Becky Wandel
Youth Media Producer, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs

My name is Becky Wandel and I am currently a Youth Media Producer at PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. I had the privilege of being both a participant and a counselor at Five Star Theatre Company between 2007 and 2018. I began my time with Five Star when I was 10 years old as a member of the ensemble in our production of "Once on This Island." It was my first time ever being up on stage and, thanks to the passion and expertise of the counselors and directors who guided me there, an experience that made me fall in love with performing. I continued on as a participant for the next 5 summers and solidified lifelong friendships with my fellow participants. The creative and affirming environment at Five Star pushed me to try new things -- like dancing, costume designing, poetry writing and more -- all while feeling safe and supported by directors, counselors and fellow participants. I was lucky enough to return to Five Star as a counselor for two summers while I was a college student. I discovered a passion for working with young people that has shaped my career. In my current role, I work closely with a diverse range of middle and high school students studying journalism. I find myself thinking often of lessons I learned as a Five Star counselor -- treating children with respect and patience, working hard to create a caring atmosphere, and most importantly, being open to learning from kids just as much as I hope they're learning from me. At Five Star, I taught workshops in music theory and self-expression through art that helped me become the educator I am today. I even still have some of the participants' creations from the latter workshop hanging in my apartment! Five Star is an incredibly special place that has helped generations of young people like me find confidence in ourselves and our place in the world.

Lisa Gibbs
Five Star Parent

When I look back at my daughter's experience in Five Star, the first thing I think of is how it is the only place during her whole school experience where she was fully included and accepted. NOT because she had to be, but because she just WAS. This is the culture of this amazing theatre experience for all participants. Samantha was held to high expectations while also enjoying the accommodations necessary for her to achieve success. The stage has always been a place where Sam shines because of the confidence that grew during her experience at Five Star. Her love for acting, singing and dancing was encouraged and indeed flourished under the tutelage of Mr. Endslow, Miss Killian and all the other counselors. This summer, Samantha had the privilege of becoming a counselor, working and molding student campers as she had been taught. This opportunity would never have been possible without Mr. Endslow's vision and all the potential he sees in her. Five Star is a magical place and each summer, about 160 staff and students work together to make the stage come alive.

Elena Raucci
Five Star Parent

The Five Star Theatre Company allows children of all abilities to participate, which is one of its strengths. It was very important in my son’s life. David has autism; he has very little affect and has trouble recognizing and expressing emotions. The years David participated in Five Star were important to his emotional growth, because he was able to act out feelings on the stage that he didn’t know how to express in real life. Now an adult, David is a civil engineer with little time for theatrical pursuits, but he does sing in a community choir. Music is his favorite avocation. I believe that the Five Star Theatre Company was instrumental in helping David to become the man he is.

Travis Girigosian
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Five Star is so much more than just a summer theater program. The friendships I formed here, both as a participant and as a counselor, have become some of my most meaningful. As a participant, there were so many opportunities to explore theater and other art forms, which were foundational in my love of the arts. The learning environment is patient and affirming, which helps to nurture young actors from all walks of life. From a professional perspective, as a former counselor I owe Mr. Endslow, Ms. Killian, and the rest of the staff so much. They set a gold-standard example of how to work on a team and support your colleagues while delivering an amazing program to the participants. This program is overwhelmingly beneficial to young people in so many ways, and I can only hope that future generations of young actors have the opportunity to learn and grow here.

Matt B.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I was a participant in Five Star for four excellent summers. During that time, Five Star helped me to discover my love for theatre. Five Star has helped me to excel in my many theatrical endeavors, and given me the confidence to perform in many situations, both onstage and off. Between the wonderful counselors, workshops, and productions, I not only learned about the art of musical theatre, but also forged new skills and friendships. Five Star is the best place for any aspiring actor to spend their summer.

Mark M.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I simply couldn't imagine the person and artist I would be if I had not spent my summers at Five Star growing up. Five Star was so much more than just my first introduction to theater, it was a place where I was free to be and express myself. Being a part of Five Star meant I had a community of peers, counselors, and teachers that I knew would support, challenge, and embrace me. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity not only to learn about theater, but about working together, embracing differences, and appreciating the arts and creativity as invaluable aspects of education, knowledge, and citizenship.

