Brian Gunter had always envisioned bringing a drama camp to his school.
This summer, that vision became a reality.
Students in the ACT started Ardmore High School’s inaugural drama camp on Monday, a weeklong workshop on the elements of performance that coach Brian Gunter has wanted to make a reality since he first started coaching. The camp brings Demond Wilson, founder of The Perfect Performance, to Ardmore to personally instruct students and help them prepare for the upcoming year.
“We teach students not only how to do their performances but we teach them the process of performance,” Wilson, a 1991 national champion in dramatic interpretation, said. “So no matter which script they approach or which event they approach they have a fundamental foundation going into it so that they know how to approach literature and text and know how to get up and tell a story.”
The camp is intense in its focus on the art and theory of story telling. Wilson said many people see acting as simply memorizing and reciting lines, but the application goes much deeper. Wilson, along with his all-star cast of accompanying directors, gear the camp toward the entire process from beginning to end.
“Like any art form there is definite technique and definite theory,” Wilson said. “They inevitably go on to be able to teach other students, which is the goal so that they’re not just learning it for themselves.”
Wilson first met Gunter in 2002 while working on plays together in the summer. Eventually, a friendship began to brew and Gunter recruited Wilson to provide his expertise to students at various times throughout the school year. Since  starting at AHS, Gunter has dreamt of creating a dedicated drama camp.
“This is the next step,” Gunter said, noting the time spent with Wilson will only accelerate the upward trajectory of the program.
Campers begin the day with a warm up before being broken up into groups where they learn story telling theory, the performance process and other techniques to improve their pieces. Students then, in the afternoon, get one-on-one time with Wilson to polish their pieces and learn the tools necessary to improve. Gunter said the impact of Wilson’s direction is reflected in the success of the program.
“Anybody that works with him and who he brings to the table that walks away having not grown exponentially is because they didn’t want to,” Gunter said. “It’s like going to a Las Vegas buffet and walking away hungry. It’s right there for you all you have to do is get it yourself.”
Gunter said the camp was made possible through a grant provided by a local foundation. Gunter said the foundation has been “extremely good to us (the ACT)” and believes the program is picking up steam in the community on the heels of the group’s second consecutive state championship. The return of debate coach Noel Collins and the establishment of a middle school drama program, Gunter believes, will ”create a foundation” as the program continues to grow.
“If you want to dream something you better dream big and not approach like it won’t happen,” Gunter said. “Everything I wanted to have happen has happened.”
Gunter said even with the program’s recent success, the group is setting measurable goals for the year and improving as a team.
“To repeat success like we’ve had you just have to work harder,” Gunter said. “When you find success that’s not the time to sit down. That’s the time to work harder.”
Wilson said he believes the Ardmore program has the potential to expand upon its already strong state presence and further develop its national presence.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Wilson said. “The Ardmore students work so incredibly hard and they really put their heart and soul into everything they do.”
Gunter said he hopes the camp will continue to grow in the future, potentially expanding to a theater camp that includes one-act plays.