Shakespeare in the Park

What is Shakespeare in the Park and Why Should You Like It?

“What is Shakespere in the Park and why should you like it?” students ask me.

I dodge the question, because….

I have never seen a Shakespeare in the Park production. (Ok, don’t judge me.)

Have you?

Image result for new york's shakespeare in the park

I bet it is super cool, though.

I’ve often wondered who created it. Here is what I found out.

From Wickipedia,

“Shakespeare in the Park is a term for outdoor festivals featuring productions of William Shakespeare‘s plays. The term originated with the New York Shakespeare Festival in New York City‘s Central Park, originally created by Joseph Papp. This concept has been adapted by many theatre companies, and over time, this name has expanded to encompass outdoor theatre productions of the playwright’s works performed all over the world.

Shakespeare in the Park started as an idea to make theatre available to people of all walks of life, so that it would be as readily available as library books.[1] The performances are more often than not free admission to the general public, usually presented outdoors as a summer event. These types of performances can be seen by audiences around the world, with most festivals adapting the name for their productions, such as Vancouver‘s Bard on the Beach. Many festivals incorporate workshops, food, and other additions to the performances making this type of theatre experience an interactive community event.”

Okay!

So FREE  admission to a play by the Bard.  That’s great! Anyone can attend from any walk of life.  That’s the way theatre should always be presented.

Here are cities in the U.S. who have Shakespeare in the Park:

Asheville

The Montford Park Players, a community theater company, has been staging free Shakespeare productions in Asheville, North Carolina since 1973. The productions were first staged at a municipal park on Montford Avenue and, in 1993, moved to its current location, the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre.[2]

Baltimore

The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival present productions outdoors each summer in the Meadow at the Evergreen Museum & Library.[3]

Boston

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents professional productions of Shakespeare in Boston Common. The first production was in 1996 at Copley Square; a year later the program was moved to the Commons, first at the Parkman Bandstand and more recently at the Parade Ground.[4]

Buffalo

Shakespeare in Delaware Park describes itself as the United States’ 2nd largest Shakespeare festival (following New York Shakespeare Festival). It is held in Buffalo, New York‘s Delaware Park.[5]

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Buffalo’s production of Hamlet, the witches.

Dallas

Inspired by the New York Shakespeare Festival, Robert “Bob” Glenn started The Shakespeare Festival of Dallas in 1971 as a free summer Shakespeare Festival. Renamed Shakespeare Dallas in 2005, the company produces three free Shakespeare productions each summer at the Samuel-Grand Amphitheatre in Lakewood.[6]

Jersey City

The Hudson Shakespeare Company, founded by L. Robert Johnson in 1992, features a summer season where the company stages productions for each month of the summer. Besides Shakespeare standards such as Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they often produce one to two lesser done productions a season such as The Two Noble KinsmenCardenio and Henry VIII. Based in Jersey City, NJ, they also tour as part of their summer season to other New Jersey locations such as Fort LeeHackensackKenilworthHobokenWest Milford and also to Stratford, CT[7]

Kansas City

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival was founded by Tony winning Broadway producer Marilyn Strauss in 1993 at the urging of Joe Papp[8] with a production of The Tempestin Southmoreland Park. In 1998, they began to produce two productions per year, with a total of 23 production at the start of the 2011 season.[9]

Louisville

Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is a non-profit, professional theatre company in Louisville, Kentucky that produces and performs the works of William Shakespeare. The main productions offered are the annual summer series of plays presented free to the public at Central Park. This series, commonly called “Shakespeare in Central Park”, sprung from an initial production in the park by The Carriage House Players in the summer of 1960. They also perform shows in other venues, as well as conduct educational programs related to acting and other theater-related skills.

New York City

The original Shakespeare in the Park was founded in 1954 by Joseph Papp as the New York Shakespeare Festival, which eventually led to free public performances in Central Park.[3] Since 1961 an outdoor amphitheatre, the Delacorte Theatre, has accommodated these productions. Many celebrity actors have worked the Delacorte.[10] People often line up in the morning to assure tickets for the evening performance.[11] Many seasons have featured works by other playwrights, including Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett.[12]

Others

Philadelphia

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet production in Clark Park

This Philadelphia theater company offers the largest, free outdoor production of Shakespeare’s plays in the greater Philadelphia area. Shakespeare in Clark Park was formed in the fall of 2005 by Marla Burkholder, Maria Möller, Tom Reing and Whitney Estrin. In their inaugural season, Shakespeare in Clark Park presented four performances of Twelfth Night, drawing an audience of over 2,000 people. Those audiences have grown to over 5,000 and the annual show has become a staple of summer in Philly.[15]

Pittsburgh

Jennifer Tober founded Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks in 2005. Their performances are free and utilize various public parks in the Pittsburgh area.[16][17]

Rochester

The Rochester Community Players have staged free Shakespeare productions at the Highland Bowl in Highland Park each July since 1997.

San Francisco

Free Shakespeare in the Park began in San Francisco in 1983, with its debut production of The Tempest in Golden Gate Park. Produced every year in San Francisco, PleasantonCupertino, and Redwood City from July through September, this program stages professional theater free of charge throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.[18]

San Pedro

Shakespeare by the Sea was launched in 1998 by Producing Artistic Director Lisa Coffi. It presents free Shakespeare productions in San Pedro, Los Angeles and throughout Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties.[19]

Seattle

Since 1989, GreenStage has been producing free Shakespeare in major parks in and around Seattle. In 2014, they completed the entire Shakespeare canon.[20]

In 1994, a theater company called the Wooden O started annual summer Shakespeare performances at the Luther Burbank Amphitheater on Mercer Island, Washington. In later years park venues including Lynnwood, Washington and Auburn, Washington were added. In the spring of 2008 the Seattle Shakespeare Company merged with Wooden O and continues to present free Shakespeare productions throughout the Puget Sound region.[21]

South Dakota

The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) was formed in 2011 and launched its inaugural season in Vermillion, South Dakota, in June 2012. Since the summer of 2012 the SDSF has been offering fully produced professional Shakespeare performances in Vermillion’s Prentis Park and daytime arts educational offerings for youth and adults. |

Tallahassee

Michael J. Trout and Richard G. Fallon Founded the Southern Shakespeare Festival and Renaissance Fair in 1996. It is held in Tallahassee, Florida‘s Kleman Plaza Tallahassee before it became the location of a parking garage. Currently, being organized for re-launch.

