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Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Posted by: Nicole Nason (March 11, 2010)


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This show is quite an undertaking and I am so glad that we had LOTS of extra rehearsal time.  Every group number is large and where I usually have chorus people play multiple roles I'm glad that I didn't with this cast.  I'm also glad that we rented the largest costumes as the rest of them is enough.

Philadelphia: City of Brotherly (and Artistic?) Love

Posted by: Kaitlin Davis (March 10, 2010)

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As a youngster growing up in South Jersey, if I mentioned a trip to "the city," friends instinctively knew what I was talking about... Philadelphia, of course! Don't get me wrong, I adore New York City... but I will forever love the city that introduced me to professional theater, my favorite and most magical dancewear shop, and a beautiful museum only thirty minutes from my doorstep. Geographic superiority complex ignored, apparently I am not the only one who sees the beauty of our nation's former capital. Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, recently lauded Philly as a model "arts city." To read the complete text of the article, click here... and if you get the chance to visit, don't forget to try the cheesesteak!

Guys and Dolls cue-to-cue

Posted by: Matt Spencer (March 9, 2010)

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Cue-to-cue, can either be alot of fun, or a painful long experieance.

Luckily for Guys and Dolls it was a fun time. We worked alot on just the lights, and not concentrating on anything else.

We open next weekend, I'll try to get some photos up before then, but We're really excited. the Gold Cast (my cast) worked the cue to cue. the Blue cast will run tomorrow for a full run.

We add our 4 principals to the show tomorrow as well, our main principle and our assistant/sports principal will act at the Trainer and the Heavyweight.

Our other two assistant Principals will act as the M.C.s in the Hot box!


Posted by: Stephen Infantino (March 9, 2010)

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Well, once again our dear friends at another licensing agency have decided to pull rights for our May production. Thank God MTI doesn't do that. Now the casting begins for FOREVER PLAID. That should be fairly easy since we seem to be male heavy lately. Let's see if we can get the show up in 6 weeks. Stay tuned for updates.

Measuring the Impact of the Arts

Posted by: Kaitlin Davis (March 9, 2010)


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Often when working in the arts, you are called upon to demonstrate and occasionally defend the impact the activities are having. This can be a challenge because some benefits-- improvements in self-esteem or creativity, for example-- can be nearly impossible to quantify. Recently, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art began a comprehensive project to do just that, and the article about their process is really fascinating. I hope that it provides as much insight for you as it has for me.

You can check out the complete text of the blog right here.

Budget Battle..."Man Your Battle Stations"

Posted by: Larry Wilson (March 3, 2010)

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As a retired music teacher with 35 years of experience. I can attest to the fact that being prepared for the "budget battle" is the least favorite part of our profession, but often the most necessary.  The life or death of your program is often at stake.  Even if you are not facing an impending budget crisis, you must be prepared for one.  No one anticipated the financial effects of 9/11 or the meltdown created by the Recession of 2009.

All battles require an Army, Ammunition, a Battle Plan and Perseverance.

Your Army consists of the parents and extended family members, the community organizations, the professional organizations you belong to, the alumni of your past programs and members of the general public.  The artistic excellence of your program and the impact you make within your community creates numerous “supporters” of the arts.  The more they are inspired by your efforts, the more likely they will accompany you in battle. Don’t be shy to ask for their help.  Enlist your parents at open house, parent/teacher conferences or in the “congratulations line” of audience members as they form after each successful performance.  Set up a data base of parent contact numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses, so you can contact your troops in an instant. 

The Ammunition in your battle can often be quantified.  The number of students you impact in your program, the number of performances you  provide for your community, the number of small ensembles you take to the monthly service organization meeting and the number of inter curricular activities you conduct with the classroom teachers. It's the partnership with the community that develops when you lend the music department PA system to the chamber of commerce for their annual awards dinner.  When you volunteer your drum section and flute ensemble for the American Legion's Veteran's Day ceremony, you add to a reservoir of "good will" that returns to you when your program is in "budget jeopardy".

Yes, and don’t forget the volumes of data compiled on the MENC website that  supports the effect of music on academic achievement. For centuries, philosophers and politicians have defended the need for the arts in education.  Include these quotes when you submit your budgets,  prepare position papers and print your concert programs. 

The Battle Plan is paramount.  Give your Army of supporters tasks to do.  Arm them with the phone numbers of the Board of Education members, along with a carefully scripted message that is strong yet respectful.  Encourage them to write letters to the local newspapers. Ask them to network with fellow members of the local service organizations. Network with music staff from other districts who are fighting the same battle so you can share tactics.  Including your students in the actual battle is a  professional “no no”, but involving their parents and extended family members is appropriate. Meet with your Army of supporters often, so that you have unified messengers and not a bunch of loose canons.  Strategically, schedule your "All District Band and Chorus Program" on the night of the district budget vote.  That is a sure way to get your pro music parents to the polls.

