaway camp in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Depressed and adrift after losing her grant-writer job in March 2015, Antonioli was recruited the following July to manage an eighteen-day retreat for teenage girls on the Bryn Mawr campus. With little experience apart from her own fond summer-camp memories, she accepted, seeing in the offer a shot at redemption and a chance to make a difference in her young charges’ lives. The reality, however, was far from idyllic, leaving Antonioli constantly at odds with the current generation’s technological addiction and particular breed of dysfunctional role models.
Despite having agreed to the program’s structure and strict no-screens policies upon enrollment, campers and parents alike vehemently fought these rules through complaints, loopholes, or outright rebellion. Worse, Antonioli found herself ill equipped to handle the girls’ emotional baggage: thirty of the forty-eight campers had never spent significant time away from home, and at least half had mental health issues. Beyond standard teenage dramas and pranks gone awry, Antonioli had to address campers’ suicide threats, molestation charges, and disruptive behavioral problems. The girls’ parents were just as, if not more, troublesome, alternately micromanaging their daughters’ lives and all too quickly passing responsibility (and blame) to such outside parties as Antonioli. (One mother, angered at Antonioli’s refusal to return her deposit, leaked sexual abuse rumors to the local police, then abandoned her crusade when it did not yield the desired refund). Despite her concern for the girls and hope that her actions had a favorable effect, Antonioli was too scarred by the experience to return for a second year.
18 Days. 48 Girls. brands itself as a comedy, and Antonioli ekes some gallows humor out of the tale’s absurdities, from campers’ questionable hygiene and crushes on middle-aged security guards to her own poorly-executed curricula (cheesy 80s dance parties; an icebreaker game leading to injury-by-frozen-t-shirt). However, the show reads as more tragic than funny, revealing the toxicity of modern parenting practices, the insidiousness of instant-gratification culture, and the seeming impossibility of counteracting these elements’ impact on our youth. Antonioli can’t quite pinpoint her role, positive or negative, in the scenario, but her own blind ambition, coupled with the unrealistic expectations set before her, may well have forged the no-win situation that ensued. Maybe the overriding message of 18 Days is that, given its complexities, childcare is best left to the professionals.
(18 Days. 48 Girls. plays at UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through March 4, 2017. The running time is one hour. Performances are Sat 2/18 at 12:30, Thu 2/23 at 5:30, Sat 2/25 at 8:50, Fri 3/3 at 5:30, and Sat 3/4 at 5:30. Tickets are $10 and are available at FRIGIDNewYork.info.)
18 Days. 48 Girls. is written and performed by Courtney Antonioli. Directed by Chris Chan Roberson.