Canada, our dear neighbor to the north, has quite a few SITP productions.   (Love those Canadians…)

Austrailia and New Zealand, too!

Fascinating.

I had no idea there was so much Shakespeare being produced, but I guess it’s stands to reason considering how much we all love Shakespeare.  

Have you attended a Shakespeare in the Park performance? I bet you liked it.  I’d love to hear about it.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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Stage Properties A Lesson in Wonderous Creativity

Stage Properties are a Lesson in Wonderous Creativity

Stage properties are a lesson in wonderous creativity!

I created a new product this week, a lesson about stage properties. 

It is suitable for upper elementary and middle grade students. 

Stage Properties

You can find it at: Stage Properties Using Cooperative Learning

Those of us in drama education have a tendency to gloss over stage properties when we teach about them. I inform students if they like to make crafts, enjoy theatre and art they are going to love stage properties.

This one-day lesson about stage properties (with fairy tales as the focus) is suitable for upper elementary and middle school students. It is engaging, fun and unique.

Students learn about stage properties, view video examples, take notes, team up with a classmate and use their imaginations!

Product includes:
Procedure
Teacher’s Questions
Stage properties categories and the reasons they aren’t labeled as such
Short quiz
Cooperative learning assignment

Image result for backstage at the theatre stage properties
When I was studying theatre in college, the first back stage crew I signed up for was stage properties. 

Boy, I had a lot of learning to do!

The show was “Look Homeward Angel” which is a period piece set in the early 1900’s.  My job was to serve as an assistant of sorts to the cast.  I would hand them props or take them from them if they were in a hurry.  I prepared the set each night before the production, put the props away after the performance and kept them in good repair.

I hadn’t really given props much thought although I had been in charge of them in high school as well for “The Miracle Worker”.  That was high school, you know?  I lived in a small town in Kansas and we didn’t have the money or energy to do more than the basics.

But college was a whole different experience.

I always advise my students that if they want to go into theatre as a profession, stick to technical theatre because you’ll be hired more often than an actor.  Good properties people are hard to find.

They are resourceful, creative and inventive.  The American Theatre Wing has some super videos to inform us about thetre careers. Check this out: American Theatre Wing’s Stage Properties

Cool, huh?

Here is a post I blogged specifically about the importance of props in your production

Critical Steps in Choosing a Play or Musical: Stage Prop

When I graduated from college, I spent a summer as a stage properties mistress at the Okoboji Summer Theatre.  It was an incredibly difficult experience–ten shows in nine weeks. I can handle a lot, but this job nearly broke me.

In case you didn’t understand that, I said 10 SHOWS (different) in 9 WEEKS!!!

Yowzer!

Image result for backstage at the theatre stage properties

Most productions have many props they need. 

Musicals and comedies have the largest number.

Usually comedies need strange things:

  • a Mickey Mouse hat to hold crackers on a “cheese ball”
  • two live afghan dogs, hopefully identical
  • a grand piano which is playable
  • matching living room furniture in beige
  • a large embroidered sampler held on a standing frame
  • a painting with a church steeple which looked rather phallic
  • a live cat
  • liver and onions (which the cast can eat on stage–we used dark rye bread for that one)
  • fruit pies impersonating the meat pies for “Sweeney Todd”
  • 8 breakable white water pitcher which could hold water for five minutes and then break on cue
  • bird puppets
  • steamer trunks
  • child’s rocking chair
  • 1940 roller skates

Plus, all the things which are made from scratch such as swords, daggers, child’s coffin,  and a grave marker to name a few.

See?  These are pretty fun and students studying theatre need to know about the subject.

So look into my Stage Properties product, will you?  I think it will help you and your students.

Stage Properties Using Cooperative Learning

Stage Properties

What are some stage properties you have created?

I’d love to learn about them.

Looking for other drama education products?  Check out my store at: Teacher Pay Teachers Dramamommaspeaks Store

There you’ll find units on storytelling, tableau, radio theatre, costume design, Shakespeare and new products each week!

Reviews of other Dramamommaspeaks products:

“This is a great very well written resource and very good for text comprehension! Thank you!”

“This is such a wonderful and creatively made resource!”

“Love this activity! What a great way for students to work together!”

girl holding crystal ball

The Unofficial Fortune Teller’s Guide to Becoming a Fantastic Teacher in 12 Steps

 

fortune teller's guide

Here it is—the unofficial fortune teller’s guide to becoing a fantastic teacher in 12 steps. Although, I speak specifically about teaching drama, this post will relate to any teacher.

rubistar.4teachers.org

If you don’t know about rubistar.4teachers.org you need to!  (This is a side note for you. It isn’t really a step, but do check them out for quick, efficient, comprehensive rubric templates.) rubistar.4teachers.org

People don’t ask me for the guide to becoming a fantastic drama teacher.

They never directly ask me. They ask around the question.  I think they are afraid of what I might say.  Teehee….I’m known for being honest.

So they say, “I was thinking I would like to do something in life that uses my love for theatre.” Or “I don’t think I would make it on Broadway, but I’d still like to be involved in theatre and make a living from it.”

They look at me with a smile hopeful for the answer they desire.

No pressure there….

