Adventures in New York (Part Three) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days…

Tuesday opened to a workshop called. “How Do We Know We Are Good Theater Teachers.” This session was taught by Peter Avery who is the Director of Theatre, NYC Department of Education. New York has one of the largest school systems and Peter oversees all aspects of theater education.

Granted I have never taught in the public school system, but I’m wondering if all states are as fortunate. It was a fascinating example of how theater can teach and inspire students. After discussing what theater education looks like in New York. Peter showed us a video of a teacher in action. Here are my take aways:

  1. The entire class was involved.  Together they inspired and motivated each other.
  2. A student was assigned to be a stage manager. He/she would call time to keep the class on track.
  3. At the end of class they break into pairs and communicate the one thing they learned from class that day and the one thing they need more work on. They communicate it to each other not publicly in the class.

I loved how involved everyone was. I loved that the evaluation took place in a way that forced them to repeat what they learned that day. I am thinking about using that technique as we begin rehearsing our next play.

The next session was on Stage Management and was taught by Matt DiCarlo who is the current stage manager for “The Play That Goes Wrong”.

Take Aways:

There are three parts to stage management.

  1. Organizational. This I all ready knew. Having a good stage manager is such a valuable necessary asset. A stage manager takes care of everything from the stage and behind. They organize the set changes, and oversee the choreography of entrances and exits. They make sure everything is in its place. They also usually keep an emergency kit that has everything from band aids, safety pins, batteries, highlighters, breath mints, flashlights, glow tape, aspirin and anything else that the cast might need in an emergency. Stage Managers are in fact, life savers.
  2. Technical. The stage manager sometimes runs scenes, takes the place of the director  if necessary, keeps track of communication and schedules and run times. They also call cues at times during performances.
  3. Artistic. It is the stage managers responsibility to maintain the product. In most theaters once the show opens the director moves on to other shows checking in only occasionally. The stage manager is then in charge of making sure the actors and everyone else stays true to the production the director created.

The stage manager must have an understanding of what everyone does.

Scheduling goals: They rehearse M-F, 10-6 for five weeks. In that five weeks they have two weeks of tech.

Resources: Production Stage Management For Broadway by Peter Lawrence.

Recommended apps: Wanderlist /base camp

Let me just say–I love being a stage manager. If I didn’t direct, I would want to stage manage.

After lunch we had a chance to meet with Diana Rigg. Those of you who are young might not know her, but I LOVED her in the TV show The Avengers. (Not the marvel comic book characters.) She is currently staring in “My Fair Lady.”

Take aways: “I don’t care what your private problem is. Your problem is to see what’s on the page and to get it right.”

” Actors are here to serve the directors, the play and the audience.” (Hmmm perhaps that’s a blog post all in itself)

I loved her directness and witty sense of humor. My favorite moment was when one of the teachers asked her how she kept a performance fresh after performing it night after night. She looked confused and then answered, “I’m a professional!”

That night we went to see ” Mean Girls.” Imagine our delight when Jonalyn Saxer, our dance instructor from day one, as swing played the lead! She was amazing and we loved her.

I did not like the play. It was upbeat and lively and while I knew the main lesson it was trying to teach, I felt that it glamorized the art of being mean rather than the proper way to stand up to bullies. My most disappointing moment was a song that was dedicated to “giving the finger” to those who mistreat you. I just cannot think that’s the message we want a new generation of young girls to shoulder!

Should you see it? My vote would be no. Even though I could teach you the dance moves to the closing number, “I See Stars.”

Have you seen “Mean Girls”? How is theater in the public school system where you are? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until Next time!

Adventures in New York (Part One)

So what does any good director do after tech week? Go to New York, of course! Well, I wish I could go after every tech week, but time doesn’t allow such luxuries!

Every year Music Theater International puts on a workshop called Broadway Teachers Workshop. I had the opportunity to attend last year and decided that this is something I really should attend every year if possible. So I packed my bags and flew out Saturday morning. I decided to add two extra plays to the experience. So, over the next couple of days I am going to let you share my experiences.

