Hello!I'm the gal you were looking for. I'm a very experienced drama teacher, play and musical director, and award winning author. Here you'll find many posts on theatre education, directing, plus advice and tips for teachers. Also, I am a happily married wife, loving mother to two swell daughters and a great step son. Most recently, I became a published author of Bumbling Bea, an award winning humorous middle grade novel about an impetuous 8th grade girl determined to play the lead role in the annual middle school play. Except a girl from Japan comes along and ruins everything! Or does she? Hope you enjoy us. Thanks!
I’d like to praise people who read books and review them.
(This is on behalf of all authors. If you take this personally, that’s on you. 😊)
Dear Friends and family,
I have some news that may be a bit disparaging for you.
It is challenging for me to continue to support your endeavors, show interest in your life and interests when it is not reciprocal. I bet you know of which I am speaking.
You know the copy of my book you begged me to give to you? Do you remember how you promised (practically on a stack of Bibles, as they say) you would post a book review for me?
Then you didn’t read my book OR write a review?
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
Everyone gets busy some times, or we forget what we have promised or whatever.
There are lot of whatevers…
Simply put, word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising bar non.
Have you ever attended a movie and shared your opinion of it with a friend? That’s worth of mouth advertising.
Writing a review is simple.
Here is an example of what a review can look like:
“I liked the story a lot. It was funny with great characters and an unusual message. I recommend you read this book.”
“Although I usually don’t care to read romance novels, this one was pretty good and worth my time to read it.” (Notice this one is less positive, but still does the job.)
Then post your review on Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, etc.
YOU DON’T NEED TO EXPLAIN THE PLOT. That’s someone else’s job.
Your job is to show support for the book and author.
Writing a book review is no different than buying your friend’s cake at the church bazaar, some popcorn from the BoyScouts booth at the mall or magazines from your neighbor’s marching band student. It’s like attending your brother’s performance in a community theatre production or enjoying your neighbor’s booth at an arts festival in your community.
You are showing support in all of these circumstances.
Oh….you say. That’s it?
What if I only have negative things to say?
Surely you can speak generally about the book and give it some kind of support.
You have to understand writing a book and being an indie author ain’t an easy job.
We do everything for our books–marketing, publicity, book talks, book fairs, interviews, selects its cover, art work, write its description, etc. EVERYTHING.
You could say writing a review is a symbolic pat on the back of the author acknowledging their hard work.
Can I leave a review anonymously?
Yes, you can.
Can I give my friend’s book a rating lower than five stars? Will it hurt them?
No, it won’t hurt them exactly. In fact, giving a book four stars seems a more authentic score–Amazons algorithms love that.
Remember, we are all in this together.
Contact me at email@example.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net
I just love the arts, don’t you? Did you know they teach growth mind set? In case you don’t know what growth mindset is:
People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work-brains and talent are just the starting point.
Amen and amen.
Here’s an article from Edutopia.com about ways to accelerate learning and growth mindset through the arts. It’s worth a read.
At New Mexico School for the Arts (NMSA) — a dual arts and academic curriculum — failure is taught as an important part of the journey toward success. Understanding that mistakes are indicators for areas of growth, freshmen learn to give and receive feedback. By senior year, students welcome tough, critical feedback — and even insist on it.
When Natesa, a senior at NMSA, arrived as a freshman, she had a hard time pushing herself in the areas that were difficult for her to master: choreography and getting into character.
“Now, I feel like I can channel my inner self and my inner fierceness when I need it, and even my inner beauty,” reflects Natesa. “I became more willing to take risks, and I think that taking risks is a big part of who you want to become, and who you’re choosing to be.”
Students audition to get into an NMSA program specific to their craft — dance, theater, music, or visual arts. Each day, they have their academic classes from 9AM to 2PM, and after lunch, they have their art classes until 4:45PM.
“Students have to take risks,” says Cristina Gonzalez, the former chair of NMSA’s visual arts department. “That’s something that is so unique to learning in the arts. Great art comes from risk taking, from being willing to fail. Maybe it will work. Maybe I’ll discover something about myself, something about my capacity that I wasn’t even aware of, and that’s so exciting for a student.”
If you want to help your students develop a growth mindset — the belief that they can improve their abilities through effort — helping them become more comfortable with risk-taking and modeling critical feedback through critique journals are two of NMSA’s strategies that you can adapt to your own practice.
