Are You Missing These Kind of People in Your Life?

Are you missing these people in your life?  What is special about community theatre actors?

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That’s my student portraying Mary Poppins!

This is a subject near and dear to my heart.  I have a very long relationship with community theatre.  I helped to create one in Columbia, Missouri back in 1979 I believe.  It is still in existence today.

In fact, I co-developed a national playwriting contest for youth theatre plays while being involved with  Columbia Entertainment Company.  You can find more information about the contest at:  Start a Playwriting Contest Using 20 Questions

But I digress…

Sometimes, although less now than in the past, people who aren’t involved in community theatre have sort of scoffed at it.  As though the people who enjoyed it were dopey or something.

It is no different than playing on a adult intramural soccer team or bowling with your league buddies.  My community theatre friends just enjoy performing on a stage under stage lights.  (It’s the next closest thing to playing dress up and make believe and didn’t we all enjoy that when we were kids?)

summer theater 1

Community theatre actors come from all walks of life. Many simply love theatre, but chose to have another vocation other than performing.

I direct many doctors, lawyers, teachers, fireman, policeman, nurses, college students, business people,  and whole families from the youngest only six years old to the eldest in their eighties.  I  work with people from television shows I watched several decades ago.

I have a varied acting resume as well. Through community theatre, I’ve been directed by a Yale graduate, a Broadway professional, a high school drama director and even a priest!

Image result for community theatre actors in dressing room

What is special about community theatre actors (and let’s not forget all the technical people either,) is the comradery one feels when you work with them.  There is simply no other group of people quite so warm and supportive.

Think about it.  These people put in an eight hour day at their jobs, rush home to eat a bit of dinner and head out to the theatre in under an hour.

It can be grueling and…it can be boring but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun! Many times they rehearse for three hours with no breaks. Or they sit around for an hour and chat with their cast members while they wait to rehearse.  It’s all part of the experience.  (Note:  Professional theater can look the same.)

They memorize their lines while driving in their cars, during lunch breaks or watching their child’s soccer games. I am sure there were times where my husband and/or daughters knew my lines as well as I did from quizzing me on them.

Usually, community theatre actors bring in their own personal items to fill out their costume.  It is not uncommon for them to purchase several pairs of dance shoes, tights, leotards, wigs or purchase contact eye wear since they can’t wear their modern glasses in a play set in the 1800s.

But the costumes can be outstanding and exciting to wear.  These aren’t generic Halloween costumes or something dragged out of an attic.  I’ve had costumes custom made especially for me.  Here is one from Cricket on the Hearth:

cricket on the hearth (2)
Dot in “Cricket on the Hearth” a straight role

The men are known to grow mustaches or beards if need be.  Or the opposite.  They’ll cut off their long hair or shave off their beards if it gives them a look of  authenticity. Women have dyed their hair for a role as well.

If the show is a musical, the musicians bring in their own instruments, music stands and whole drum sets. I know some musicians accompany for little to no stipend.  That’s okay with them. They enjoy the experience just as much as the cast.

Building the deck: Anna Townswick, Indigo Fish, Jesse Fish on top of the structure. (Photo: Mette Hammer)

You want to talk about a time commitment?

Usually the rehearsal schedule is four or five evenings straight for about six weeks and then the run of the show.  A spouse might not see their partner for weeks on end. (If the spouse is smart, they’ll get involved in some capacity and now the couple with something new to talk about!)

Sometimes the actor will help build or paint the set, create props or sew a costume or two on the weekends. And….when the show is over, they help strike the set!

They throw the BEST cast parties too.  Check out one my favorite cast party recipes here:

Easy Peasy Party Appetizer #1

Easy Peasy Party Appetizer #2

Easy Peasy Appetizer Recipe #3

They hand out gag gifts, act in funny parodies of songs from the show or sit around singing songs from the show yet. another. time.

They can go overboard a little, but that’s because the experience is very intense.  I’ve even been known to have separation anxiety from my cast members and that’s the worst feeling of all.

Image result for community theatre cast party

But they persevere and sign up for the next audition or merely serve as ushers, but generally they continue to be involved in some capacity.

In other words, they are completely invested in the production!

So the next time, you see your neighbor dash off to rehearsal and he doesn’t have time to chat, just remember he isn’t sitting around home in front of the television or on his phone. He could be sitting around wasting his time, but he’s not.

He is doing theatre and he loves it!

Sound like fun to you?  Try it.