Jeff M.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I was a camper at Five Star Theater Company for six summers, and came back as a Counselor for another four. For about half of my life, every July I kept coming back. As a kid, Five Star helped me come out of my shell, and gave me the confidence to step out onto the stage, and realize I wanted to work in theatre for the rest of my life. As a Counselor, it helped me work on my skills as a leader and educator while working through my Education Degree at Emerson College. Five Star gave me so many opportunities to learn and express myself all while having too much fun.

Caitlin B.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

So much of my own success I attribute to being a participant in the Five Star Theatre Program. Not only did this institute allow me an opportunity to create lasting friendships and strong connections, as well as help to break me out of my shell, but I also gained an extensive knowledge throughout my time there. To this day, I carry with me the lessons I learned from workshops with the carefully selected and extremely talented and trained counselors, as well as the program's impeccable directors. The skills I gained expand far beyond theatrical; I was taught public speaking, teamwork, Quidditch, historical applications, and so many ways to apply and embrace creativity. My time at Five Star molded me into the person I am today and I could not be more proud to have been part of an organization that has had such a tremendous impact on so many lives

Laura W.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

My first day at Five Star was an overwhelming parade of orange shirts, a few familiar faces, and exciting games.  I soon came to love the busy atmosphere of this program.  Each day, we would learn about various aspects of theatre ranging from stage directions and basics, improvisation, playwriting, technical design, and of course, theatre games that brought us all closer together.  When we weren't bonding with each other and the Counselors, we were busy learning incredible music and staging with Miss K and Mr. E.  It was a miracle how we managed to fit a hundred people on the stage every year! Five Star was where I learned how to come out of my shell and try new things.  I was always a loud kid, but on stage I used to be nervous until the Five Star Theatre Program made me feel comfortable and excited to share my talents and ideas in front of others.  There, I learned to get to know others instead of judging them, and in turn, to stop worrying about others judging me.  I truly think that Five Star made me the actress, teacher, artist, and person that I am today.  It gives me great joy to give back to the Five Star community as a Counselor.

Julia C.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I credit my time at the Five Star Theatre Program for creating some of the best memories of my childhood and for introducing me to my love of theatre. It was here that I made some of my greatest friends and was pushed to try new things. It was the thing that each of our returning friends looked forward to most each summer. Every year the staff was consistently excited to teach us what they could and see what we created. With each workshop, theme day, and rehearsal I was encouraged to find new ways of expressing myself. But Five Star was much more than that. As a kid who struggled to find comfort with who I was, Five Star helped me learn that I didn’t need to be the loudest person in the room in order for people to value what I had to offer. I spent a lot of time trying to be funny or trying to get attention because I felt like I had to. Five Star offered me an outlet to find who I was and let me have as much fun as I possibly could while doing so. It introduced me to my passion for theatre, and helped me become who I am today. I can’t thank Five Star enough for what it’s given me.

Stephen G.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

In my years with Five Star, I came to realize that it’s much more than a "summer camp"; it’s a program that fosters the growth, development, and creativity of young people. Yes, we play games. Yes, we have "snack time". But we also work hard to present a full-length musical in four weeks, a nearly impossible task for any caliber of theatre company. Through many workshops, disciplines, and performance opportunities, Five Star encourages its participants to bring their truest and best selves every day. They are invited to celebrate their creativity through various styles of music, dance, and acting, as well as visual arts, on-camera work, writing, and other creative art forms. This program was very crucial in my growing up. Not only was I given opportunities to grow as a performer and an artist, but I developed many new friendships that continue to today. Kids of all ages work together in every capacity at Five Star; it’s not often you see a group of nine-year-olds and fifteen-year-olds sharing goldfish, but that’s the type of caring and safe environment Five Star creates for its participants. I’m extremely grateful for my days at Five Star as I pursue a college degree—and a career—in musical theatre. I was given permission to learn, grow, and celebrate myself…without even knowing it!"