Teach Your Students That It’s OK to Make Mistakes
Making mistakes, not knowing the answer — this is part of the artistic process. “You’re going to make bad paintings,” says Gonzalez. “You’re going to make bad photographs. You’re going to fumble your way through it, and in fact, that’s how you learn. You need to make those mistakes.”
The idea that you learn from your mistakes is embedded into their entire arts curriculum. Teacher, expert, and peer critiques are innate to the arts process. Immediate feedback is part of the norm. You might pause your piano student in mid-rehearsal to say, “When you get here, make sure you get a really clean pedal on the B flat, but that was great. That’s the kind of energy you want.”
In dance class, you might tell your students how they need to rotate their legs differently when taking their demi-plié in first position.
When ninth-grade theater students rehearse their Working in Silence scenes, they perform in front of their peers and faculty, receive feedback from their teachers, and then re-perform the scene to immediately incorporate their feedback.
“Getting to do the scenes a couple different times really helps because then we get to take the feedback and we get to apply it, and that is the whole learning process,” says Kara, a ninth-grade theater student. “If you fail, then you can do it again, and you could make big leaps and bounds and learn from that.”
You can connect risk taking — and helping your students build comfort around it — to their interests outside of school. Gonzalez has students in her class who enjoy skateboarding. She draws connections to risk taking by referencing their experience with trying a new trick. “
A skateboarder knows what it feels like to try a new trick, how scary it is that they actually might fall,” she says. “They could get hurt, and all their buddies are watching. We ask them to do that every day in the art studio.”
With any art form, students can fall into a pattern of doing what they’re comfortable with or what they’re good at doing without risking something new because they don’t want to make a mistake. “It’s our job as teachers to go, ‘Do that new new trick. Go to the precipice,'” explains Gonzalez.
By encouraging your students, you’re helping them to explore their craft and expand their ability — whether they execute a new technique right out of the gate or over time with feedback and practice. Either way, they see that taking risks pays off.
“Failure isn’t the end of the road,” explains Cindy Montoya, NMSA’s principal. “You learn from failure. It gives you more information on how to do something better. It’s fodder for success. It’s a cycle of either learning about yourself, the content, or your art form.”
Teach Your Students to Appreciate Feedback
Once your students go through the process of applying constructive feedback to improve their work — and once they create something beautiful as a result — they’ll see its value. They’ll learn to appreciate and even want feedback. “Being able to accept critique and not feel hurt by it is an important skill for us to learn,” says Serena, a 10th-grade student. “We’re taking those critiques and learning how to put them to use.”
Creating something, receiving feedback, and revising their work is a natural part of the artistic process that your students can apply toward their academic classes. “The strengths and skills that these artists come to us with are hard work and a willingness to keep trying,” says Geron Spray, an English and history teacher. “They have perseverance, they take constructive criticism well, and they build on it.”
It’s not uncommon to hear students say, “I’m not good at math,” or “I’m bad at writing essays.” An arts education helps students to see that they can improve at their craft with effort. They can become better at math.
They can become better at writing essays. “They start to see that connection between struggling through the practice, getting feedback, going in for help, and the outcome,” says Eric Crites, NMSA’s assistant principal.
“It’s just so great to watch a student go through that process of struggle, have a teacher believe in them, and then at the end, they have a result that they can be proud of,” adds Gonzalez.
Give your students journals to write down the feedback they receive from you. It’s a way for them to store immediate feedback from each day to review and apply later, and it also allows you to model giving constructive criticism. When providing feedback to your students, share both their successes and areas for improvement, and be specific.
“Feedback is fundamental to growing oneself as an artist,” says Adam McKinney, the chair of NMSA’s dance department. “I try to model what it means to provide critical feedback to my dancers.” One way that the dance department models critical feedback is through dance journals.
Throughout class, students write their teacher’s feedback in their dance journal. For example, says McKinney, a student might write, “‘When I’m taking my demi-plié in first position, rotate from the top of my legs so that my knees are going over my first and second toes.’
For me, that next level of cognition — to understand the feedback, realize the importance of the feedback, and then to incorporate that into their bodies — is essential as young artists.”
By giving constructive criticism to their peers, your students will learn to better appreciate receiving feedback and they’ll improve their skills to self-assess their own work. “Having young artists provide critical feedback to each other provides a deeper understanding and another layer of what it means to get better as an artist,” says McKinney. “That critical feedback is essential to improving one’s art.”
NMSA develops students’ abilities to assess their own and others’ work through showing them examples of mastery, equipping them with technical vocabulary, and providing them with opportunities to practice peer critique through fishbowl discussions, Visual Thinking Strategies, and Post-it note critiques (See Mastering Self-Assessment: Independent Learning Through the Arts).
