With the first day back for everyone, Facebook has been flooded with pictures of students in their new outfits, lunchboxes and 1st Graders getting on a bus for the first time. It is a monumental change of season for them. But let’s also remember the bold teachers who come back to their classrooms year after year.
Here is a great video from AJ+ which features a handful of teachers all commenting on the state of Public Education. Not just locally, but from state to state – there has been much finger pointing about what is NOT working in our schools. Much of the focus is on Standardized Testing and Curriculum for new eras. Arguments are heated among School Boards and Public Referendums. We often get caught in the battles of Teacher Unions, but rarely do we get the perspective from those on the front actually with the students. This was very revealing.
But most telling, are the few minutes at the end of the video where each Teacher lights up in a smile and offers what they love most about this very unheralded profession. Much to be thankful for.
I am constantly drawn to the inspiration of a new generation of artists. Music, Dance, Writing…. This is a new music video by Leona Lewis and is called Fire Under My Feet.
It is an R&B anthem to all us theater folks who live outside the box, who often don’t fit in, and who constantly emerge like a Phoenix because of the passion within us. The story arcs extend from a boy emerging in drag to an athlete triumphing over her loss of natural legs. Or a boy ballet dancer. Or a gay Supermodel. Each of the performers in the video is telling their own story.
With phrases like “you can’t keep me down in my seat“, “moving on to bigger things, I began to spread my wings.” The song is infectious on all fronts. Give this British X Factor a listen and see if you aren’t motivated as well.
As we get ready for this our 26th Season; our YAC company is producing their own show in the Fringe; and summer classes are winding down – it is exciting to see a new crop of shows emerging in the greater commercial circles that really speak to our audiences. Yes, there will always be the inevitable string of Disney success which bombards us from Newsies to Aladdin. But it is rewarding to also see great offerings outside the box that really speak to the social issues type of work we do.
Fun Home was a surprise upset at this year’s Tony Awards for it’s win as Best Musical. Instead of bright and flashy, it finds humor and humanity growing up in a funeral home and a young girl confronting her sexuality in a stifled setting. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night is a courageous portrait of a young boy with behavior difficulties, although it never really says whether this is Asbergers or autism. But it is a young man torn between the reality he sees and the logic his mind wraps around. And finally a brand new one-man piece called The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. In this piece, actor James Lecesne was inspired by the Trevor Project and it looks at a bold teenager who lives outside the boundaries of normal and is his true flamboyant self. All three are provocative works, ripe for this generation and succeeding in pushing the possibilities of modern theater. Here here!
An important opportunity for all our summer students. I keep talking that classes should be the bridge to help you with tools and confidence to succeed when you finally are ready to get on stage. This can be in a school production or with a professional company. I am sending this out now to draw your attention to our first auditions for the coming year. YPC is seeking young actors for The Giver on Aug 17th. Full details for both the show and the auditions are on the website. Test your wings and fly….
But in addition, I found this great blog article from a director that works with young talent. It has a very strong message about owning the room when you walk in the door. Actors always beat themselves up about what not to do, what to do, how should I look,….. He says that all these things just get in the way of why you ultimately are there. Give it a read and sign up for a time.
I am just catching wind of this new pioneering series coming to MTV. I know that racial diversity plays heavily into our upcoming programming and this sounds like an insightful perspective from the younger generation.
It is spearheaded by Jose Antonio Vargas who received acclaim as a Pulitzer winning journalist and then revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant in 2011. So he shares a perspective first hand not as an observer, but an active participant in our American melting pot. It sounds like it cuts deep and looks at the nagging questions that have been rearing their ugly heads over the last year. I’m anxious to hear what anyone who has cable has to say about it. Premieres July 22nd.
Of course I am partial to the work we do here with our kids on a daily basis. I see doors open for all types as they tap into new skills. So it happens most days here in the summer with daily classes over weeks of camps.
However last week was a special project for all involved. We were faced with the obstacle of the 4th weekend, so we had to find a class that was abridged over just three days, but still gave some notable content. So we brought back our Create A Musical session from last fall. In Oct. we learned that a single afternoon was not enough time. But last week we also learned that 3 days is not enough either.
Our teaching team of Ian Zahren and Johanna Gorman-Baer brought great gifts to the classroom. But from there it truly blossomed with the imaginations of the kids. Their job was to get a glimpse of the amazing process and personalities it takes to mount a simple show. They had talents of not just performers, but storyboarding, collaboration, designing and creative writing. The project they came up with was called Alpha Beta; a contemporary sci-fi piece where your personality is based on the letters of your name. And then what happens when someone wants to rebel against those rules. It hit on heavy subjects of political oppression and gender identity.
These were monumental ideas they wanted to speak. Nothing was handed to them. They crafted a great arc of a story, defined characters, and lovely lyrics. The family audiences were amazed. We can only hope that some of these ideas are seeds that are planted and the world of Alpha Beta can live on in some other form. It was Pure Imagination.
This a shout out to noted celebrity Stephen Colbert who always has more than his share of opinions on all things politics and culture. But I love it when they are able to leave the bubble of their security and safe living to actually make an accountable difference in the world. And he did just that this last month.
I am not sure exactly of his connection to the cause, but he donated enough funds to cover every teaching grant that was submitted by South Carolina public teachers. I do know that this is in connection to a crowd funding source of DonorsChoose.com. Although he did not act alone, he was in tandem with both Share Fair Nation and Scan Source. But the bottom line was resources to enable over 1000 projects submitted by over 800 teachers to total a whopping $800,00. Some administrations will be very happy and lucky Carolina students will reap the lucky benefits. It takes not only a village, but a vision and some wealth!
Following up on last week’s post about girls and body image. For some reason I am getting a Grrl Power presence on my readings online. Maybe the upcoming Mother’s Day wave?? Here are two more videos to add fuel to the fire.
There is a lot of heat and conversation currently about #BlackLivesMatter and White Privilege. But it also has me thinking about Male Privilege and in spite of women’s suffrage at the turn of the century, there are still many shortcoming between the two sexes. Yes there is the obvious job placement and wage discrepancy. But who knew about women buying normal drug store items? Check out the revealing video with the hashtag #PinkTax. It is posted by the Facebook feed Mic.com and worth a look.
And then Buzzfeed which is a constant source of knowledge and insight to me. The video infomercial took 4 women in a photo shoot and “shopped” their bodies to make them into the “ideal.” As flattering as it was, it was also an example of be careful what you wish for… Each woman had strong reactions and felt that the image created was so perfect that it erased them of characteristics that are essential to who they are. Whether that be freckles of a few extra pounds. The lesson is to be comfortable in our own skin.