Alexandra P.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Participating in The Five Star Theatre Program was always the highlight of my summers growing up! This camp taught me far more than just theatre games; this is where I gained confidence in my public speaking abilities, let alone confidence in myself. It was always a blast performing in the Five Star shows at the end of July but my favorite memories of camp come from spending the days acting, singing and dancing alongside my siblings and friends. For three summers of my life, The Five Star Theatre Program was truly my home away from home!

Mary Margaret H.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Entering the Five Star Theater Company, was a life-changing decision. At nine years old, I was very shy and uncertain of my interests. After five summers being involved in these spectacular shows, I truly grew as an individual. I gained an immense love for theater and acquired a new level of self-confidence that I still hold with me today. Now, I am privileged to return as a Counselor and share the wonders of the arts!

Brendan M.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

As a nine-year-old first entering Five Star, I had not yet identified with any passions or interests. I tried many different activities when I was that age, and when I walked through the doors of Five Star I had no idea that I had finally found my home. I took what I learned at Five Star and brought it with me to future school years. In high school and middle school, I filled my weekends and afternoons with rehearsals, I filled my social life with the people I met, and I filled my self-esteem with the experiences and productions I had the opportunity to be a part of. Even now, as a college student, Five Star has exposed me to a whole new set of experiences. As a Five Star Counselor I have the privilege of making sure that kids that are in similar circumstances that I was in can also find their home. The priceless moments and friendships I gained and continue to gain from the Five Star experience are ones that I will be able to cherish forever.

Jared B.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Within my first year of acting I heard all of my friends talking about how they were going to Five Star. I was already booked to go to another camp-- I had no idea I could keep doing theater beyond the school year! By the time I cleared my summer schedule and auditioned for Five Star I was still unaware of how the program was much more than just putting on another musical. My Five Star experience only lasted a few years, but I honestly grew up with it. From making friends to learning more about theater and myself in the workshops, this program gave me fun and entertainment from ensemble to larger roles. I distinctly remember the older kids whose last year it was, and how even at 15 years old they were role models on and off stage to us younger kids. It was my pleasure to try to give back to the next generation as a participant and eventually as a Counselor. The program kept drawing me back and keeps bringing more generations of kids back because its an amazing experience like no other.

Eric P.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Five Star changed my life for good from the moment I first found this fun-loving family.  I discovered my love for theatre and drama among my fellow participants, who welcomed me and all my quirks as we learned and grew together.  Each day was a joy, each show was a triumph, and each year I found myself more inspired and better able to work with my peers.  It was a world I never wanted to leave, and, after three years as a participant and two as a Counselor, I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a screenwriter and keep the drama alive.  Hats off to Five Star, which gives us dreams and tells us "Live them".

Dan H.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I always look back on Five Star as the experience that set off a chain reaction of great experiences in high school for me. Over a few summers in Five Star, my confidence skyrocketed. I made some great friends who I'm still in touch with now, 12 years later. I think my heavy involvement in extracurriculars in high school can be attributed to the great experience I had in Five Star. I knew I had to come back as a counselor, which I ended up doing for five unforgettable summers. Between the creativity of theme days, learning actually pretty interesting stuff in workshops, the inside jokes, and (often overshadowed by the rest of the adventures) the performance of the play itself, Five Star was the perfectly dynamic and rounded experience that highlighted my summers for nine total years.

Kim P.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Every year since I was ten years old I looked forward to the month of July. I loved my FiveStar friends, the counselors, and performing. When I could no longer be a camper I returned eagerly as a counselor. At that time, I didn’t realize the impact that this program would have on my life. The skills I picked up each month in FiveStar helped me through college and continue to help me in my job as a nurse. What I didn’t realize while I was playing theater games and performing with friends, was that I was learning the critical skills of team work, creativity, leadership, presentation, diction, and poise. The confidence I gained in FiveStar helped me to collaboratively work within a group and gave me an ease with conversation and presentation that have been essential in my career. The Endslows, Ms. Killian, Ms. Stone, and the FiveStar community will always hold a special place in my heart.

Lindsay M.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Five Star was the stand-out program that not only brought me summers of fun and new friends, but experiences that gave me confidence and courage. The great thing about this program is that it is enjoyable for all types of kids--shy, outgoing, loud, quiet, and everyone in between. There are so many different kinds of kids having fun together, learning from each other, and coming together to put on a show. It was definitely one of my favorite childhood experiences!

