Creativity & Multicultural Communication

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By traveling teaching artist

Musings of a NYC native, performer, writer, teaching artist living and working and studying in Buffalo, NY
[ LINK ] [ RSS ] Last Updated: 2013-04-20T08:49:26.429-0

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Blog Post: The Wonderful Wizard of Ah's

Annette leads the Underground Railroad Residency, "Letters From the Underground" workshop

Being a Teaching Artist can feel like a calling, like the ministry, or medicine, or magic!

I will use this moment to toot my own horn letting you know that on occasion classroom teachers and school administrators have called be a magician or a wizard when it comes to my teaching artistry. I can't take any supernatural credit for the feats except to accept the compliments while letting them know that the "magic" is in my enthusiasm. I always feel that if the audience sees and feels your love of theater they can catch the same fever.
Musician & teaching artist Rodney Appleby, accompanying a spoken word student performance from Annette's "Stories From the Microphone" residency

It usually pans out, also having a solid lesson plan no matter how simple or basic. The lesson plan is really important. I know some of true "artists" may feel too creative to allow themselves time to create something as mundane as a lesson plan, but mark my words, when you are in that classroom with 18 to (Heaven help you) 30 students all wanting to tell you about what they watched last night, and how it connects to the theme you want them to write about today, you're going to wish you had a plan to look at and remind you what your objective and activities were.

IMG_1421 Students ask questions during Underground Railroad residency
Also, schedule that a lesson plan helps you plot out is also of great value, especially when you discover that you and your charges are having such a good time you didn't keep your eye on the clock!

IMG_0625Sixth graders performing their original radio script with Annette's "Quiet In the Studio" workshop
IMG_1414 Using historical photos for letter writing inspiration during the UGRR residency workshops students learn public speaking skills in the "Stories From the Microphone" workshop

I think I mentioned earlier that I have become the Program Coordinator with an after-school program for teens most at risk of educational and societal failure. Many of these kids are on probation, some are frequent runaways, some keep skipping school, they have domestic issues, and lots of other negatives that keep children struggling through the public education system as well as the social services systems.

I've been comparing the kind of experiences I have as a teaching artist in public and charter schools to the recent experiences I've had in this after-school program.
They don't compare.
There have been several days leaving the program in the evening when I think this is just too much work. In the schools I'm a celebrity, a wizard, getting kids and teens to write about themselves and create stories using historical references because they are so psyched with my storytelling skills.
But at the "program" I have to work pretty darn hard just to get them to focus on what we are doing and stop talking. My ego for success and enthusiasm for the theatre is losing shine.

Luckily for me I have an assistant who is also a theatre/writing teaching artist, she gives me encouragement throughout the day and reminds me that this is a pilot program.

"We had some successes today" she will tell me. "That whole conversation they had about love and money that was important!"
"Yeah," I'll add, "but they didn't write anything."
"It'll come soon, they have so many other things going on. Most of them have never been in a situation where someone is asking them to think and play!"

Yeah, she was right. Some of the things we are asking them to do really don't make any sense to them. Improvisations where they can only say one sentence any way they want but they have to remember they can only say that one sentence. Or playing games where they have to copy a neighbor's movement but say that they are doing something completely different. It drifts on the corny side, and sometimes seems quite anti-cool. However, most of them try it and most of them are so happy not to be under the requirements of curfew, they show up early.
So I'm putting my ego in check, because like always it is not about me, it's about the audience, and in this case the kids. The audience is king to the theatre artist and the classroom is the king to the teaching artist, the greater good and the really big reward is in that challenge that I face when I doubt my skills and talents.

I'm a rock-star! A teaching artist Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Ah's!
So I'll remember the calling.
Teaching Artist, is a profession, a professional artist, who chooses also to teach.
The "magic" of teaching is in the "oohs' and "ahs' of the students when they have discovered something new.
"Ooohs" and "AHH's" from me, when the students have taught me something new about art, the world we live in, and myself.
Artists have always been life-long learners, we have to be, how else would we ease on down that yellow brick road to creativity?

"Ease on down ease on down the road, don't you carry nothing that might be a load, come on and ease on down, ease down, ease down the road!"

By traveling teaching artist, Feed:Who'd Like To Share, 2013-04-08T20:48:00.000-07:00 [Comment]
Blog Post: The Magic of Mistakes
Meg Quinn directing Jacob Kahn & Lee Becker, in The Borrowers by Mary Norton @ Theatre of Youth, Buffalo, NY during a rehearsal.
Creativity and play seem synonymous with one another. As parents we encourage our children to be social and play together. Studies ave taught us that we learn by playing, creativity opens up our minds for thought and question. Actors work is creative play. Every rehearsal and every performance is a new experience, a new moment of learning-about yourself, your scene partners, the story being told. Actors have to use their whole bodies when working, but we start a new project by reading the script, first alone-hopefully-and later with the entire cast and the production team.