And lastly, get your Army to the battle by setting up a phone tree to remind everyone to attend the important public budget meetings. Setting up a Facebook page for your Army will also be helpful. 

Perseverance wins in the end.  Budget time is a long and stressful process.  The rumors of impending doom can wear you down.  Your Army will take their cue from your attitude.  Your message to them is that the arts are worth fighting for and surrender is not an option.  As a colleague of Cindy Ripley for nearly 30 years, I can attest to the fact that the quality of her program was our department’s biggest asset.  Her tireless pursuit of excellence, that was recognized by USA Today in their “All Star Educators Team”, became a tireless pursuit for the survival of her program when the budget chips were down.  As conscientious music educators, we adopt a maternal or paternal instinct regarding our program that fortifies us for the battles ahead.  And, we all know how strong that bond can be.  Cutting a program can take a moment... restoring a program can take years.  Proactive measures must be taken so that this does not happen to your program. 

Guys & Dolls three weeks out

Posted by: Matt Spencer (March 3, 2010)


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Hi out there,
    We are now three weeks away from opening our show. With the two consecutive 4 day weekends from mother nature, we're all pressed for time.

With the nature of double casting we have to rearange the schedual alot. The blue cast opens first so they will run the show first, then my cast, the gold cast will run next week.

We're reworking Havanna and the Finale this week. We're going to have a lot of late nights. 

I've brought my camera this week to film some adventures and misadventures of the cast.
On top of all this alot of cast members are getting sick, including me. And a student teacher is giving us three days to write a reaserch paper on the Apartheid in South Africa. Oh yea new teachers!

More this weekend from a long rehearsal.


It Helps to Get Enough Sleep

Posted by: Rodney Robbins (March 3, 2010)

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Theater is inherently hectic and exciting. It can leave you pleasantly drained and relaxed. On the other hand, trying to act in a show, or write one, while dragging your tail is tough. Students, production crews, staff and talent all need plenty of rest to be their best. Here are some tips for getting restful shut eye.

1) Keep a sleep schedule--whenever possible--and especially the week of opening night.

2) Don't go to bed starving hungry or thirsty. Something light helps the body relax and sleep through till dawn.

3) Get some exercise. Stress feels like exercise, but it's not.

4) Sox. Try them.

5) Some theater people are natural vampires. May the Queen of Darkness bless them! If you are functioning fine on 5 hours of sleep, roll with it. Try to leave room in your schedule for a nap--you may need one.

It's amazing how much easier everything is when life doesn't feel like such a struggle. Sleep, blessed sleep, makes everything and exciting again.

Budgets or Bust?

Posted by: Cindy Ripley (March 2, 2010)

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Many of us would rather block a scene with 200 kids, deal with your lead having the flu or explain to a parent why their child is appropriately cast, than deal with impending budget cuts.  Anything, absolutely anything else!  Most of us working with kids in theater are there because we are passionate about the art form and what it can do for kids, schools and communities.  A good director knows how to cast so the show propels itself.  His vision can motivate and inspire the entire creative team.  . But “marketing” the program to avoid an arts budget cut wasn’t in the syllabus!  When it comes to budget issues, we are only partially in control of the process.

In a real world, (and hopefully we are doing a better job with our undergrad and grad students), creating a sustainable arts program is part of the “basic food group” for survival.  I wish I had space to tell you the many TRUE stories of programs that were saved BECAUSE of what we offer kids and communities, including my own at one time!

A phrase I use consistently, courtesy of my former colleague Larry Wilson, is “missed opportunity”.  You already have everything you need to market the case for why your program is integral to the school and community, yes, even in these tough times! After WWII, the first things rebuilt in Europe were the concert halls and Opera Houses.  People realized that if their CULTURE was extinguished, what was left?  The same goes for our arts programs –musicals, music programs, after school programs etc. etc.

YOU KNOW what your program does, (stimulates creativity, promotes teamwork, instills sense of pride and self worth, shows the positive achievements of large groups of students, gets students to ATTEND SCHOOL); but do your Board of Eds, Administrations, community members, local service organizations and local legislators?  Our art is performance based - maximize your visibility at every opportunity including other schools in the district, parent groups, community organizations, local business’, senior centers etc.  BE PUBLIC, stay positive and pro-active.  Toot your own horn….no one else will do it with the same energy or syle.

My friend Larry, a master educator, is the guru of PR.  Hands down, he can and has promoted arts programs with unconventional, creative and successful results.  He was light years ahead in being proactive of arts cuts.  I have asked if he would share a few techniques.  Look for a blog from him this week, and stay strong – we are fortunate we can defend something that contributes to the very fabric of our culture!  CR


Posted by: Caty B (February 27, 2010)

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My newest experience of all: Chicago Unifieds.