“Our students have learned that they can receive feedback — even negative feedback,” says Crites, “make a correction, and then come up with something amazing.”
“We develop this idea of self-reflection very early in the department,” adds McKinney. “Why are you a dancer? Why is that important to the world? I know that the power of art saves lives. I have several young people in the department — and who have graduated — who communicate that art has saved their lives, and it certainly saved my own.”
The arts saved my life, theatre specifically. For a post describing how it did so, go to:
Music Rehearsal for Willy Wonka, Jr. Apex Home School Enrichment Program 2014
Note: Recently, I wrote several pieces concerning reading and literacy for Litpick.com. This is a re-publish of the latest article.
I’m not a Wizard, but I can do Magic and so Can You!
Teaching has its up and downs, but one of the most rewarding experiences of teaching is seeing a student’s eyes light up once some learning connects with them. I like to teach “magically” if I can. I bet a lot of teachers do, too!
I don’t wear a wizard’s robe and pull out a magic wand —I have no idea how that is done. I mean when a student learns something when they don’t think they are doing anything, but having fun. Teaching and learning become effortless and almost enchanting!
I use many drama games and exercises in my classroom. I’m especially fond of Viola Spolin’s book Improvisation in the Classroom. But that’s not today’s subject…. (my right brained-ness kicked in there for a moment). Sorry.
I find that when I am teaching a concept that a student is focused upon and I am using a particular activity to demonstrate the concept, the learning becomes “like butter”—smooth, enriching and tasty. (Okay, I do have a fondness for butter I will admit, but you get the point.)
Drama Class and Reading
Reading skills can be strengthened through drama. No joke! Sometimes students don’t realize when they enroll in my classes that we will read aloud in class—that’s a given. And we read A LOT. Of course we read the occasional theatre textbook chapter, but mostly we read plays. I mean, obviously we read plays, right? Also, we perform the readings, so the words become memorized easily.
Families can do this at home, too! The benefits of reading plays aloud are varied, but suffice to say that if a group gets together and reads a play, a child’s reading skills will be honed.
Oh my gosh, play dialogue is so fun to read aloud! It’s far better to read a play aloud than to read it silently. That’s because it was created to be spoken. A playwright depends upon his characters’ dialogue to tell a story. That’s the whole point. Playwrights work for months, maybe years, to find and create just the right meaning in a sentence.
Presently, I am preparing to direct a summer youth theatre camp production of Tams Witmark’s Music Library version of The Wizard of Oz musical. Here is a tidbit of dialogue from the production:
They’re gone! The ruby slippers! What have you done with them?
Give them back to me, or I’ll—
It’s too late! There they are, and there they’ll stay!
Awesome, don’t you think? The dialogue is precise, rhythmical and exciting. A playwright’s goal is to express a particular message, right? She wants the audience to continue listening to her play. Her dialogue must be excellent. There can be no excess words, very few challenging words or word pronunciations that an audience member must struggle to understand. Since theatre is live, it is essential that the play is engaging right from the first word. When one is not enjoying a book that she is reading, she can put the book down. But at a play? The confused person might just walk out of the performance. Eeek!
Young readers love to read scripts aloud once they understand the form. It’s a little daunting, you must admit. There are no markers—no “he said” or “she yelled” In particular moments, emotions are written in for the actor to use. Generally, a playwright leaves it up to the director and actors to convey the required emotion. That’s more interesting for everyone involved. It allows the director to create her own concept of the play—sort of like painting a picture using her own thoughts about the story. That’s more interesting for everyone involved.
Usually, I read aloud the stage directions so that the students can create the atmosphere or plot in their minds. The plot of a play must be very clear to understand although surprises are always welcome. That’s what makes for excellent theatre, I think.
Once when my class of middle school students read aloud the “Tom Sawyer” play, I purposely stopped us at an exciting moment—scary Injun Joe hid behind a tree and overheard Tom and Huck discussing the big bag of money they found. Many of the students were reluctant readers. I heard groans of “Oh man, Mrs. B. can’t we continue reading?” But instead, I handed out paper and pencils and asked them to draw what they thought would occur next. I’m a tricky teacher….
In researching this article, I came upon a tremendous website–Readingrockets.org. who says it much better than I can.
Listening to others read develops an appreciation for how a story is written and familiarity with book conventions, such as “once upon a time” and “happily ever after”.