Hearing the text is the first connection we make with the playwrights story. Now, actors start thinking about who we want this character to be, ususally the director already has a sketch made up, and that sketch can change over the course of a rehearsal and that's okay, it's all about choices and because I'm focusing on live theater, it's about the "magic"!

The magic is the unknown, the surprising mishaps made perfect.
The magic is also the moment a kid in the audience is so engaged that he yells out to the heroes to "run", as the villain, me, is hot on their trail to try and kill them. I can't tell you how cool it is when that happens!

Mistakes happen in live theater, that's part f the magic. What you and your scene partners do on stage during those magical moments teach and test us as creative beings.
Jacob Kahn as Crampfurl/Spiller/Gypsy Boy, Director Meg Quinn, and Lee Becker as The Boy, rehearsing The Borrowers @ Theatre Of Youth, Buffalo, NY
Loraine O'Donnell as Homily and Marc-Jon Filippone as Pod, rehearsing The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Arin Lee Dandes as Arrietty, and Loraine O'Donnell rehearsing The Borrowers by Mary Norton @ Theatre of Youth, Buffalo,NY
Every performance was different. That's part of the beauty of live theater. But when the beauty and magic of theater is the differences of each performance the causes of these "differences" can wreak havoc or laughter backstage.
Memorizing lines is always a challenge for me. I promise myself that I won't be the actor who has the least amount of lines and takes the longest to be off of book. Sometimes I have to break that promise. Like on our last dress/technical rehearsal, when I walked out for a scene where I say about 6-7 lines and then I exit.
Simple enough, but I neglected to do my homework the night before or even during my lunch at work...I didn't look over my lines. Now mind you this is not my first scene in the play and I wasn't very concerned with this particular scene since it is so short, I knew the lines, or at least my brain knew the lines but for some reason my mouth and tongue couldn't seem to form the sounds to create the words that my brain was holding. I looked into the abyss of an empty house, and called out the word:
And there was no answer.
Now let me give you some backstory for the non-thespians. Professional actors are not supposed to call for a line during full tech/dress rehearsals, especially not the last not before opening or previews. If you don't know your line you are expected to figure out how to save yourself as if there was an audience. I stuttered a bit, then I stammered and then I went to the next line, exit stage right. I was so embarrassed, when we took a break, Marc-Jon Fillipone, a very experienced actor said, "Did I hear you call for a line?""Yes Marc, you heard me. I was bound to goof something up.""But that's good, we couldn't have a perfect rehearsal today, that would just be bad luck!"
And there you have it.
Actors are very superstitious, on the last dress rehearsal we expect something to go wrong in order to believe that opening night will be a success! There were other goof up s that night, but mine was the first, and after I got over my ego being knocked down a bit I was pleased that I could contribute to relief of a not so perfect dress rehearsal!
Yay for me!
Suffice it to say that I never forgot that line again. That I would say is the creative part of learning. We may not learn the way we plan but the best laid plans of mice and men... you get the idea. We have to make mistakes to figure out the successes!Who'd like to share?

By traveling teaching artist, Feed:Who'd Like To Share, 2013-03-31T23:03:00.001-07:00 [Comment]
Blog Post: Connecting Through Communication to Create
This blog was required and inspired by a college course, a MOOc, Mass Online Open Course. This particular MOOc concentrates on Creative Multicultural communication. the participants in the course are encouraged to start blogs. Participants seeking credit are required to create blogs. Being required to write for me, is a good thing because I'm a writer. I love to write, I also like to find lots of other things to do instead of writing. That's probably why it's been a few weeks between posts.

The thing that I've noticed lately with writing and blogs is that it keeps a continuous dialogue going. Now that dialogue can only keep going if you have an audience of readers. So that means the blogger has to decide how much marketing we want to do with this new communication tool.

Connectivism and communication in the digital age. Blogging is another way for communicators to tell stories.

Usually when I'm storytelling I'm talking on a stage, or make-shift stage in a school classroom. Many times I'm on an actual stage in the school auditorium. Today a school's auditorium may also double as a gym and a cafeteria, creating a new title: "Cafetorium" "Mutli-purpose room", "Gymteria" anyway, I think I'm stretching it a bit but you get the picture.

I also like using poetry for storytelling. Often the poems are written in a narrative form and I allow myself to use the voices of characters I've met around my world but the complete purpose is to connect with my audience. On a stage the audience is alive and present. In this blog my audience comes on goes reading and logging in at their leisure and on their on time as opposed to mine. That's nice. Like an archive of thoughts, stories, and ideas that I want to share.

Next week I start a new residency with teens at risk of educational failure. I know that sounds weird but that's the most recent title for youth who are doing poorly in school and socially. I've been told that the kids I'm visiting want to write a play and act in it. Through connecting, communicating, we will create something original that they will be proud of. At least that's the plan. Wish me luck, and check in during the coming weeks to read and see, I'll post some photos, what kind of progress we are making.

By traveling teaching artist, Feed:Who'd Like To Share, 2013-02-14T13:54:00.002-08:00 [Comment]
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