The American Association of Community Theaters is a not for profit organization which can give you more information about community theatre and a whole hosts of subjects you might be interested in.  Check them out here:  https://www.aact.org

What community theatre productions have you been involved in?  Tell me about it.  I’d love to hear from you.

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

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A Favorite Poem of Mine

Sometimes I write poetry.  This is one of my favorites. This particular poem was created for a class while studying for my masters in arts integration.

favorite poem of mine

 

 

 

             Little Cedar Berry Farm

 

Two sweethearts

when freckled, picked berries from a bush

two of them, stationed on paralleled rows

between the full hedges, soft sweet and lush.

Black pups swooned near their necks and birds did crow.

Two sweet children each with a waffled tray

Practiced their skills, dyed their digits to red,

blew back their bangs and dredged aprons of lead.

Around the farm yard bench, the mother bays;

and to all the warm dusk, flirts fearless to be fed

moans for our tawny hands and sweaty heads.

Twelve full quarts they picked.  Some berries they ate

then sifted in green boxes, one by one and jostled the rosy nipples of fruit.

Beyond the tall grasses, though nearer the sun

I sat and watched them, yearning to be young.

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This is a photo of me when I was a young mother with our two darling daughters. Now I’m a grandma to the daughter of mine on the right in the photo.  The baby on the left is now fully grown and having her first child in the fall.  My, how time flies by….

Do you have a favorite poem of yours which you have penned?  I’d love for you to share it with me.

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

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Gift Guide for Your Favorite Theatre Geek

graduate bear

Wow, it’s April all ready!

It seems like once we pass Valentine’s day time moves a lot faster.

Today, I noticed graduation cards at my local pharmacy.  I always forget graduation is in mid-May.

The high school students in my college classes are quick to share the number of classes  they have before they are finished.  Funny, the other students don’t want to know how much time is left in the semester–they are panicked about finishing all their assignments in time.

Anyway…………..

Each year near graudation, people ask me for suggestions of a good gift for a theatre lover. 

Here are a few suggestions for you:

      1. Tickets to a Broadway play, musical or to attend a touring company production of the graduate’s favorite show.  Most of our students are on tight budgets and having free tickets to see a show would be heaven for them.

     2.  DVD’s of plays or musicals

     3.  A year long membership to BroadwayHD.com. Do you know of this company? They are gaining popularity with their Netflix-like approach to Broadway plays and musicals. These are live performance which have been video recorded by professionals. They are awesome!

     4.  A biography on your graduate’s favorite actor or actress. Just about every actor and actress a student would be familiar with will have a biography.

     5.  Find out your graduate’s taste in stage makeup and purchase some for them in their particular shades or colors.

     6.  Make up a basket, a “care package” for the graduate to use the next next time she is in a show.  Fill it with things like cough drops, deodorant, makeup wipes, a box of tissues, hard candy, throat spray, bandaids, a can of hairspray, a water bottle, a trade magazine (like Stagelight magazine https://www.stagelightmagazine.com) a pen and journal, etc.

      7.  Have a tee shirt quilt made. You can find companies who will create it for you by checking on line.  Most theatre kids have scads of show tee shirts.  I had a friend of mine make a quilt for my daughter.  She LOVED it!  She dragged it off to college and it finally wore about five years ago (she’s twenty-nine.)

     8. A gift card to a particular dance supply company if your graduate is a dancer or Sheetmusic.com so they can purchase sheet music for auditions.

     9. A glitzy picture frame is fun. Obviously, theatre geeks have lots of photos.

    10. Just a plain old VISA gift card is nice, too!

One of my favorite high school graduation gifts was an umbrella.  It was a great gift.  It never occurred to me I would be walking to class in the rain. Ha! (naive me)  I can’t even tell you how many times that wonderful umbrella came into use.  I think I wore it out!

graduate bear

Do you have favorite graduation gift memories?  I’d love to hear them.  Contact me here or at dhcbaldwin@gmail. com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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Student Survival: The Importance of Pleasure Reading for a Kid

So, let’s talk about pleasure reading for a kid.

Recently, I was looking for a  pleasure reading book to purchase for my upcoming trip over seas. I was having a difficult time finding one. I saw a child who was nearly eating a book while he read it–in the time I looked over one aisle of books, he read three (all right, they were short, but still…)

 

books

Some people are selective about the genres they read.  I usually gravitate toward books with quirky characters in ordinary appearing plots. I say “ordinary appearing” because it is always intriguing to find the characters going somewhere else than you expected.