First night….Frozen! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The moment the lights came up I was enchanted by Zoe Glick and MiMi Ryder who player young Anna and Young Elsa. They were so precious and did such a fantastic job of portraying the young girls exactly how I envisioned them.  The audience loved Olaf and Sven and were really caught up in all the beloved characters. (one of the things I love about a New York audience is the way they applaud when each new character enters the stage for the first time.)

After seeing the movie I was so curious as to how this production could ever happen, but Disney did it again. The special effects were amazing and we all looked in amazement as the stage turned into an “ice place.” Cassie Levy left us breathless at the end of the first act when she belted out, “Let It Go.” Causing us to say, Idina who?

The one moment I didn’t care for was during the second act when the ensemble sang “Hygge.” At first the ensemble had towels on as they came out of the “warming house”, but on their next entrance they removed their towels and had leaves in both hands that they used to cover their private areas in a choreographed routine. I’m just not sure why that was necessary. I was quite distracted by it.

At one point I looked across the aisle and saw a women a little younger than me singing and smiling with reckless abandonment. That’s why we do it, folks. That face said it all. If you get a chance make sure you see this show. It’s that good!

Sunday.

On Sunday morning I attended a one day director’s workshop. Our speaker was Peter Flynn (most recently credit was directing an off-broadway production of Ragtime at the Ford theater.)

I should write a whole blog post about this one day. He was so fantastic! Here are the highlights:

  1. There are no absolutes.
  2. We don’t tell the story. We interpret the story.
  3. Directing a show is not about our comfort, but rather our clarity.
  4. Always remember we are in a service industry.
  5. Be specific and authentic.

And so much more…. He was so good.

Next I went to see Harry Potter parts One and Two. For more on that check out this video from The Potter Collector who joined me on this adventure! https://youtu.be/o8OqodytIDE

If you’ve seen any of these plays or have comments about Peter’s workshop make sure you leave a comment!

Until next time!

Lessons from High School Musical

It’s been 12 years since we first watched Troy and Gabriella ring in the new year, and heard those iconic songs that bring memories of a brand new way of musical dancing. I remember watching the Disney special that proclaimed you could learn the dance moves and dance along with the finale. I tried for awhile and realized that they weren’t really talking to me….(ah, to be young again).

After the movie came two sequels and a stage production and a message, well, actually several messages.

1. Be brave enough to try something new. 

When Troy and Gabriella were first pushed on stage together to sing karaoke, they were totally beyond their comfort zones. In spite of their fear they discovered something new that they really enjoyed! We often are afraid to try something different–don’t let fear stop you.

2. Break the weight and bonds of cliques.

Learning to enjoy things that others do is a wonderful part of life.  The drama geeks can all learn from the jocks who can learn from the tech wizards who can learn from the….well, you get my drift. High school is such a short period of time. Don’t miss something really special by staying in a clique.

In fact, one of my favorite moments as a director was watching one of the “jocks”of the high school I was volunteering at get the courage to audition for Fiddler on the Roof. His hands were shaking so bad! He got the part and proceeded to lead that school in a way that really helped make all the students more well rounded.

3. The “status quo” is a prison that we put ourselves in.

All it took was word that Troy Bolton started singing for an entire cafeteria of students to confess their own secret passions. It’s amazing how people follow the leader. If you have a secret desire to try something new go for it!

4. Communicate with your parents.

This is a part of the movie I feel very strongly about. I think it’s important to be respectful of your parents. If they want you to do something it’s probably because they want the best for you. But, maybe they just don’t know how powerful your feelings are inside of you.  It was hard for Troy to tell his dad that he was interested in theater because he didn’t want to hurt him, but believe me, your parents want you  to talk to them and share what you are going through.