Lily S.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I was a participant in Five Star for four years, and a counselor for two. When I look back at my summers, it is a central focal point, easily the paramount part of those precious few months. As a participant, I learned a tremendous amount of patience and compassion.  I was challenged to make friends outside of school, to understand how different people interact with one another, and to simultaneously connect with other participants and counselors that had similar passions for performing. The camp fosters a safe, inclusive space where participants are encouraged to embrace and express themselves, challenge one another, and grow not only as performers, but also as people.  Each day of camp is full of fun—counselors are enthusiastic and eager to teach, campers are eager to take risks and try new things, and working towards an end goal of the performance creates a consummate atmosphere of teamwork and motivation. My six years there undoubtedly contributed to my character development, my willingness to try new things, and my ability to find camaraderie and connection any place I go.

Shailee S.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

My biggest regret with Five Star was that I didn’t start earlier. When I think back to the few summers I spent at Five Star it brings an overwhelming amount of memories. Through rehearsals and workshops I found my immeasurable love for theater and learned more than I could imagine in just four weeks.  It didn’t matter whether you were a lead role or in the ensemble, Five Star taught us that by working together you could create something so incredible that you can truly be proud of. Beyond the elements of theater, I developed the confidence to perform in front of hundreds of strangers and I found friends who all shared the same passion. When I think of Five Star I think of winning theme days with my best friends; I think of the overwhelming joy you feel when the curtain drops on opening night and you know you rocked the show; I think of making new friends at snack time; I think of all the crazy, weird, funny, and amazing skits and games we played that brought us all closer as an ensemble; and I think of all the tears, both happy and sad, shed on the last day of camp knowing how lucky we were to have had this experience and that we have to wait a year to do it all over again. Five Star made getting up at 8 in the morning on a warm summer day a lot easier because each day was an opportunity to learn a new lesson, make a new friend, and create memories that will last a lifetime.  I will always cherish my days at Five Star both as a participant and as a counselor; it is truly one of a kind and the best way to spend a summer vacation!

Molly B.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

I attended the Five Star Theatre Camp for six summers and I enjoyed each and every one. Being an extremely shy person, I was not sure if theatre camp would be for me but it ended up being one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I just loved it! Five Star helped me become a more confident person which in turn has helped me with many college presentations, job interviews and with working in customer service. Not only did I gain confidence, but I also gained lifelong friendships, priceless memories and a love for theatre!

Kyle M.
Five Star Counselor + Participant

Five Star has been an amazing experience. When I participated in the program, it was the best way to possibly spend summer.  The workshops have always been one of my favorite parts of the program.  While some of the most enjoyable moments of summer vacation would occur during them, they always taught an important lesson; a lesson that can be incorporated into each new day of five star, each new day of school, and each new day of your life.  A quote from one of my favorite films, The Fellowship of the Ring, says that "all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." And so far, one of the greatest decisions I have made in the time I’ve been given is auditioning for Five Star.  It was a fantastic way to spend my summer.  The experience at Five Star helped me prepare for many situations in my life, including auditioning for both Coolidge Middle School and RMHS’s outstanding productions, and auditioning for The Sound of Music at North Shore Music Theatre.  Without Five Star, I may never have been a part of these amazing things.  I really helped to instill self confidence.  Another great part of Five Star is how new friends are made through the camp.  I got to become friendly with Parker students, who I may not have met before because I went to Coolidge.  I made new friends in my own grade, as well as friends in many different grades.  It was extremely helpful walking into RMHS for the first time, and already knowing so many friendly faces from Five Star.  Mr. Endslow, Ms. Killian, Mrs. Stone, and all of the councilors make Five Star an amazing place where you always feel at home.  Five Star and all the Staff and Councilors inspired me to challenge myself and do my best in accomplishing goals that I have set for myself.  Five Star helped me realize that theatre is a path that I want to continue to chase for as long as I can.  Through the memorable workshops, fantastic theme day costumes, making new friends, and working with the best staff you can think of, Five Star was a great way to learn more about yourself, theatre, and make new memories that will never be forgotten.

Testimonials