However, I am known to cheat and read the last chapter of a book if a. the story is moving too slowly for me or b. I’m dying to know what happens. When I was a child, my mother would scold me for doing so–still haven’t kicked the habit.  Sorry, Mom.

I worry about kids’ reading preferences. It seems many writers write for whatever trend is popular the time. A few years ago, it was zombies and time travelers. Not every child wants to read fantasy or graphic novels.  That’s why I penned Bumbling Bea.  If you haven’t picked up my book, you might want to try it.  I promise you, it isn’t your run of the mill plot! Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/n5at3oh

I ran on to an article concerning this concern and I thought you’d be interested, too.

Indie Book

Promoting the Pleasures of Reading: Why It Matters to Kids and to Country

June 10, 2017

Advocacy, Inquiry, Literacy, Reading, Teachingpleasure reading

by Lu Ann McNabb

This post is written by member Jeffrey Wilhelm.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them was this past year’s winner of the NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in English Education.

The research findings that we report in Reading Unbound have profound implications for us as teachers, for our students, and for democracy.

In our book, we argue that pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Why? Because fine-grained longitudinal studies (e.g., the British Cohort study: Sullivan & Brown, 2013; and John Guthrie’s analysis of PISA data, 2004, among many others) demonstrate that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor in both cognitive progress and social mobility over time.

pleasure reading

Pleasure reading is more powerful than parents’ educational attainment or socioeconomic status.

This means that pleasure reading is THE way to address social inequalities in terms of actualizing our students’ full potential and overcoming barriers to satisfying and successful lives.

We think that our data explain why pleasure reading leads to cognitive growth and social mobility.

The major takeaway for teachers is to focus on pleasure in our teaching. Pleasure has many forms: play pleasure/immersive pleasure, when you get lost in a book—this is a prerequisite pleasure and we can foster it in various ways, such as teaching with an inquiry approach, using drama and visualization strategies, etc.; work pleasure, where you get a functional and immediately applicable tool for doing something in your life; inner work pleasure, where you imaginatively rehearse for your life and consider what kind of person you want to be; intellectual pleasure, where you figure out what things mean and how texts were constructed to convey meanings and effects; and social pleasure, in which you relate to authors, characters, other readers, and yourself by staking your own identity.

Kids (like all other human beings!) do what they find pleasurable. You get good at what you do and then outgrow yourself by developing new related interests and capacities.

Book

Play pleasure develops the capacity to engage and immerse oneself, to visualize meanings and relate to characters. It is the desire to love and be loved. Work pleasure is the love of getting something functional done. Work pleasure is about the love of application and visible signs of accomplishment. Readers engaging in this pleasure cultivate transfer of strategies and insights to life.

Inner work pleasure involves imaginatively rehearsing what kind of person one wants to be. As our informant Helen asserted: “It’s not really learning about yourself, it’s learning about what you could be . . . .” and “Characters are ways of thinking really . . . They are ways of being you can try on.”

Inner work is the love of transformation—of connecting to something greater, of striving to become something more. When our informants engaged in this pleasure, they expressed and developed a growth mindset and a sense of personal and social possibility.

 pleasure reading

Intellectual pleasure is pursued for the joy of figuring things out; it develops the capacity to see connections and solve problems. Our informants developed resilience, grit, and proactivity through the exercise of this pleasure. Erik Erikson argued that staking one’s identity is the primary task of early to late adolescence and that this is achieved through evolving interests and competence.

Social pleasure involves this human developmental project because it involves relating to authors, characters, other readers, and the self in ways that stake identity. Social pleasure is the love of connection—to the self, others, community, and to doing significant work together.

This pleasure develops social imagination: the capacity to experience the world from other perspectives; to learn from and appreciate others distant from us in time, space, and experience; and the willingness to relate, reciprocate, attend to, and help others different from ourselves.

In other words, it promotes cognitive progress, wisdom, wholeness, and the democratic project. In fact, all of the pleasures were found to do this.

Our data clearly establish that students gravitate to the kinds of books they need to navigate their current life challenges, and that many ancillary benefits accrue in the realms of cognition, psychology, emotional development, and socialness. So much so that we developed the mantra: Kids read what they need!

 

This finding led us to be more trusting of kids’ choices and to ask them about why they chose to read what they did, and eventually to championing these choices. We likewise found that each of the marginalized genres we studied (romance, horror, vampire, fantasy, and dystopia) provided specific benefits and helped students navigate different individual developmental challenges.