5. There’s room for everyone on stage.

Oh, I could talk forever about this one.  Sharpay and Ryan were the leads in every musical. They intimidated others and thought they were better than everyone else. People–just because you aren’t the lead doesn’t mean that someone is better than you. Every person on the stage is important and sharing the stage makes a much better show! Please don’t feel like you aren’t talented or not important just because you didn’t get a solo or named part. Also, don’t be opposed to playing something other than the lead. Many times being a part of the ensemble can be just as challenging and rewarding.

6. A real friend is in your court no matter what.

It may have been hard for Chad to accept that Troy was getting his head into a game other than basketball, but in the end, he wanted his friend to be able to fulfill both his dreams. Real friends stand by you even if the

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“Breaking Free”

things you have in common start to change. They support you as you gain new skills and encourage you to be a  better person.

7. You’re never alone.

Remember this. In this day and age that the suicide rate is up–this lesson is important. We’re all in this together. Some days are hard. Sometimes you might feel like you are alone. You might feel that you aren’t smart enough or talented enough or loved enough. We are all in this thing together, and there’s nothing that you’re going through that a million others aren’t too. Remember that.

This past two weeks 41 students, 7 directors, 3 costumers and a 3 person tech team came together to put on our own production of High School Musical, Jr. We created memories, made new friends and hopefully were all reminded of these very lessons.

Theater camp is one of the highlights of my year. To all of those involved: thank you for making this experience so delightful! IMG_4346

Musical theatre teaches.

What are some lessons you learned from camp or High School Musical ?? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Reba

                                                                  Photo Credit: Francisco Montes

Life-Changing Theatre Experience

Do you ever wish you could go back and do things over?

Sometimes you might want to have a redo. Other times it might be because it was such a wonderful experience that you’d like to enjoy it all over again. This past weekend someone told me that there is a fad now saying that your life is defined by what song was #1 on your 14th birthday. (Mine, by the way, was “I’ll Be There.” I can’t tell you how much I love that!) Of course, the second I heard that I was fourteen again in my mind.

The years that marked my time between Jr High and High School were spent in North Carolina.  I was a butterfly desperately trying to get out of her cocoon. I didn’t have confidence and honestly I feel most of that could have been changed with the help of teachers in my life that encouraged and mentored me instead of humiliated me….yeah, Jr. High was rough….

But then we moved back to Kinston. I loved Kinston. I loved my grandfather, Pop. We would walk together and he would tell me stories and listen to me and sometimes we would just be. (For more on my grandfather our next season will contain a play about a portion of his life. Look for it in the fall of 2019, “I Remember Pop”) Pop would listen to me and most of the time help me discover what we really important.  I always felt like I could achieve and do something that mattered when I was around him.

Flash forward to those days I would wander into the back of the local high school theater. (a school I didn’t attend. For more on that read:  https://fromthewings.org/2018/04/20/by-no-stretch-of-the-imagination/) The drama teacher stopped me and asked me why I was watching instead of participating. He then told me that he directed a theater group in the summer and he would love for me to get involved. As you know from the other post, I did. Throughout that summer my life changed. I gained such confidence. The confidence to try new things. The confidence to speak up. I also began to gain skill as the rehearsals involved singing and dancing. I loved every moment.

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Overshadowed Camp “Into the Woods”

Next week, our first summer camp of 2018 begins.  (By the way, we still have four spots left! Come join us! overshadowed.org ) Why do we have camps? It’s not to make money. It’s for a list of reasons:

  1. To provide an affordable theatrical experience. We learn everything in two weeks. We have auditions on the first day and teach and intensely rehearse for the next days until the three performances complete with costumes and set are performed the following week. What a rush!
  2. To teach. To help students to find new skills and hone the ones they all ready have.
  3. To provide a safe environment. We do not ask anyone to wear clothes or do something on stage that they might not be comfortable with.
  4. To encourage. (We are all in this together!)
  5. To change lives. Simply put, I believe the aspect of putting a play together in this short amount of time unifies the cast in ways that are unexplainable. I believe that our team of directors really care about the student more than the production and that we work to make each person feel important.