Reading aloud demonstrates the relationship between the printed word and meaning – children understand that print tells a story or conveys information – and invites the listener into a conversation with the author.
Listening to others read develops key understanding and skills. Reading aloud demonstrates the relationship between the printed word and meaning – children understand that print tells a story or conveys information – and invites the listener into a conversation with the author (Bredekamp, Copple, & Neuman, 2000).
Reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible and exposes children to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of everyday speech. It exposes less able readers to the same rich and engaging books that fluent readers read on their own, and entices them to become better readers. (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996).
How does a family select the right play to read together? I’d suggest checking out a public library. They have a fountain of plays to read including many versions of classics such as Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan, Charlotte’s Web or Huckleberry Finn. If reading an entire play script seems overwhelming, look into reader’s theatre scripts. They are short, concise, edited well and give the “nugget” of the story. They are a great stepping off point for young readers to pique their interest, giving them a feeling of success before they tackle the complete novel.
Children’s literature consultant Susie Freeman states, “If you’re searching for a way to get your children reading aloud with comprehension, expression, fluency, and joy, reader’s theater is a miracle. Hand out a photocopied play script, assign a part to each child, and have them simply read the script aloud and act it out. That’s it. And then magic happens.”
One of my favorite authors of reader’s theatre scripts is Aaron Shephard. Check him out at http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/. He has adapted a treasure trove of stories, many multicultural, including original ones of his own. I have used a host of his scripts including Legend of Lightning Larry with an ESL drama club, The Legend of Slappy Hooper with a creative dramatics class, and the beloved Casey at the Bat with an introduction to theatre class plus various other scripts.
So, the next time on a really hot summer day your family is stuck indoors and has exhausted every other avenue of entertainment or learning, pick up a play script! I promise you a magical and great time of reading.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeborahBaldwin.net
To purchase a copy of my book, Bumbling Bea go to Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356
Deborah is a newly retired drama teacher through the Apex Home Enrichment Program in the St. Vrain Valley School District. She has taught all subjects of drama and directed over 250 youth theatre plays for nearly thirty-eight years. This summer, she’ll direct Aladdin, Kids and The Wizard of Oz. She and her husband recently moved to Kansas to be near their family. Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea can be purchased through Amazon.com. Check out her blog at: Dramamommaspeaks.wordpress.com or her website at: BumblingBea.com
This is a re-publish of an article I wrote for Litpick.com. I hope it’s useful to you.
Willy Wonka, Jr. Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies August 2012
When the Litpick staff and I discussed writing several articles concerning drama education, I was stymied. I have been a drama teacher and director since 1979.
Personally, theatre and the creativity that stems from it is very second nature to me. I forget that other people may not be aware of its strengths in the same manner.
Today’s the day for bolstering creativity in your child!
In a typical school day I taught theatre classes to approximately 100 students, ages eight to eighteen. Whew! This included classes in creative dramatics, introduction to musical theatre, film making, technical theatre and a production based musical theatre class. Most of what I taught, I created myself for the students.
Since I worked for an enrichment program for home school students, I taught a different group of students each day. Double whew! In another words, creating curriculum plus teaching plus directing productions for nearly forty years equals expert first-hand knowledge. Oh, I forgot that!
Your Creative Child
At the beginning of the school year, it was not uncommon for parents to stop me in the hallway and express delight that their child will be taking a drama class with me. Many parents say, “My daughter is very imaginative and expressive. She plays dress up all day if I let her, but other than dress up, I don’t know what to do with her imagination next.”
I think I know what the parent is trying to express to me. They need some assurance that A. this is a normal part of the child’s development; B. it should not be squelched but promoted and C. there are many strengths to being a creative human being. I smile and encourage the parent to allow the child to continue imagining. I take it from there and the magic begins.
I will admit I am very partial to theatre arts. Honestly, theatre saved my life when I was about ten years old, but that’s another story for some other time. All arts classes will nurture your child’s creativity and every art form brings different gifts to the table. Here are my top seven reasons for drama classes in your child’s life.
Stage Make up Assignment in Technical Theatre Class May 2016
Strengthen literacy—We know that through reading, our reading becomes more fluid and comprehensive. Not everyone recognizes that in a drama class we READ a lot–plays, scenes, poems and stories to dramatize. Of course, when we rehearse a piece we read the words over and over again—aha! Then we MEMORIZE them.