I’m not a fortune teller, although one time for a radio commercial,  I portrayed the fortune teller, Madame Zula, a  wacky woman who extolled important facts about crop fertilizer. (My producer won a regional award for it, BTW.)

You’re laughing, I know.

fortune teller's guide

Although I might think you have the talent to succeed on Broadway, that isn’t something I can promise or even prophesy. Nor can I project whether you’ll be successful as a teacher.

There are many factors which create your success in the field of professional theatre, many of which you and I have no control. Any worthwhile pursuit has the same challenges.

If you listen to many successful performers, they will tell you that some of it is a.being at the right place at the right time b. fortitude in the face of many rejections c. a willingness to do anything and everything to make it happen and maybe d. talent.

Technical theatre artists will share the same experiences with you.  They worked at it.  They created a resume.  They worked for little pay and so on.

Here’s a secret:  If someone tells you it was easy to become wildly successful in a certain profession, (doctor, lawyer, counselor, nurse, banker, actor or teacher) they are lying. 

fortune teller's guide

As your unofficial fortune teller, here is a guide with twelve steps which will help you become a successful drama teacher over time:

1. Attend a college or university with a strong theatre AND education program and enroll for classes in both.  If you desire to teach in a traditional school setting, you’ll need your state teachers license.  Just like many other professions, teachers must study certain pedagogy from basic theory of education classes to student teaching.

The same will be expected of you if you want to receive a theatre degree.  Study as many facets of theatre as you can then you are an easy hire for someone.  If you only focus on technical theatre or performing, you are less likely to be hired in a school or maybe a theatre company.  You want to be versatile.

2. Participate in professional organizations in theatre, drama education and general education.  You need to be versed in the latest trends in all areas.

3. Participate in your school’s productions.  This is such a duh.  Some schools require backstage hours for their performing majors.  My college did, Stephens college, and I am forever grateful to them for this.  I learned heaps.  Some thirty-eight years later, I still use the lessons I learned in my college classes when I teach or direct.

An employer wants to hire someone who is very knowledgeable, not someone who spent all his or her time socializing rather than broadening their horizons.

fortune teller's guide

4. Get involved in a community theatre.  They will welcome you with open arms, because they need volunteers to support their productions– running lights, designing costumes, acting or serving on staff as a stage manager or even a director. Accept the job even if you are not offered a stipend.  Think of the work like interning.

Build your resume with various experiences.

5.  Volunteer your time to a school mentoring students through an after school program or an organization such as Scouts or 4H.  This gives you insight about how best to work with students.  It also helps you become accustomed to their latest social behaviors and slang.  This is invaluable experience.  I can’t stress this enough.

If you can, volunteer for different organizations with a diverse community.  Our classrooms are multicultural.  There is an art to teaching students simultaneously from all walks of life.  If you have never helped a disadvantaged student or an immigrant, you’ll have a  bigger learning curve to overcome.  Their lives are very different from yours and it’s your job to figure out how to support them.

6.  The best teachers are passionate about their subject matter and sincerely interested in bettering the world through teaching young people. So be that!  Please do not become a teacher because you didn’t know what else to do with your degree (or you thought you’d have your summers off-hahahaha!).  There is nothing worse than a bitter teacher. You know the kind who mumble how she wishes she had been a professional actor and are stupidly arrogant? Yeah, we won’t need that kind of person in our classrooms.

Trust me, teaching is difficult enough on its own.  Compounding your classroom challenges with apathy is a crime in my book.

7.  Teaching is rigorous work.  It is very tiring and all consuming.  Unless you’ve had previous experience teaching twenty bursts of energy and emotion all at once, you’ll never understand it. You gotta get in there and try it–at least for three years.     Like those professional actors that you can’t tell are acting, good teachers make it seem easy to do.  It. is. not.

fortune teller's guide

8.  Once employed, although you may think your career has finally begun your education has not ended.  Now, you’ll learn about the inner workings of your school, bureaucracy, policies, regulations, etc.  You’ll  practice becoming more organized, keep yourself healthy,  juggle your professional and personal time, become a shoulder for others to cry on, learn to listen to your superiors and to a student who has lamented continuously for several months to you about their life.  That’s okay.  It’s part of the deal.

9.  You want to be good at teaching?  Buy clothes in your school colors.  Wear them. Buy the school spirit wear.  If your cast buys cast tee shirts, you do so, too.

10.  Attend other school sponsored activities–football games, fundraisers, band concerts and TGIF’s for staff.

11.  Help other teachers and staff members.  Take their lunch shift if you observe a teacher who needs a break.  Take out your own trash for your janitor once in a while and THANK THEM for their work to keep your room tidy.  Get to know your school head secretary.  They can make or break you.  Trust me, if there is anyone who knows the school’s scuttle butt, it’s the head secretary.

12.  Finally, be the teacher you wanted when you were a student.  I liked my teachers who were organized, funny, clever, innovative, challenging, held high expectations and sincere.  Guess what?  I’ve become that teacher, too.

If you look at your life as a journey, you’ll appreciate and accept that any journey takes a long time to prepare, depart, travel and arrive at your destination. Teaching is much the same way.

fortune teller's guide

I promise you, it can be a wonderful journey.

Bon voyage!

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or my website DeborahBaldwin.net

Following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DeborahHBaldwin

on Facebook at BumblingBea

 

 

Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

Start a Playwriting Contest in 20 Easy Steps

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Twenty-nine years ago, I was president of a community theatre, the Columbia Entertainment Company, in Columbia, Missouri.  Also, I was the director of a youth theatre program for them.   I volunteered hundreds of hours to both programs. It was an amazing learning experience and one that I draw upon from time to time in my career.

Here is the story of probably the most important thing we did in this company:  We created a national playwriting contest for large cast youth theatre plays.  It is called the Jackie White National Playwriting Award Contest and still in existence to this day.  That’s a long time for a contest of this nature to flourish, especially sponsored by a community theatre.

columbia-entertainment-company

The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large student casts—over thirty students in number, ages fourth through ninth grade.  At the time, there were very few plays to choose from, much less musicals for kids.