During that summer of community theatre someone asked me why I blushed so much. I 282440_208460605871759_2018874_ncouldn’t answer him because I was too embarrassed to get the words out. His reply, “My goal this summer is to get you to be able to speak confidently. The best gift God gives us is our speech. You ought to be able to use it effectively.”

I have held on to that life changing concept. That. Simply that. Is WHY.

If you are in theater, please remember the power you have. But it’s a good reminder for all of us I believe.

Do you have a story about the power of theater? Or speech? Or camp? Please take a moment to share it with us!

Until next time,

Reba

 

Memorial Day–Remembering the Cost of Freedom

 On Monday we began the week by celebrating Memorial Day. I began wondering what the history of this special day was. I was surprised to learn that it was originally called “Decoration Day.” I guess it dates back to 1866 when the women of the North and South began to honor those killed in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves. After WWI those ceremonies began to honor those who were killed in all the wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday and we began to officially observe it on the last Monday in May. This day is different from July 4th where we celebrate freedom. This day we observe the cost of freedom.

At the first Memorial Day ceremony held in Arlington National Cemetery, small flags were placed at every marker, starting a tradition that is carried on to this day.

Have you ever been to Arlington? I have. My father, a hero in my eyes, is buried there.

Richard E. Ruffin was born on August 24, 1927, during WWII he was in the Navy and as

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My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery.

the story goes as soon as my 6 foot four inch tall dad got off the Navel ship he walked across the street and joined the Army. During the next years he was in Korea, two deployments in Germany and one tour in Vietnam. He received the Bronze star, the Purple Heart and several commendations. How I wish I had somehow asked the right questions to learn more about that time of his life.

My dad loved America. He taught me to value the freedoms that we have. I might not like everything America does or the decisions that some of our leaders make, but I know that we have freedoms that other people do not enjoy. Why? Only one reason. Because, people like my dad fought for those freedoms, died for them, protected them.

Since this is supposed to be a blog about things on and off the stage…I’d like to remember that we have the freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.”

Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog freely–to express my opinions about God, if I so desire–and to not fear government censorship. This is just one of the reasons I’m thankful for America.

This week let’s join together and remember the cost of our freedoms and the people who gave their all for us.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”– George S. Patton

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”    – John F. Kennedy

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day.  I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.  We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.  ~Benjamin Harrison

These heroes are dead.  They died for liberty – they died for us.  They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.  They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace.  In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.  I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead:  cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~Robert G. Ingersoll

 

Do you know someone that served our country? Do you have a favorite story about them? Do you have a thought about freedom or Memorial Day? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

Reba

 

 

The Power of Words

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.–

James 3:5-8

During my sophomore year in college my roommate decided we should all memorize the Book of James together. I’m sorry to say that in all my years before the verses I had committed to memory did not include the wonderful truths in the book of James. Looking back on it, I don’t even really remember studying it much before that time. All of a sudden that book changed my life. I often tell people it was written just for me. The picture of  all the wickedness of the tongue burns in my memory.

  1. The tongue is a fire
  2. It is full of deadly poison
  3. It is a small member of the body but makes great boasts
  4. We have tamed every kind of creature, but cannot tame the tongue

To summarize our tongues are powerful, uncontrollable, evil and hurtful. Wow. Think about that for a moment. As much as we may try we often say things that we regret. Things that hurt others. And things that we cannot take back.

I have a vivid memory of someone that got angry at me and wrote me a note and then asked for it back. They wanted to change what they had written because they had regrets. I said no. Now you are probably thinking I am a cruel person, but it wasn’t because I didn’t forgive them. It was because a word spoken or written can never be taken back. That alone should cause us to think twice before we open our mouths.

So if the tongue can do that much damage can it do that much good as well?

Proverbs 16:24 “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Proverbs 18:4 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”

Proverbs 18:20 “Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”

The words tongue, lips, mouth and words are used over 170 times in the Bible. Our words have such power. Many of us speak hundreds of words a minute and thousands over an hour. How are you going to use yours today?

 

Please take a moment to share your words! I’d love to hear them!

Until next time!

Reba