Our data also establish that young people are doing sophisticated intellectual work in their pleasure reading, much of it just the kind of work that the Common Core and other next generation standards call for. So making pleasure more central to our practice is not in conflict with working to achieve standards.

girl reading

Standards and all the other significant goals described here can be achieved if teachers value interpretive complexity as much as they do textual complexity, if they create inquiry contexts that reward entering a story world and doing psychological and social work in addition to more traditional academic goals, and if they provide opportunities for choice and meaningful conversation.

Given the benefits of each pleasure, we are convinced that pleasure reading is not only a civil right, it is a social necessity of democracy.

That is why we urge you to promote pleasure reading in your classroom and school, and it is why our book is filled with practical ideas for how to do so while promoting each of the five pleasures. It is monumental work—and it is work we must undertake with the greatest urgency—particularly at this moment in history.

books

What are some of your favorite genres to read? Perhaps you have a child who might enjoy reading my book, Bumbling Bea simply for the fun of it.  I think they’ll enjoy it!

Check it out here:  https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516988757&sr=8-1&keywords=Bumbling+Bea

I’d love to hear from you.

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

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Ten Reasons Everyone Produces The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ten reasons everyone produces The Best Christmas Pageant Ever are pretty simple.  Let me explain.. Recently, our youngest daughter directed her church’s first Christmas pageant.

  The church, Greenhouse Culture, is still in its infancy in my opinion but growing quickly.  Most churches that I have frequented are comprised of middle age citizens and seniors.  But not Greenhouse Culture!  The median age seems to be about thirty years old! My husband and I are twice that age, obviously.

It doesn’t matter though.  These younger adults have their hearts in the right place.  They are a real joy to call friends.

Everything is new to this lovely group–youth group, outreach, Sunday school classes and holiday programs.  They approach every challenge with enthusiasm.

In true Baldwin fashion and a way to have family time, my husband and I volunteered to help our daughter.  My husband erected the barn and manger while I stage managed the show with a cast of thirty, two to sixteen year olds.  It was a rousing success. How could it not be?

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Everyone loves to see kids in animal costumes, young boys dressed as kings and sweet little girls as angels complete with halos and battery operated lights twinkling on their wings. The evening was well attended by this supportive group of younger adults. Our daughter, though exhausted,  appeared triumphant in her quest to create the annual event.

But that’s not what I’m posting about today.  I wanted to write about another guaranteed successful play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Folks, if you don’t know TBCPE, you need to look it up at SamuelFrench.com and get a copy!  Click here: http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2282/best-christmas-pageant-ever-the

I have directed this play four times with youth theatre companies.  The pros to this show are evident right from the beginning. I can’t think of one reason not to produce the show.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Creche

The Elements

Plot–This is NOT only the story of Jesus’ birth, though it is the vehicle for the rest of the plot. It is never maudlin or preachy (sorry, the pun.)

This heartwarming story is told through the eyes of the main characters Beth and her mother.  The Herdmans, ” the meanest kids in the neighborhood”, crash the pageant auditions because they think they’ll get free candy. Then terrorizing the church kids, the Herdmans grab up all the meaty roles,  and kidnap the Christmas story to tell it the way they think it should be told.  It is quite comical, but respectful at the same time. Nice!

  1. A varied cast in gender, age and number–4m, 6f, 8boy(s), 9girl(s)–adults can play the adult roles or have kids portray all of the parts. Your cast can be the suggested size ( or you can add additional angels and shepherds, etc. to give more kids an opportunity to perform.

  2. A simple set–You can use the stage as the main acting space, then place the other locales down left and right.  The most complicated of those is the main character’s kitchen in their home. When the pageant is performed, your audience can be involved serving as the church members observing the actual pageant as it enfolds.

  3. Simple, modern costumes–Always a plus!  Additionally, you will need Christmas pageant type costumes, so check with a church in your area to borrow them.

  4. Props are easy to collect–You’ll need a wheel chair, manger, a baby doll, maybe battery operated candles, and several other present day pieces.

  5. Lights can be area lighting or general.  Whatever your theatre is capable of doing will be fine.

  6. Ninety minutes in length and one act. You might consider breaking it into two acts, however.

  7. Intermission–I suggest you sell the applesauce cake mentioned in the show.  People LOVE that.  One company sold hand made dough art angels as a fund raiser and made a heap of money.

  8. Royalties are $100 per show or 10% of the gross box office.  That’s inordinately fair.

  9. If you need someone to direct it, I’m willing to visit your community and direct it for you.  (Paid with a stipend, of course.) It’s that good!