We practice a character’s lines using vocal inflection and variety. Suddenly, the words come to life for the reader. Voila! We sneak in reading skills without any of us being aware of it. It is that easy, but reading must be continued in order to have consistent success.
Build self-esteem and self-confidence—If a child has an opportunity to share his ideas through drama, he is immediately accepted. We applaud for the student and his attempt. We encourage positive comments towards the student’s effort. Over time, the child begins to see his worth within the classroom, within the school and consequently in the world as well. Self-actualization is realized. It is a known fact that many at-risk students attend school only because they can take an arts class. That’s pretty powerful.
Build a team spirit—I compare a cast in a play to a football team. The only difference is that no one sits on the bench—everyone plays. Everyone’s actions count to make the goal, the performance. If a student knows that he is expected to help other members of the cast and crew, he takes on the responsibility.
This level of responsibility carries over into social situations, because by becoming a part of a team, a student can see himself as part of the whole instead of merely one piece. A P.E. teacher once remarked to me that she could tell which of my drama students took her classes. When playing games, they were the ones who quickly pulled a group together, used their individual strengths and left out no one. How nice!
Encourage tolerance—Through a scene or play, when one experiences first-hand what is like to be the down trodden character, the misunderstood, the shunned, the innocent accused, one’s framework of understanding broadens.
For example, when we dramatize the story of Anne Frank or Helen Keller, we begin to see life differently and the value of everyone. Life’s issues become greyer in color to us and thereby we appreciate the many perspectives in a particular situation. This is a remarkable attribute.
Provide a safe place to express one’s emotions—Society’s pressures have encouraged us to keep our emotions to ourselves, especially negative ones. I was one of those people. In turn, some people are the opposite and show only negative emotions because they feel less vulnerable in so doing.
By creating a character and expressing the character’s emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, pride, curiosity, anger, joy, jealousy, etc. these feelings become an accepted part of one’s psyche. One’s acceptance of all one’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses is vital to our growth, no matter the age.
Lastly, there will come a day when your child will thank you for introducing theatre arts to them. I have never known a student who didn’t flourish from taking a drama class or participating in a production. There is something very special about the stage and I hope you’ll give it an opportunity to show you.
Contact me at email@example.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net
The teen brain is like a novelty-seeking missile, disengaged one moment, but capable of intense focus and attention when a task becomes rewarding. I believe it was the late Rodney Dangerfield who said, “The audience is like a dog and jokes are like biscuits.” In over 20 years of speaking and performing stand-up comedy for students, I’ve learned that using humor, interactive demonstrations, and even awkward moments are the biscuits that help students sit up and want more.
In the limbic system of the brain, the most important structure for memory (hippocampus) is located near and connected to a structure that helps produce emotions (amygdala). This anatomical relationship ensures that emotionally charged experiences will be remembered better than neutral events. This is the neurological basis for bringing more emotions (hopefully positive ones) to the classroom. In today’s world of decreased attention spans and distracting smartphones, students need all the help they can get to increase retention of the important information you’re teaching them.
Engaging Teens With Humor
Here are some strategies for bringing humor, novelty, and engagement to classroom activities.
1. A Laugh A Day: You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to bring one more laugh per day to your classroom. The key is starting with something that you think is funny, but that’s still relevant to the lesson. It could be a quick one-line joke, a bad pun, a funny video from YouTube, or a short story. If it bombs, poke fun at yourself for the attempt and try something else the next time. The best part is that it will spur your brain to look for humor in everyday life, and you’ll start feeling more creative.
2. Use Improv to Spin Classroom Disruptions: Have you ever been in the middle of making an important point and then there’s a loud noise and you’ve lost half the class? It’s frustrating. Well, you can’t stop the disruptions, but you can use improvisational comedy skills to get a laugh out of them. I love it when some weird noise or bell goes off during my program because it’s a real moment that we’ve all just experienced. Comedy comes from relatable events. The next time this happens, try working a comment about the noise into your point and see if you get a laugh. Express your pain over the interruption, and the audience will relate. Over time, you’ll train your mind (and the kids’ minds) to be more in the moment, and the endorphins produced by a good laugh will make getting back on track feel less like work.
3. Bring Students Up: Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, showed in a series of studies that teenagers take more risks when they’re in the presence of their peers. When their brains were imaged during the risk-taking activities, they showed an increase in blood flow in the pleasure center, a collection of neurons that activates during rewarding activities. In his book Age of Opportunity, Steinberg writes that teens take risks because that’s how they learn.