 I lamented to a board I was having a difficult time finding any suitable plays for the season. In the past, I pad the roles with extra non-speaking characters or ones with little ad libs, but what I really needed was youth theatre plays with large casts, period. The board member suggested our company create our own playwriting contest specifically for this purpose.

So, really out of desperation, we created one!

Please understand, we had NO idea what we were doing.  We merely figured it out as we progressed.  It took us a few years to perfect the contest, but it is still one of the most valuable programs the theatre created.

The Why

Generally, playwrights need their plays or musicals to be produced before a publishing company will represent them. The Denver Performing Arts Center sponsors a New Play Summit each year in February.

Their contest is very clever.  The first time the winning entries are produced as stage readings with minimal set and costumes.  The audience gives feedback after the performance through a survey.

If the play suits DPAC’s needs, during the next season, they mount a full production of it.  My husband and I have attended several years of the New Play Summit and enjoyed being part of the creative process. We feel more invested in the play, because we offered our suggestions. Whether DPAC intends to or not, this is a terrific way to encourage audience members to return to see the production once it is produced.

Your contest could be created by your drama class, community theatre or even youth group.  There is no end to the possibilities a contest of this type affords a group. The contest can be as big or small as your group desires. You could sponsor whatever kind of contest you want—a ten minute plays, musicals for youth theatre, plays focused on bullying or plays concerning tolerance. It’s all up to you.

Now before you look at these questions and think is an overwhelming project, I want you to consider the people who will receive such fulfillment from the contest. Playwrights are always seeking places to get their plays read and produced.  That could be you!

Here are some questions to contemplate when creating your own playwriting contest:

1)      What is the mission of our contest?  What is our end result?  Are we looking for something particular subject to be explored? Reach a particular audience? Attract an underserved demographic?

2)      What are the requirements of the winning script?  Cast size, gender and age of characters, length of play or musical, set, costumes props and the feasibility of producing the script within the confines of our budget are all important questions to consider.

3)       Is any subject taboo? In some social circles, certain subjects are considered appropriate.

4)      How about inappropriate language?

5)      Should we charge a fee to enter the contest?  How much?

6)      Are there granting agencies or donors we could approach to fund the contest?

7)      What is our budget to spend to advertise the contest?

8)      What free media sources will we use to publicize the contest?

9)      Will we fully mount the winning entry?

10)  Should we present a stage reading?

11)  Can anyone enter the contest? Are we seeking only student scripts or adults?

12)  Who will read the scripts and make the final decision on the awardee?

13)  Will we award 1st 2nd and 3rd place awards as well as honorable mention? How many honorable mentions?

14)  What will the winner receive?  A cash award, gift, certificate, life time season tickets?

15)  Where will the cash award money come from? A donor?  A service organization? Your city’s arts council?

16)  After the awardee is selected, will we publicize the winner?

17)  Do we want to bring the winning playwright to the performance?

18)   If the winning playwright attends, is it our responsibility to provide room and board to them?

19)  If the playwright is present, do we want to host a social in their honor?

20)  What is our time line?

A Contest with Their Head in the Right Place 

I am an indie author, too. Recently, I ran upon an indie author book contest in England created by a popular children’s author, Edward Trayer.  The Whistling Shelf Award is a fairly new contest.

When I was perusing his website regarding it, I discovered he charges an entrance fee and donates a portion of money to the Blind Children fund in England. Now, that’s my kind of author.  Because of this, I quickly entered my book, Bumbling Bea into its competition.  I look forward to this year’s awards.

I believe in philanthropy and I believe in the power of theatre.  I bet you do, too.

Try your hand creating a playwriting contest. The Jackie White National Children’s Play Writing Contest is one of the most important programs the Columbia Entertainment Company ever created.

If a desperate, young director like me with no experience creating a contest can be successful, so can you!

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

http://www.denvercenter.org/events/colorado-new-play-summit

Wishing Shelf Book Awards

http://www.thewsa.co.uk/

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net I’d love to hear from you!

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Lessons Learned as a Drama Teacher

The Lessons I Learned from Working as a Drama Teacher

In a past post, I spoke on my advice concerning teaching a drama class.  But I haven’t reflected on the lessons I learned about myself personally through working as a drama teacher.

teaching-on-the-floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After thirty-eight years of teaching drama to students of all ages, including adults, here are the lessons I have learned:

1. It is better to take the time to become well acquainted with my students than to hurry into a lesson.  People love to talk about themselves, so I give them a chance to do so.

2. I am punctual.  I like to be a bit early to engagements rather than late.  In the theatre, I was taught, “If you are early, you are on time.  If you are on time, you are late.  And if you are late, you are in trouble.”  Works  for me.

3. I’m organized.  I like to have all the materials I may or may not need at quick access.

4. I over plan my lessons, so that there is more than enough material to cover in case my students zip through an activity or exercise. This helps me keep my anxiety at bay.

5. I still wear a watch to keep track of the time.

6. I carry a water bottle and a beloved large cup of coffee.  I replenish the water bottle many times during a day.  Water and coffee help me to center myself if I find I’m unfocused.  Also, I carry snacks.

7. I dress nicely, but casually.  My mother always wondered my reasons for not wearing a dress to teach.  It’s  simple–I like to sit on the floor with my students, no matter the age.  I find it gives the classroom a kind of closeness that chairs can’t provide.

8. I invest in a good pair of expensive Danskos clogs from time to time.  They are sturdy, last a long time and have enough heel to make me appear taller. 🙂

9. I use my intuition and observation skills during class.  I’m aware of a class’ energy, dynamics and body language.  If a group of lethargic kids enter the classroom, I take the time to re-energize them through a game or merely telling a funny story.  Or, if they arrive too wound up, I will take the time to calm them down.