As you plan next year’s season for your company, I highly recommend you consider The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for your holiday slot.  When people leave the show and compliment you, you tell them “Deb Baldwin told us about this show. She promised it would be a good one.”

jesus-and-mary

I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

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Conversation Hacks: 25 Questions to Ask Your “Artsy” Relative

Here are conversation hacks:  25 questions to ask your “artsy” relative. A few holidays are coming up soon–Easter and Passover.  If you are lucky (or maybe you think not) you’ll spend time with your family and friends. Families are still families even if social moires have changed (I think for the better.)

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

My husband recently retired from his instrumental music teaching position and I from teaching drama.  Our daughters were both theatre majors and heavily involved in music as well.  One daughter is still involved in the arts.  Her sister became a nurse (which she should have done all along, but everyone has a journey.)

We always have plenty to talk about when we get together and surprisingly it isn’t Broadway.  We can dish like the best of them, however.  Whenever this occurs, I’m sure our sons-in-law don’t know quite what to do with us.  We try to keep it to a minimum around them.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

I thought about this challenge for other members of my family. They need conversation hacks–easy ways to converse with others.

My personal hack is F.O.R.M. ( questions about family, occupation, recreation, money) to create conversation and usually I have little problem talking with others if I initiate the conversation.

It doesn’t go very well the other way around.

I bet other arts people have the same problem I do.  In fact, I know they do.  It’s one of the reasons arts people are such good friends with one another–we understand each other, because we are creative people. We try out best to talk sports or politics and sometimes we are successful. Remember, we are chameleons.  If there is someone who can change themselves in order to blend with others, it’s an actor.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

However, if someone would take the time to sincerely converse with us, I think they’d find what we do to be fascinating.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

As you read the questions, just stick in art, music, dance or theatre as the project.

 

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to Ask your Artsy Relative

  1.  What are you working on now?

  2. How is it progressing?

  3. Is it ever frustrating? How so?

  4. What’s the best part of the project?

  5. Do other people help or work with you on it?  Who?

  6. What is their involvement in it?

  7. Do you work with a budget on the project?  If you don’t mind my asking, how much money is it?

  8. Is that the usual budget for a project like this?

  9. Is this the first project of this kind you’ve done?

  10. How is it different from others?

  11. Do you have a deadline for completion?

  12. Are you confident you’ll make the deadline?

  13. Are you ever worried about it?  What are the worries?

  14. Does thinking about the project keep you awake at night?

  15. Is the worry well founded or unrealistic?

  16. When you visualize the outcome of the project, what does it look like?

  17. Is there a message you want to convey through it?  What is it?

  18. Have you patterned your project after someone else’s?  Whose and why?

  19. Who do you admire who has done this same project or a similar one?

  20. Why do you admire them?

  21. Will there be a public exhibition of your project?  When is it?

  22. Will admission be charged to see it?  How much does it cost for admission?

  23. Do you set the price of the admission or someone else does? Who and why?

  24. What is your most proud moment concerning the project thus far?

  25. Do you think you’ll attempt the project again? Why or why not?

So there you have it–Conversation Hacks: 25 quetions to ask your artsy relative while sitting around the dinner table. 

Trust me, they are dying to share their work with you.

Just ask them.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

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

I’d love to chat with you!

Who is Deborah Baldwin Interview Video

Have you wondered who I am?  This video should help you get to know me.  It was created about eleven years ago, but I think it will give you some idea of who I am and my mission.

What is it?

My mission is to teach drama and direct plays with actors of all ages who are interested in learning more about the craft.

In addition, I am an indie author of an award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea.  Recently, I adapted Bumbling Bea into a play for youth theatre.

I am semi-retired as well.  Currently, I am teaching fundamentals of speech and theatre appreciation classes at Neosho Community College.  This is the first time teaching college aged students (although I have directed them for many years.) I am enjoying the change and instructing young adults.

If you would like to know more about me, check out my About Me page at: https://dramamommaspeaks.com/about/

Or a post with some information about me which makes me who I am outside of teaching and directing:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/12/30/deborah-baldwin-some-interesting-things-about-me/

I even have a poem about my childhood which could be of interest to you:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/05/09/where-i-am-from/

Want to more about Bumbling Bea? Here is the first chapter:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2016/11/24/bumbling-bea-the-first-chapter/

Looking for some reviews of Bumbling Bea?  Go here:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/07/24/new-book-reviews-on-bumbling-bea/

I stated I was an award winning author.  Check out the award here:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/03/10/wishing-shelf-independent-book-award-contest-bumbling-bea-a-finalist/

Here is an podcast concerning Bumbling Bea

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

Bumbling Bea: The First Chapter

BB chapter 16

There has been a lot of traffic on the blog lately and I can’t help but wonder if folks are wondering about my book, Bumbling Bea. So, here is chapter one:

Chapter One

It was Peter’s fault.