You have a unique opportunity in the classroom. If you use interactive demonstrations that allow students to briefly take over the class, you can leverage this built-in risk-taking mechanism designed to foster learning. These interactives don’t have to be funny, but by nature they will create awkward moments, which can be hilarious.
In my assemblies, the goal is to never embarrass the students who volunteer, but rather to amplify what they’re saying or doing. That technique of reflective listening, with some embellishment, can produce laughter. In many cases, I’ll run into students years after they’ve seen my program. They’ve long forgotten my name and face, but once I describe the interactive part of my presentation to them, suddenly it all comes back. It really makes my day when they immediately recite the point I was trying to make. That is emotional learning at work!
4. Take a Comedy Workshop: I love watching and performing stand-up comedy, but using it in front of teenagers is the highest level of difficulty for getting laughs. If they sense that a joke is coming, you’re finished. In addition, their age limits their life experience, so not even the best mortgage joke will work on them. In my experience, teenagers respond well to brief anecdotes with jokes that they don’t see coming embedded in the story. It also helps when the story is about things they can relate to, like attachment issues (e.g. parents, sibling rivalries) or pop culture. If you’re interested, I highly recommend taking a comedy workshop (improv or stand-up) at a local comedy club. There are even courses online, but nothing beats performing for actual humans. Interacting with an audience will build your confidence for delivering a joke, and it can be a healthy outlet for you.
It’s Worth the Risk
If you choose to bring comedy into your classroom, you risk being vulnerable in front of your class. I believe it’s a risk worth taking, because the payoff will last long after the laughs are gone. Break a leg!
Sometimes I do things with very little thought. I rely on my instinct. My behavior makes no sense at the time, but things pan out much better than I ever could have expected.
This is what happens when you don’t think too much.
Take last Wednesday, for instance.
Tim, Abby and I enjoyed story time at the library. Afterward, Abby always likes to see the puffer fish one more time before we head home. I took a seat near the Leggo table while she and Tim played oceanographers.
I noticed a family of five looking a little disillusioned. They sat quietly keeping to themselves. I overhead a woman (much like me) say, “Come on. I’ll take you there.” and leave with the adult male (who it turns out was Simeon, the father of the family.)
The family’s younger children, Jude and Esther, began to play with the wooden trains and stacked Leggos. The mother spoke to her older son who looked to be in about eighth grade.
The mother was wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Bronx” on it.
Here was my chance.
Previously, I shared with you about a season in our life when we took school groups to NYC for spring break. We did so for seven years. I can always chat about our NYC experiences and given half a chance, I can get people talking.
At this point, I felt compelled to speak to the woman. Why?
No one else was speaking to them and no one sat by them. Oh, please…..Because they had suitcases with them (why would they have suitcases in a library?) or the color of their skin? Either reason is ridiculous.
The mother’s hair was awesome, coiffed up high and a pretty black color. Her open face and easy smile were charming.
I struck up a conversation with her first speaking about her hair, because I honestly thought it was terrific.
I moved closer to speak to Falila and our conversation lasted about fifteen minutes. Turns out, Joel, her eighth grade son had qualified for the junior Olympics which were being held here in Lawrence at the new Rock Chalk park track.
How cool! I congratulated him, asking when he was racing. Falila said he would race on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
Falila had a wonderful accent (she certainly didn’t sound like a New Yorker) and I asked her where she was from originally.
Nigeria– they were first generation immigrants.
I was struck by Falila’s sweet countenance, her authenticity and the ease in which we chatted. Honestly, I felt like we had been friends for years.
My husband and I aren’t really good at retiring. We forget we can be spontaneous. We have a tendency to look toward the weekend for anything recreational or social.
Oh, we thought, we can go to Joel’s race. We are free to do so!
So we did. Wow, that was quite an experience.
We are arts people. We aren’t very aware of sports. Generally, I don’t even know which teams are in this year’s Super Bowl. Please don’t hold this against me…
These kids as young as twelve are tremendous athletes! We were so impressed. They were good sports and helped each other. They cheered for one another and congratulated the winners of each heat. During one race, a girl tripped and fell. Four others quickly returned to make sure she was unharmed. Impressive.
Joel did wonderfully for his first Jr. Olympics competition. He didn’t win his heat, but his parents were supportive and encouraging of Joel’s efforts and that’s all that matters.
The story gets better.
As we left the competitions, I asked the Afere family if they would like to have lunch with us on Saturday. We enjoyed speaking with them and wanted more conversation with them.
You understand, these are total strangers, right?
Now, you are probably wondering why I would do such a thing.