10. At the same time I am organized, I do enjoy moments of improvisation–those times where the class takes  off in a different direction than where I thought it would go.  It is quite easy to become perfunctory in one’s teaching, especially if one teaches the same subject many times in a day.  Off balance moments keep me alive in the classroom, so to speak.

directing-oklahoma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Over my many years of teaching, I found students and parents to be much the same. It is the time in which we live and societal norms that make for the changes in their attitude towards their education and its importance in their lives and future.  When I first began my career, parents were very uninvolved in their children’s education. That was in 1979.  Then I became a parent in 1983.  I stayed home full time with our daughters for twelve years. 

12. When I returned to the classroom a parent’s behavior toward a teacher was quite different.  The parents only believed their children and NOT the teacher, an adult peer to the parents.  Times change, however. Recently, I heard someone complaining about the damages of over gifting of trophies to the losing team. He mentioned that over praising children makes for lack of self esteem instead of the opposite. Aha!

13. Theatre is created through an emotional person displaying other emotions. This is not an easy task, especially for kids. Early on, I learned to model the emotion for them which gave them a starting point. Sometimes, the student just needs you to go first.

14. I have believed in and lived my life by the quote, “People of integrity expect to be believed.  If they are not, time will prove them right.”  There are moments in my career when I know I did or said the right  thing even if no one else agreed with me.  I hold myself to a high standard and expect students to do so, too.  Sometimes parents or my administrators seem threatened by this. I hold my ground and it pays off in the end.  I may never receive an apology from the accuser, but at least I can live with myself for doing what was right at the time.

15. I rarely raise my voice with a class anymore.  I find that our students do not respond well to this.  I use a call and echo response technique instead.

16. I like to be on top of my game when I teach.  Teaching a group of different personalities each day is stressful enough.  need to be rested.  I don’t grade papers on a weekend or spend my vacation thinking about the next semester.  There is plenty of time for that later.  If I am given professional time off, I use it for myself.

17. There are some school related details I just don’t remember–deadlines for grades to be in, fire drill               dates,  turning in a class materials list, etc.  Usually, I find another teacher who can keep all of this straight for me. They don’t know I turn to them for this information, but I do.

 18. When I am feeling bored, I usually entertain myself with a store bought lunch or new piece of music or new acting exercise to teach.

19. I use humor A LOT. I lifts my mood.😊

20. I enjoy team teaching.  Recently, I retired from formal public school teaching (I’ll probably teach in the private sector in the years to come.)  I team taught with three different vocal music teachers in musical theatre classes for six years.  Although it takes a while for me to adjust to another person’s style of teaching, I find having another teacher in the classroom completely changes the dynamics and refreshes me more than it frustrates me.

21. I try not to knee jerk at a student’s behavior.  Sometimes I achieve success at this and other times not so much. I still have to remind myself that kids make random behavior choices. Most of the time they are unaware of the consequences of their behavior.  I am very protective of my students, their  learning time as well as mine to teach.  Even after all these years, I remind myself that not all behavior is a direct attack at me.

22. I like to teach!  I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy directing as well.  It is a kind of teaching.  There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the “aha” moment in a student’s eyes when they understand and appreciate what I am instructing.

23. I am a better person having been a teacher.  It has brought out the best in me and shown me my weaknesses as well.  I impress myself by how much I know about theatre and can quickly become overwhelmed by how much I don’t.  I think that’s a good sign, though.

After all these years, I can still say I have room for improvement. Not everyone can say that about their chosen occupation.  Can you?

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I’d love to hear from you about what you have learned from your teaching experiences. Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or my website DeborahBaldwin.net I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to read about more of my teaching experiences, check out these posts:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/08/how-to-make-your-elementary-drama-class-more-successful-lessons-learned-from-38-years-of-teaching-drama-part-one/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/09/how-to-make-your-drama-class-more-successful-part-two/

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/12/how-to-make-your-drama-class-more-successful-lessons-learned-from-38-years-of-teaching-part-three/

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Playwriting Contest

Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

This is my most recent article I penned for Litpick. I hope it’s helpful to you.


Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

by Deborah Baldwin

Twenty-nine years ago, I was president of a community theatre, the Columbia Entertainment Company, in Columbia, Missouri. Also, I was the director of a youth theatre program for them. I volunteered hundreds of hours to both programs. It was an amazing learning experience and one that I draw upon from time to time in my career.

Here is the story of probably the most important thing we did in this company: We created a national play-writing contest for large cast youth theatre plays. It is called the Jackie White National Play-writing Award Contest and is still in existence to this day. That’s a long time for a contest of this nature to flourish, especially sponsored by a community theatre.

The Origin

Thirty years ago I was a young woman who needed scripts for large casts—over thirty students in number, ages fourth through ninth grade. At the time, there were very few plays to choose from, much less musicals for kids. I lamented to a board that I was having a difficult time finding any suitable plays for the season. In the past, I pad the roles with extra non-speaking characters or ones with little ad libs, but what I really needed was youth theatre plays with large casts, period. The board member suggested our company create our own playwriting contest specifically for this purpose. So, really out of desperation, we did!

Please understand, we had NO idea what we were doing. We merely figured it out as we progressed. It took us a few years to perfect the contest, but it is still one of the most valuable programs the theatre created.

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The Why

Generally, playwrights need their plays or musicals to be produced before a publishing company will represent them. The Denver Performing Arts Center sponsors a New Play Summit each year in February. Their contest is very clever. The first time the winning entries are produced as stage readings with minimal set and costumes. The audience gives feedback after the performance through a survey. If the play suits DPAC’s needs, during the next season, they mount a full production of it.

