Recently, we sat down with OSRUI Alum Sandy (Kraut) Rustin Fleischer. An actress and playwright, Sandy’s sketch comedy musical “Rated P for Parenthood” opened off Broadway to critical acclaim and is in development for TV with ABC studios. Sandy wrote the book and lyrics for “American Girl Live,” a musical about overnight camp that debuted in December in Chicago before beginning a national tour. While the show’s characters are focused on the American Girl characters, Sandy says the world she created is reminiscent of her time at OSRUI.
Years at camp: Kallah ’86, Chavurah ’89, Moshavah ’90, Chalutzim ’91, Machon ’93. Plus countless NFTY and BJBE retreats, Camp Keshet Counselor, etc & etc … from ‘86-‘93. Basically – from 4th grade through high school graduation, OSRUI was a huge part of my life!
Fun camp fact: I still have my friends’ buddy tags from the buddy board, taken on the last day of Chalutzim.
How camp has impacted my life: OSRUI was (and remains) one of my favorite places on earth. I always felt the most “me” when I was there. It was a designated part of my childhood designed to slow-the-roll of the frenzied pace of the school year. The environment placed no emphasis on achievement. There was zero focus on material things. There was no need to rush through the little pleasures of summer. Value was placed on splashing in the lake. Time was set aside for tending a garden. Rest hour was mandatory. It was a haven. We even got candy bars or frozen ice-pops during canteen, just because.
I developed friendships untethered to social status or cliques. (And it has been those friendships that have been some of the most lasting through adulthood). I gained a refined and new love for music, and subsequently a deeper understanding of my Jewish roots and identity, through the style of a capella and acoustic guitar led camp songs. Music is part of the infrastructure of camp life – I found that thrilling. Even today, if I’m feeling down or need a boost, I turn on Debbie Friedman songs. They make me feel connected and safe.
How does camp affect my adult life: Well … I guess most immediately, I’ve written a whole musical about it! Ha! I’ve written the book and lyrics for a show all about a sleep-away camp for Mattel/American Girl. And while the show is squarely focused on the American Girl characters, the world I create is reminiscent of my time at OSRUI. Cabin cheers and camp fires, best friendships and sleeping out under the stars. The counselor in the play is even named Alyssa! (After my Chalutzim unit head, Alyssa (Mosbacher)). There’s a song in the show called Put Your Light Into This World, that is inspired by Debbie Friedman’s camp tunes. The essence of my summer camp experience seeps into the story telling of Camp American Girl. I couldn’t help it!
Here’s a link to something I wrote the first time I dropped my oldest son off at camp (my boys go to Camp Barney in Georgia, where my husband grew up). It has a little flavor of how much I loved OSRUI – with an old camp pic!
Read more about Sandy and “American Girl Live” in this article in the Chicago Tribune.