I am sick and tired of people being treated poorly.
I can’t fix the refugee crisis, nor the Muslim ban but I can be kind to a family of immigrants in a tough spot. I can be friendly and welcoming.
Please understand this family was independent and completely self reliant. They came to the states all by themselves. Simeon is an engineer, gainfully employed as an inspector of buildings. Falila is a stay at home mom, but she has an accounting degree.
They didn’t need our help or hospitality. I merely offered it.
You see, Joel was here without his track team or his coach. He qualified for the competition only three weeks ago. By then, there were very few air line tickets for a family of five to fly together. Their only alternative was to take a bus. This sweet family spent 30 hours riding a Greyhound bus clear across the country from NYC.
That’s a family with fortitude.
The reason they were stranded at the library? Simeon reserved a rental car and when he called to pick it up, the company stated they had no such reservation.
Their hotel was in Lenexa which is thirty miles away. They were truly stranded.
Later in the afternoon, it all worked out and they were able to rent another car and get themselves around the area the rest of the weekend.
The Afere family came to lunch and stayed for three hours. My mother always told me if people stay a long time at your party, then they are having a good time.
I filled them with a typical American lunch–turkey and roast beef sandwiches, chips, yummy pistachio fluff salad and brownies. The children didn’t eat much of it, because they are used to their mother’s Nigerian food, understandably. Sliced apple seemed to be a hit as was ice cream, but isn’t it always?
Over lunch, we talked about the U.S., the fact that there is no social welfare program in Nigeria, their experiences living in NYC for ten years and the stressors of living there, what they want for their children and what was most important to them.
Have you ever inspired someone? Have you helped them dream?
It seems the longer they had been here, the more the Aferes liked the idea of moving away from the city– maybe Texas, Florida or somewhere Simeon’s engineering company would transfer him?
Or maybe the mid west? They liked it here, the friendliness of the people and the natural beauty of Kansas which many people never even notice.
Tim showed Simeon a realty site in Columbia, MO where we lived for thirty years. We aren’t as familiar with Lawrence as we are with Columbia.
We think Columbia is a terrific place to raise your children. Every parent wants their child to have a good education and Columbia can provide this. We urged the Aferes to give it some thought and keep us abreast of their decision. It was heart warming to help such a great family.
We are not experts nor do we have many experiences with an immigrant family.
But we have one thing in common–we are Americans and we want the best for our family.
Simple as that.
I challenge you to do the same. The next time you see a family who looks lost, frazzled or needing assistance ask them if you can help them. They may not need your help, but it’s worth the effort.
Don’t think about it. Trust your instincts. Take a chance.
Be the person your momma raised you to be–friendly and kind. Show some hard working, determined newcomers what it really means to be an American.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeborahBaldwin.net
How fulfilling is life without theater? To me, it is the Pièce de Résistance!
My favorite of all the arts. I would be lost without it. Life is better with a dash of theatre now and then.
For instance, last night my husband and I attended a community theatre performance of The Crucible. I don’t know when I last saw this play. The Barn theatre in Kansas City produced it. It’s difficult material and can be exploited by those performing in it if the director isn’t careful. Twice I watched a cast butcher the court room scenes, but this one was tremendously impactful.
This morning, I shared with my husband my brain felt different today. As if I swallowed some unusual vitamin and I did, of sorts. A vitamin filled with excellent dialogue, a well crafted plot and brilliant metaphor.
The play’s message stayed with me and I have pondered it from time to time today. That’s good theatre.
My acting teacher at Stephens College, Jean Muir, was blacklisted and never worked again in Hollywood. Her crime? She attended a Russian ballet and wrote a letter of congratulations to the company complimenting them for their excellent performance. I believe her ex-husband reported her. Think about it–she complimented the ballet company. That.is.all.
I met Jean in 1974, nearly thirty years later. She never completely recovered from the false accusation.
Here is Lucille Ball. Even she was accused, but her career wasn’t ruined.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a metaphor about the age of McCarthyism and the Red Scare but it is as timely now as ever.
And timely, don’t you think? This week I viewed a short video of an innocent young black man who was accused of doing something he didn’t do. Hmmm.
The Barn made a good choice in producing The Crucible.
When I attend a live production, I can immerse myself in the story as it plays out before me. I feel some of the emotional intensity at a movie theatre, but it isn’t the same as watching an actor only ten feet from me as he sweats and cries, begging his wife to forgive him. Powerful stuff.