My husband and I have attended several years of the New Play Summit and enjoyed being part of the creative process. We feel more invested in the play, because we offered our suggestions. Whether DPAC intends to or not, this is a terrific way to encourage audience members to return to see the production once it is produced.

Your contest could be created by your drama class, community theatre or even youth group. There is no end to the possibilities a contest of this type affords a group. The contest can be as big or small as your group desires. You could sponsor whatever kind of contest you want—ten minute plays, musicals for youth theatre, plays focused on bullying or plays concerning tolerance. It’s all up to you.

Now before you look at these questions and think is an overwhelming project, I want you to consider the people who will receive such fulfillment from the contest. Playwrights are always seeking places to get their plays read and produced. That could be you!

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Here are some questions to contemplate when creating your own playwriting contest:

1) What is the mission of our contest? What is our end result? Are we looking for a particular subject to be explored? Reach a particular audience? Attract an underserved demographic?

2) What are the requirements of the winning script? Cast size, gender and age of characters, length of play or musical, set, costumes props and the feasibility of producing the script within the confines of our budget are all important questions to consider.

3) Is any subject taboo? In some social circles, certain subjects are considered inappropriate.

4) How about inappropriate language?

5) Should we charge a fee to enter the contest? How much?

6) Are there granting agencies or donors we could approach to fund the contest?

7) What is our budget to spend to advertise the contest?

8) What free media sources will we use to publicize the contest?

9) Will we fully mount the winning entry?

10) Should we present a stage reading?

11) Can anyone enter the contest? Are we seeking only student scripts or adults?

12) Who will read the scripts and make the final decision on the awardee?

13) Will we award 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards as well as honorable mention? How many honorable mentions?

14) What will the winner receive? A cash award, gift, certificate, lifetime season tickets?

15) Where will the cash award money come from? A donor? A service organization? Your city’s arts council?

16) After the awardee is selected, will we publicize the winner?

17) Do we want to bring the winning playwright to the performance?

18) If the winning playwright attends, is it our responsibility to provide room and board to them?

19) If the playwright is present, do we want to host a social in their honor?

20) What is our time line?

I hope these twenty questions will help you create your playwriting contest.  Do keep me informed.  I’d love to hear from you.

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A Contest with Their Head in the Right Place

I am an indie author, too. Recently, I ran upon an indie author book contest in England created by a popular children’s author, Edward Trayer. The Whistling Shelf Award is a fairly new contest. When I was perusing his website regarding it, I discovered he charges an entrance fee and donates a portion of money to the Blind Children fund in England. Now, that’s my kind of author. Because of this, I quickly entered my book, Bumbling Bea, into its competition. I look forward to this year’s awards.

Since the penning of this post, I received word I was a finalist in the children’s books division in the Wishing Shelf contest.  What an honor!

I believe in philanthropy and I believe in the power of theatre. I bet you do, too.
Try your hand creating a playwriting contest. The Jackie White National Children’s Play Writing Contest is one of the most important programs the Columbia Entertainment Company ever created. If a desperate, young director like me with no experience creating a contest can be successful, so can you!
Columbia Entertainment Company playwriting contest:

http://www.cectheatre.org/playwriting.html

Denver Performing Arts Center New Play Summit:

http://www.denvercenter.org/events/colorado-new-play-summit
Wishing Shelf Book Awards
http://www.thewsa.co.uk/

—————

Deborah is a veteran drama teacher having taught in Missouri and Colorado for nearly thirty-eight years. Specializing in youth and community theatre, Deborah has directed more than 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike. Recently, she and her husband moved to Kansas to be near their family and first grandchild. Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea, can be purchased through Amazon.com.

Check out her blog at: Dramamommaspeaks.com or her website Deborahbaldwin.net. Deborah serves as handmaiden to her beloved cat and sings harmony to most any song she hears.

Two actors in The Fanstaicks

How Theatre Saved My Life

dramamommaspeaks.com

This is how theatre saved my life.

My imagination (and later, theatre specifically) saved my life. When I was a child, my mother was quite ill and consequently to show respect to her, I controlled my emotions. so I didn’t want compound her stress.

I was the youngest in my family. With ten years between me and my next closest sibling, I rarely had anyone to play with or talk to. I depended upon my imagination to comfort me and take me away from loneliness I felt but wouldn’t admit to anyone. I learned how to slap on a smile and pretend everything was good with me.  I was quite a little actress.

When I saw movies, I would act them out and sing very dramatically while sequestering myself upstairs on the east porch of our house. It had no heat and I remember freezing to death for my “art”.

I was born and raised in Kansas in a small town.  Our only claim to fame is we had two colleges, one university which was a teacher’s college and another one a religious affiliated.  Oh, an an enormous beef packing plant which made our town smell…..unusual. Ugh!

I thought I was crazy, though. I never told my friends about my make believe playing and when I would visit their houses, they never played make believe. So I decided I wasn’t like everyone else. I played make believe until I was twelve.

My father was a physician and my mother was raised in Japan when she was a child. Consequently, her wander lust was difficult to satiate and we traveled to many countries when I was quite young.

If it wasn’t hard enough being the youngest, my world view was very different from my fellow classmates. Just another thing to make me an oddity, at least in my mind.

My mother wasn’t at all supportive of my interest in theatre. She intimated I could end up like Elizabeth Taylor, “She’s been married seven times. Look at her…”Something was mentioned about me ending up on a “casting couch.” I didn’t know what that was, but by my mother’s attitude I knew it must be bad.

Trying to be the good daughter,  I left behind my imagination and became a cheerleader in junior high school. It makes sense if you think about it. That worked for two years and I loved the performing aspect of it.  I was a rotten jumper.  No one taught me how to do a round off or cartwheel, so I taught myself.  But I could yell loudly and lead the crowd in cheers.  At least I could do that!