“P!” I yelled to get his attention, “do I look like old Macdonald on the farm to you?”

I was splattered all over with the gross stuff. I swear it was already curdling and the entire cafeteria of students could see it. I smelled putrid–like yucky old, blackened, moldy cheese long forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. It made me wretch a little but I still managed to get in his face.

“Why don’t you drink juice or water? Now I smell like I’ve been working in a cheese factory. You’re such a dweeb, P.”

When I was mad at Peter, I called him “P.” He’d been P. ever since we were in kindergarten when he stuck a couple of peas up his nose and had to go to the hospital to get them out. And like those peas, the name stuck. And he was clumsy, BUT only with me. He defended himself like he always did which irritated me.

“Jeez, sorry Beatrice. I didn’t mean to nearly flip over your backpack and spill two miniscule drops of lactose on your precious jacket. It was blocking the aisle between the tables like always. You are so mean these days.” Peter huffed, stomping away from the lunch room.

It wasn’t me speaking to Peter. It was Bumbling Bea. I’ve discovered I have an alter ego who I call Bumbling Bea. Strange and mean thoughts come flying out of my mouth. They didn’t even sound like something I’d think or say! Bumbling Bea hadn’t been around for long, but when she did rear her scary head, it was at the worst times.

One of the most memorable of times Bumbling Bea showed up was when we gave our choir director a tennis racket as a going away present. He was getting married and leaving our school. He was obsessed with tennis and was a pretty decent player. I thought it was neat, even though he had knobby knees and skinny, hairy, Minnie Mouse legs which looked kinda’ weird in his way too short tennis shorts.

I thought of the present when I saw him hitting tennis balls on the tennis court after school one day. He was mumbling something and from seeing his temper in class, I figured it was about his students.

            It was the first time Bumbling Bea arrived. I was class secretary for him (which made me feel super important even though he had a class secretary for every other class, too.) I thought I had power and the other kids listened to me. Bumbling Bea liked that a lot! At lunch one day I was sitting by myself, as usual. I turned to the table with the popular kids sitting behind me. “I think we should buy our music teacher a going away present since he’s getting married and leaving us. How about we give him a tennis racket since he loves the game so much?”

Everyone agreed with me (which was a first) and those who didn’t, gave me a dollar per student donation anyway. If giving money for a teacher’s going away present kept you in or near the popular kids, you gave it. And they did!

I was so excited. I checked out tennis racket prices on the internet, Dave’s Discount and the hardware supply store. Dave’s had the best price. Most everything was less expensive at Dave’s Discount. My Dad told me it was because Dave bought up all the things other businesses couldn’t sell. Dad thought Dave’s had good deals even though sometimes their stuff fell apart after one use. Their price for the tennis racket was awesome and one my class could afford.

Since I found the tennis racket right away, I had a little bit of time left over before Dad picked me up so I looked around at the girls’ clothes. Normally, I didn’t look at your typical girls’ clothes because they were always way too pink and way too fluffy. Not at Dave’s, though! I found a black and white polka dotted bikini swimming suit, matching flip flops and a package of panties—things were so cheap.

“You want me to put them in a Dave’s Discount box, honey?” wondered the clerk lady who smelled like cigarettes and chewing gum.

I heard about the Dave’s Discount boxes before. People used them to store about anything in them after they got them home: extra cat litter, broken toys, a bed for a puppy and so forth. They were sturdy, kind of a brownish tan color with black stripes printed on one side of them and the words “Dave’s Discount” plastered over the stripes.

Being so proud of myself for a. finding the tennis racket and b. buying the bikini, flip flops and panties all by myself, I accepted two boxes instead of one. I mean, they were free, you know? Dad said not to turn away free stuff if anyone at a store ever offered you anything free. I thought Dave’s Discount box was one of those free things he was talking about.

“Mom, we got a deal. The racket only cost thirty-six dollars.” I announced as I arrived home.

“Don’t forget to take off the price tag before you wrap it, Beatrice,” my mom reminded me as she whisked off to teach her art classes.