I know people who dislike theatre, but love movies. They say theatre is boring. Really? You can’t compare them to each other, but I understand the reasons for their opinions.
It’s easier to access movies than attend a play. It’s all about convenience. Movies are available to us continuously. The wonders of the internet have given to us 24/7 access to nearly any movie you’d like to view.
The most important difference between the two is theatre is LIVE. You can’t just sit back in your recliner, take off your shoes and fold your laundry while you watch.
When you decide to see a theatrical production, you make a personal commitment to it. Generally, you’ll need to transport yourself to the show. You must arrive on time, take the seat you reserved (with a good or bad view of the stage), pick up the play program and deal with audience members around you.
If it’s a comedy, it’s most appreciated by the cast if you laugh or at least chuckle. Musicals require you to applaud at the end of scenes if they are outstanding. Have you ever applauded when a famous actress enters the stage the first time? You have a job to do as an audience member.
As we view the production, we must concentrate, focus. We can’t rewind a scene or fast forward through the show to intermission just so we can get a snack. We must suspend our disbelief when viewing a play far more than we must while seeing a movie.
The magic of a live performance makes it all the more poignant. There is something very special when one observes the dramatization of a particular thought right before our eyes. It is a unique experience.
The actors tell the story as if it is the first time it has been told. We share the moment with them and others seated around us. This is human interaction at its best.
Theatre discusses the human condition. It educates, inspires, broadens our world view, explores self expression, and encourages self empowerment. Besides, it’s a fun way to learn!
As an actor, I’ve experienced what is like to be someone else. I’ve stepped into their shoes, so to speak. A well crafted character has flaws and strengths. I may not have the same strengths and weaknesses. Whenever I perform, it’s a heady experience and one I never forget. You never view people in real life with the same attitude you had prior to the production. It changes you.
We could lose more than we bargain for if we lost theatre.
Have you considered theatre uses all the arts–visual art, dance of movement and music? It’s a one stop shop.
Art–Through designs of set, costume, and lights we utilize color, texture and silhouette to suggest themes and mood.
Ponder this photo from “Sunday in the Park with George”, a musical by Stephen Sondheim. In an earlier post, I shared Seurat’s painting, “La Grande Jatte”. Notice the levels, colors, textures, silhouettes? Good stuff.
How about dance? Or movement?
If you haven’t attended Newsies you must. The dancing is fabulous. I call it “boy dancing”, because it is. The choreography is outstanding, clever and joyful. Musicals use dance to convey a particular message–“Look at us! We’re Newsies and no one is going to bring us down.”
Physical movement in a play is far more effective than words. Humans are visual thinkers. For example, we need the actor to show the character’s depression, so he uses a hushed voice, slouches his shoulders, walks with a slow gait and heavy steps. Blocking, the physical movement around the stage, encourages the audience to view the production like a living photograph.
As I mentioned above, one doesn’t need to know much more about a play’s story than to merely observe the action. The above photo is from a production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The Crucible tells the story of the Salem Witch Trials, however it is a metaphor for the Red Scare of the 1950’s. Isn’t it effective?
How about this one?
I chose this photo at random, because it proves the point. If you look closely, you’ll see the dancer is behind a scrim. Yet the actor’s image is reflected in a mirror, but where is the mirror? Look at the positions of bodies. He is leaning toward her, she is leaning toward him. His right foot touches the floor, as if he’s anchored on earth. She stands on her toes, as if she’s pulled to heaven. It’s so effective. (If you are dying to know the production, it is The Picture of Dorian Grey.)
Music:When I direct a play, it is my habit to begin my pre-planning by selecting music to be played during the production. The music inspires me. It nurtures my creative process while I block the production.
Music does an excellent job of creating mood for an audience. I will choose period music for a play if it depicts a particular time period in history.
While I directing The Giver, a play set in a dystopian world, I was stumped on my music choices. Then I remembered Philip Glass. Several moments in the play call require the falling of snow. I considered various ideas and finally decided on Glass’ “Music Box”. A gobo light rotator was hung. It displayed a snow flake-like pattern. We selected the first 45 seconds of the piece.
Every time the music played, the audience was encouraged to imagine the falling of snow.
Theatre pulls the arts together. In the world we live in at present, whenever we can come together and consider a social issue, we stand to win. It’s very easy to become isolated now. Without theatre, we’d lose more than we’d gain.
How have you been fulfilled by attending a play or musical? I’d love to hear from you.
Contact me at email@example.com or check our my website at DeborahBaldwin.net