I went to audition for the U of Oklahoma, U of Michigan, and Point Park University. I got through all 3, plus a walk in with Penn State. I got there midday on Jan 31, took the train from the airport to nearby the Palmer House Hilton where the auditions were and where I stayed with my mom... just like almost every other kid. It was quite potentially the most hectic place to be. If it was just you and one other person in an elevator or walking through a hallway or maybe at the 7-11 on the corner, the conversation was polite, things like "Are you here for auditions? Me too. I'm auditioning at X-Y-Z. Break a leg!" which I will say was nice. HOWEVER, if you were at an audition or on a floor in which a ton of kids were auditioning, every look was scathing as though you were being sized up. Stage mothers are terrifying.

It was a bizarre experience from the standpoint that I didn't expect there to be like 500 kids and their parents there (there were people warming up everywhere. I walked by the room where you get ice and heard a soprano doing scales). But I will say that you are among your peers in a place like this. It's just odd to be one of the most outgoing people in a theatre magnet program and then you get to somewhere like this and you're one of the more meek. The people who are comfortable automatically in that situation freak me out.

My first audtion was OU. One 1min monologue, two 32bar songs. I did reasons to be pretty, "Raunchy," and "Just a Housewife." The one persopn in there evaluating me asked how my years of dance training I'd had, I said none because I was thinking high school and formal classes, which makes that statement very true. He had me do my thing, told it was excellent, but w/o dance training there was no point in giving me a callback. He then proceed to have me list my other schools and told me they would be looking for the same thing and wouldn't accept me, so I should  go try to get a walkin at Evansville for their theatre school. As you can probably guess, this ruined the entire experience for me and is probably what made me so introverted during the trip. AND as you probably guess, I got downstairs to my mom, told her, and went to the bathroom to shed a few tears in private. OU man, if you're out there, try sending a letter next time. That was completely unprofessional of you.

My next audition (after frantically trying to find walkins) was Michigan. Prepare Two 2min monologues and Two 16bar songs: They'll pick. It made me insanely nervous to go in there after what the guy from OU had said, it being my top choice and all. I went in, they organized an info session for the students and parents complete with packets on the school, they do the session, I want to go to the school even more, and we break for the dance call. "If you don't have dance training, don't worry. We're looking for trainability" I HAVE THAT!! TAKE ME!! We did a few ballet combos (very tiny ones that were not hard. don't freak out.) and then a short MT style dance to New York, New York. You betcha I felt those "The Battery's Down" vibes. I didn't really screw up. For being untrained and having no clue what I was doing, I did rather well. This was also the simplest/most fun dance call I had. We all then went outside of the room and waited for our scheduled times for the monologue/song part. I checked back with Penn State for a walkin, they said the next day and I then came back and waited some more. I heard a ton of songs that I considered for auditions and thanked God that didn't pick them. I got in there, gave my music to the accompanist, she was super nice (some accompanists have trouble smiling after a while. I feel them.), got up there, they asked what I had prepared (monologue wise) and they chose the one from The Waiting Room by Lisa Loomer. It went well. They asked if I'd worked on it with my acting teacher I said a few times, but mostly on my own (name that musical). and then he asked me to sing "Just a Housewife" which went well, but then he had me do "Raunchy" which was better. We talked about the area I was from cause he'd been to a school near there (Pebblebrook...there was also a crazy talented girl from my Emerson audition that had been in my dance call for Mich that goes to Pebblebrook. Their Aida from Aida.) and honestly, that audition was probably my best.

The next day I went to check back in with Penn State, she still had me on the waitng list. I went to my Point Park audition. One 1min monologue (reasons), one 32bar song (Raunchy). I went in, the women helping organize it were super nice, making my ajudicator, Mr. Grumpy Gills, look like a total grouch. I got through my monologue and half of my song w/o him even looking at me. He took notes the whole time (it drove me insane!). A couple hours later (no penn audition during that time. but I did get lunch at a super crowded, super tastey bakery) I had my dance call. Quite possibly the hardest of my dance calls. It was lead by an alumni who is now a dance captain at the Chicago ballet and it was in a tiny room. Imagine this: 30 kids in a 40 by 20 foot space and the ajudicator is at the end of the 40 so we're traveling across the 20 ft. AWFUL. OH and did I mention these dance calls are on carpet? so yeah. it wasn't too horrible. My entire group forgot the dance at one specific point, but I mean, what're you going to do? We were the first group. They held a short info session afterwards, making Oscar the Grouch look like actually a pretty nice guy whom I'd enjoy working with.

I actually got a Penn State audition.  It was short and sweet. They film the auditions. They were nice and the alum who helped me get the audition was so sweet. I got a letter from them the other day though rejecting me. At least I hadn't turned in the application for the school yet.

SO. that's what it's like. The most stressful 3 days on your life. I'll tell you about Arizona some other time. I'm supposed to hear from Point Park and Michigan this week or next week!

Much love and good thoughts-

Caty B