Mom! Sheesh. Sometimes she thinks I’m a baby…

My brother, Edmund, helped me wrap the box rolling it two or three times in wrapping paper and tying it with gobs of ribbons and a bunch of bows on it. We put the box in another box which went in another box. We thought it was so fun to unwrap when you received one of those sort of presents. Edmund laughed and laughed each time we played the trick on him.

This is so awesome. I said to myself. And when I tell him I chose the present, he will think I’m one of his coolest students for doing this for him.

That was Bumbling Bea talking. You see? Why would it matter whether my teacher thought I was the coolest student he had ever taught during his teaching career? He had thousands of kids he’d taught already and I was a lousy singer.

It was finally time to give the present. On the last day of classes before summer vacation, we usually sang through the year’s music one more time. The whole choir was singing happily, but they kept turning and looking at me. I was singing loud the way I never do because I was so excited about our present. Well, Bumbling Bea was singing exceedingly loud because she thought I was a better singer since I thought up the present.

It was the second time Bumbling Bea appeared.

Finally, the end of the hour came and it was time for the present. I stood lifting my head proudly, “We are sad you are leaving Oak Grove Middle School. We wanted to give you something to remember us when you are off in your new life.” I gave him the big box saying, “So, here is a little something to use to take out your frustrations on your new wife.”

Huh? What was that I said?

I was kinda’ nervous which was unusual for me and it freaked me out. So I tried again. “I meant, here’s a little something to use to take out your frustrations in your new life.”

Oh man. That wasn’t right either.

I tried one more time, “Oh, you know when you have a bad day at your new school and want to strangle your students, you can use this instead.” I cringed.

My teacher stared at me. “I don’t know what you are talking about, Beatrice. I’m never frustrated with my students.” He smiled at the rest of the class and ignored me.

I felt different on the inside of myself. Kinda’ smart aleck-y, but I didn’t know why. Maybe I was way too excited or nervous or awkward? When I am, I do dumb things to cover. It was how I felt that day. I wanted to sound grown up and cool and in charge, but I said three super dumb things to my teacher.

But I did more than say three dumb things.

Way more.

When Edmund and I were wrapping the tennis racket, Edmund’s pet ferret, Bernie, got loose from Edmund’s clutches and darted around my room. We were so busy screaming at Bernie that while trying to catch him, I guess my big fat foot accidentally pushed the box with the tennis racket under my bed. I picked up the other identical box with my new swimming suit, matching flip flops and the package of new panties and wrapped it instead.

Yes, you read it right: it was the box containing my new bikini swimming suit, matching flip flops and the new panties.

NEW PANTIES! NEW PANTIES!

But see, I didn’t know it was the wrong box because I wasn’t looking at my teacher when he finally opened the last box. I was busy picking up the left over wrapping paper.

Somebody whispered, “Beatrice, you left the price tag on the box.”

“Embarrassing,” another snickered.

THE PRICE TAG WAS SHOWING. THE STUPID PRICE TAG WAS STILL ON THE PRESENT.

I looked up and before I knew it, Bumbling Bea quipped, “There’s the price tag. It shows you how much we like you and I wanted you to know all us chipped in for it.”

Again with the dumb statements!

My teacher opened the box and there was no tennis racket.

BUT, there they were: the panties. Oh, the swimming suit and flip flops were there too, but all I saw were the PANTIES. It was as if they grew from a regular size to the size of a goal post on a football field. HUGE.

I stammered, “What? How did those get in there?”

My confused teacher said something to me, but the whole class was laughing so loudly I couldn’t hear him. I grabbed back the box and ran out of class and hid in the girls’ bathroom.

People called me “Panties” for days afterward until my mother heard them one too many times and threatened to call their parents.

Later I got the right present to my teacher but by then every kind of damage had already been done and I still forgot to take the price tag off the stupid present. I gave up.

Peter said later in the summer he saw my teacher hitting balls with our present tennis racket out on the court. He was back in town visiting his mother or something. I guess he hit one ball a little too hard, because the tennis racket’s webbing unraveled and when it fell to the ground, the handle fell apart, too.

Yup. Bumbling Bea steps into my skin right at the wrong time. Lately, there are more times she appears than I have until a crazy girl who wore cat ears visited from Japan. She made me see what I was doing by taking on my bumble-bea-ness herself. It’s all a little scary when you think about it.

 

Do You Wanna Dance?