When I was in high school, I found exactly what I was seeking –the stage! I was cast in my first play as Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit”.  Since I had no previous acting experience, but lots experience playing the piano, I notated my script as if I was playing the piano. I used fermatas for pauses and crescendo and decrescendo signs when I wanted to speak louder or softer.

To this day, I grow nostalgic whenever I step backstage. The scent of sawdust, newly painted flats and the warmth of the stage lights are a magical elixir to me. I brush the back of my hand across a velvet grand curtain and immediately I feel I’m home.

This is how theatre saved my life
In college, I experienced an epiphany. It was the early 1970’s, and society impressed upon me to hide my negative feelings or only express those feelings most accepted by others. I realized by sharing myself hiding behind a character, I could express  all my feelings and thoughts. I felt accepted universally.

That’s a heady experience which made me come back for more. Nearly forty years later, I’m happily stuck here.

this is how theatre saved my life

I became a director for a community theatre production of The Miracle Worker because there was no one else willing to do the job. Ha! I have a leader type personality and directing fit into my life. I was quite young to take on such a challenging production but I took to it right away. I saw the potential of affecting people through stories that I created in my own manner.

Now, I adore making a statement through words and actions.

As of this writing, I have directed over 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike.  I chose to direct and act at the community level for most of my career.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy professional theatre.  On the contrary. I’ve appreciated the professional positions in which I have been employed.

It’s just not where my life’s journey has taken me.  I’m always open to work in whatever venue needs me.

I’ve portrayed many beloved roles–Maria in “The Sound of Music”, Marion Paroo in “Music Man”,  Dot in “Cricket on the Hearth”, Penny in “You Can’t Take it With You” and many others. Above all, more than any particular role or any special production, I have learned about myself.

Theatre saved my life.  It has given me great joy, creative challenges and great friendships (I even met my husband while acting in a show).

I don’t know where I would be without it.  image

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net.

I’d love to hear from you!

Kamishibai Paper Performance Storytelling Unit–Engaging and Unique

Let’s talk about Kamishibai Paper Performance, shall we?  Are you looking for an engaging and unique unit for your students?  An oral communication project for your students?  Check out my Kamishibai Paper Performance Storytelling unit on teacherspayteachers.com

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kamishibai-Paper-Performance-Storytelling-3260379

The paper drama

Simply put, Kamishibai storytelling is a form of storytelling which integrates art and storytelling.

It can used with reading or an ELA, english/language arts, social studies, music  or drama class.  The subjects are endless.

Let’s say you have a reading class.  That’s an easy one.  Have your students draw picture for a particular book or chapter.  The next step is for them to tell the story.  What a great way to help your students retain the plot!

How about in social studies?  If you were studying Mexico, the students could create Kamishibai for a particular region’s folk lore (I advised one SS teacher who was teaching about Austrailia and they used Kamishibai to share Aborigine stories.)

ELA?  The students could create Kamishibai for an American tall tale.

English?  Mythology would work great with this form of storytelling.

Music?  Tell the story of the life of a famous composer.

Drama?  Use it was first intended (sorry, you’ll need to check out the actual lesson at Teacherspayteachers.com for that.)

The Kamishibai Paper Performance product is a three week unit, complete with a day by day calendar, instructions for creating kamishibai (which is a little involved if you have never tried it, but I clear those worries up right away) and suggestions for extensions.

And….it’s a bargain.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

 

 

super hero post cards stories

What are Super Hero Postcard Stories

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Storytelling-Super-Hero-Post-Card-Stories-3238578

Are you looking an exercise to super charge your classroom?  Something fun but useful to teach with these weeks right before a holiday break? How about Super Hero Postcard Stories?

Simply put, this warm up exercise is loads of fun because YOU are the hero!  Students love creating the story around you.

Your materials list is easy:  a box of photographs of all kinds and a copy of a postcard story of your own or another student group from another time. In the lesson, I  have included a copy of one my students’ stories just to give you an idea of what to expect.

Sometimes my students dramatize their story (it’s always very short) or merely share the story with the class. When they dramatize their story, I ask them to use chanting (repeated words or phrases for an effect), a sound effect or two and some movement.  They even create a title for their story. My students LOVE this exercise!

Why super heroes?  First, they are wildly popular with all ages.  Look at the ticket sales for Wonder Woman and the Black Panther.  How wonderful to focus upon females and people of color!  Think what that can do for some student.

super hero post cards stories

Plus, some times our students think we are stuffy when in fact, we are busy curtailing over enthusiasm.  It’s not that we can’t have fun, but too much fun because bedlam in a drama classroom.

The Super Hero Postcard Stories are your answer to fun and learning!

I’d love to hear how this exercise works for you.

If you enjoy this one, please check out my store at Teacherspayteachers.com at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Dramamommaspeaks

I’m always adding new products.  My radio theatre unit is very popular, so check it out:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/RADIO-THEATRE-IN-THE-CLASSROOM-Tune-In-and-Turn-On-3319922

It is a three week unit focused on radio theatre–how to perform it, various lessons on radio theatre itself, cooperative learning and even a homework assignment.  Oh yes, I almost forgot–I included a vintage radio theatre play which I adapted for classroom use–H.S. Welle’s The Invisible Man.

Or maybe something else will help you.

Please feel to share this post with others, too!

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

 

Arts Education

Arts Education: Fostering Creativity and Innovation

I’m all about any research or editorials supporting arts education fostering creativity and innovation whether it’s in the United States or elsewhere.  I ran upon this piece on Stemeducation.news:

Read on…

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Arts education is vital to help foster creativity and innovation

By Susan Davis

I have a dream that this nation will achieve its full creative and economic potential and that Arts education will rightfully be seen as central to making this happen. It worries me that current thinking and policymaking around national innovation concentrates on increasing participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects while the teaching of the Arts (dance, drama, music, media arts and visual arts,) is rarely even on the innovation agenda.