Do You Wanna Dance? I do! Introducing: Juke Box Musicals, A Review

Are you looking for a musical with lots of roles so all your students can be involved? One that is entertaining, fast moving and light?  One with “ear worm” songs and hip, dancing beats?  Then Juke Box Musical’s Do You Wanna Dance is for you!

juke-box-musical

When I saw this musical advertised on Facebook, I asked the advertising firm if they were looking for pre-launch reviews.  They were and I accepted.

After directing productions for nearly forty years and creating a national playwriting contest, I can call myself an expert in both fores.

 I’m a tremendously experienced drama teacher, too.  I have read countless scripts and directed over 250 productions. I’m the gal you want for this job, that’s for sure.

There are many positives to this cute musical:

  • Twelve leading roles with an even split of female and male. (Hooray!) Plus a chorus of interdeterminate size who portray many different characters.  Kids like to be busy on stage, not bored back stage.  This is a real plus.

  • At least twelve “catchy”  popular songs that encourage the listener to reminisce of latter days when they listened to a juke box

  • List of characters with noted vocal ranges and brief character descriptions

  • Appropriate singing range for younger students (my advice– the production is mountable by middle school students and younger)

  • Simple plot, somewhat easy to project its outcome but moves along nicely and has a good message– Don’t let anyone stop you from the joy of dancing and singing. Everyone can dance.

  • Set description per scene (useful when planning production)

  • Stage directions, indepth (novice directors will appreciate these)

  • Simple costuming that most groups can create (another PLUS in my book)

  • Prop list with no difficult props to secure

  • Projection package of the various locales so that an erected set is not needed (this is a separate cost to the renter)

  • Suitable story for the whole family

Co-writers Mark Brymer and John Jacobsen  are qualified and experienced  musicians who can easily take on the challenges of writing a musical.  Mark Brymer has been a leading choral writer/arranger for the educational and church choral music markets for many years.

John Jacobson is known as a music educator, choreographer and author.  Both gentlemen are prolific creators.  Their resumes attest to their expertise.

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Do You Wanna Dance seems like a musical review. I think that’s what the writers were aiming for in writing it. I did a little research on line and found a youtube video of the co-writers discussing the show.  John Jacobson called the show “campy fun.”

I’d agree with him. Kids love to dance and sing and surprisingly, they will sing songs from other time periods with no qualms or embarassment.

“Walking on Sunshine” was released in 1979. That was over thirty years ago.  That doesn’t matter with music-a popular song continues to be popular long after its time.

Think about it… A family is sitting around the dinner table and their student begins humming one of the songs he’s hearsing from  Do You Wanna Dance. Before you know it, the parents recognize the song, begin singing along and the little sister jumps up and dances with a broom.  (Sorry, I got a little carried away there…) if you ask me, that’s a pretty clever way to involve the whole family and the show hasn’t even opened yet.

Most importantly, Do You Wanna Dance doesn’t talk down to students and that’s a plus for me. Next time, I would challenge the writers to create another juke box musical with a more difficult plot–our kids can handle it these days.  They are quite sophisticated and love a good challenge. Other than the junior musicals through Music Theatre International, there aren’t many musicals appropriate for younger students to perform. Or they are insipid and not worth anyone’s time. If nothing else, Do You Wanna Dance is just plain fun! A church youth group, Scout troop or an after school drama club  could produce Do You Wanna Dance quite successfully.

Who doesn’t like to sing and dance? (Now I’ve got Walking in Sunshine stuck in my head…) kids-dancing[1]

Which is your favorite?  Singing or Dancing?

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net I’d love to hear from you.

Purchase my book, Bumbling Bea on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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A Secret of a Highly Successful Drama Teacher-Litpick Article no. 2

My Litpick article no. 2.

I hope you enjoy it.

Deborah Baldwin teaching

Strengthening Reading Skills Through Drama

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 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.)

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.

DIALOGUE

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 theater camp production of Tams Witmark’s Music Library version of The Wizard of Oz musical. Here is a tidbit of dialogue from the production:

WICKED WITCH:

They’re gone! The ruby slippers! What have you done with them?

Give them back to me, or I’ll—

GLINDA:

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!

FORM

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 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….

RESEARCH

In researching this article, I came upon a tremendous website–Readingrockets.org that says it much better than I can.

1. 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.”

2. 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.

3. 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).

4. 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).

LIBRARIES

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.

READING EXPERTS

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.”

AARON SHEPHERD

One of my favorite authors of reader’s theatre scripts is Aaron Shepherd. 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