It is not that I begrudge the attention STEM is getting, it is just that I believe if we want to be a truly innovative and creative nation we need to put the Arts, very firmly, back in the mix. We should be talking about STEAM in schools and universities with the Arts very much in the centre of it all.

There exists a popular narrative, used to drive the STEM education agenda in Australia (and elsewhere), that says there are significantly declining enrolments in the Sciences and other STEM disciplines. However I question this narrative as justification for major initiatives. I will come back to that later.

First up what are we talking about, when we talk about innovation and creativity?

Innovation and creativity

Creativity and innovation involves putting things together in new ways, it involves risk-taking, experimenting and refining, valuing the role of productive failure, it involves making and doing, and is often collaborative and co-creative. While creativity is about the capacity to putting things together in new, novel and different ways, innovation is often seen as putting them to work and out into the world so that they meet a need, want or interest.

However these capacities don’t get switched on when people hit the world of work, they need to be cultivated across the education lifespan in all subjects in as many ways as possible.

Unfortunately the nurturing of creativity and innovation often seems to be at odds with the direction of many current initiatives in education. I have concerns about mandated curriculum and standards and everyone doing the same thing, the same tests, meeting the same benchmarks. I am particularly concerned about certain subjects or areas of learning being valued as more essential or more important than others.

Why the Arts subjects are important when it comes to innovation and creativity

The focus on STEM, without similar focus being turned to the Arts and Humanities does not appear to be justified by recent research about the impact of technologies on our lives. It is hard to deny that all aspects of life and the world of work are undergoing rapid transformations, many brought about by developments in technologies across nearly all fields of endeavour. Recent research from Oxford University notes however, that while robots will assume the role of many people in many sectors, growth continues in those that rely on creative capacity and social interactions, people, services and experiences. They are not optional areas of focus for education, but essential for opening up future study and work opportunities.

The importance of valuing other areas of learning and related industry sectors is also evident when examining economic development within various industry sectors. Industry growth and projection reports identify that education itself is one of Australia’s major export industries. Other projected growth areas identified by the Reserve Bank include household and business services, food, arts and recreation.

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A Deloitte report also identifies industry sectors such as agribusiness, tourism, international education and wealth management as ones that are growth sectors for the Australian economy.

To do well in these sectors may require knowledge and skills in some or all of the STEM areas, but also relies on understanding people, design, experience and communications: the Arts subjects.

Is there really a crisis in the uptake of STEM subjects?

A review of senior secondary enrolments in several states over the past 20 years reveals that in most cases all students have to/or tend to study an English and a Math subject. When it comes to the sciences, Biology is the top or near top elective subject and while there is some drop in the percentage of Physics and Chemistry enrolments it is not perhaps as extreme as we have been lead to believe, and in fact in recent times in Queensland, for example, there has been an increase in the numbers for Chemistry enrolments.

Enrolments in sciences have not been dropping more substantially than other subjects over the last 20 years using Queensland data as an example. While percentages of total year 12 enrolments might be 5-10% lower, this has to be considered in the context of increased subject choices including vocational training courses. It is clear that the pattern of enrolment of the Arts and Humanities also shows similar decreases in percentages too. When it comes to the most dramatic drop in enrolments over the past 20 years it is actually Accounting (20% to 7%) and Economics (19% to 5%) that have seen the most dramatic declines.

Similar trends can be identified in New South Wales and Victorian data, though the strength of Chemistry seen in Queensland is not necessarily reflected in other state data.

While there is no doubt that there are still issues with enrolments in STEM by different target groups, including girls and students from low SES backgrounds, regional areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, these are not new issues. However a focus on increased enrolments in STEM per se is not likely to change that. Other strategies that focus more on pedagogy, combining STEM and arts based approaches are more likely to have impact (and have been the basis for strategies in places such as Korea).

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So what should we be doing?

It is important that capacity building in creativity and innovation be supported across the years of formal education (including early childhood, primary and secondary education) and tertiary study, including teacher education. This requires a shift beyond STEM and the ongoing focus on ‘basic skills’ in major educational drives, and to look at the cultivation of ideas and passions, calculated risk taking, how to work through failure, problem-finding and problem-solving and resolution of ideas into products and forms.

This requires an approach that recognizes that creativity and innovation can be cultivated across diverse learning and industry fields. If the current obsession with STEM is to continue, as I said previously, it should be converted to STEAM, with the Arts at its centre, at the very least, or perhaps ESTEAM to recognize the importance of Entrepreneurship as well.

Other key points

Here is my list of other key points and issues we need to tackle.

  • We need to see the arts, education and teacher education as being integral to a national innovation agenda

  • We should be specifically teaching teachers and children about innovation and creativity and to value the different knowledges and skills that can contribute to innovation

  • Include scope for more specialisations in primary education degrees, including in the arts and humanities

  • Recognise that there needs to be space for people to develop different interests, depth of knowledge and experience. Some of this can be supported through formal learning programs, but can also be supported through after school programs, partnerships and informal learning

  • Reduce the focus in educational agendas on NAPLAN and standardized test instruments and reports. We can’t mandate that everyone learns the same things in the same ways for 10 years of schooling and then expect them to do things ‘differently’. We need room for people to develop interests and expertise in diverse areas, so room for electives, special projects and enterprises.

If our governments recognize the importance of creativity and innovation for our future national prosperity (as the current parliamentary inquiry would indicate), attention must be paid to learning that promotes problem-solving and inventiveness, social innovation and entrepreneurship, and multiple forms of communication and expression. To do this effectively Australia needs to give just as much attention to the Arts as it is currently to the teaching of and participation in STEM. These areas are all fundamental to cultivating innovation for the future of our economy and our world.

Perhaps you’d like to read my own views on drama education.  Go to:  https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/08/14/top-seven-reasons-drama-education-is-important-to-your-childs-life/

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

I’d love to hear from you.