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Ashland New Plays Festival Presents CONSTELLATIONS

On May 8 Ashland New Plays Festival Presents a Dramatic Reading of CONSTELLATIONSAshland New Plays FEstival Constellations

A romantic exploration of one relationship in multiple universes by British playwright Nick Payne

 

“In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.” – CONSTELLATIONS

 

>From London, to Broadway, to Ashland! Join us for this special, one-night-only dramatic reading of the “spellbinding, romantic journey” of CONSTELLATIONS. What begins as a simple encounter between a man and a woman then delves into the infinite possibilities of their relationship and asks us to think about the difference between choice and destiny.

 

ANPF’s staged reading is directed by ANPF’s Associate Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca and stars Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Alejandra Escalante and Daniel José Molina, who also starred together as the title characters in OSF’s 2012 production of ROMEO AND JULIET. This season at OSF you can see them in HENRY IV, PART ONE and TWO.

 

“I feel lucky to be able to explore this text with our wonderful cast in what are sure to be honest and nuanced performances. Not only will they need to live through their characters’ stories, but to live them repeatedly, variably, as the story flitters between universes,” says Apodaca.

 

CONSTELLATIONS is about the mystery of time, the multiplicity of our choices, and the minutiae of life’s many paths. Playwright Nick Payne has gathered those themes into scenes from a single relationship, spread out over numerous tracks in multiple universes. “It’s hard to explain,” Apodaca says, “but easy–I think–to understand.”

 

For Apodaca, the play’s focus on time is something she thought a lot about when her young son became interested in physics and string theory. “We watched a lot of Nova and Brian Greene specials. The irony of learning about time while watching time change my son was not lost on me,” she says. Referring to the parent’s adage, ‘It goes so fast!’ Apodaca continues, “It’s true…except when it drags. Time, like anything worth understanding, is shrouded in mystery.”

 

The dramatic reading will be held on Monday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Center, 87 Fourth Street, in Ashland. Tickets are $20 and are available online and at the door.

 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit ANPF’s website at www.ashlandnewplays.org.

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Contemporary Translation of Edward III by Ashland New Plays Festival

Ashland New Plays Festival Edward III playbill cover

Understanding Shakespeare through a Modern Verse Translation:

A contemporary playwright translates Edward III for today’s audiences, to be performed as a dramatic reading March 27 in Ashland, Oregon

By Kara Q Lewis

Afternoon light filters over the laptop of playwright Octavio Solis, who focuses on the screen, puzzling out ways to decipher a difficult verse from William Shakespeare’s play Edward III. After getting sick two weeks earlier, Solis began working from bed. His wife teases him about not using his brand new writing studio. He works intensely and relentlessly: “I get obsessive about it,” he says, “I work on it ‘til 1 or 2 in the morning and then it’s the first thing I do when I wake up.” He continues:

“I’ve enjoyed every second of it. It taps into the part of my brain that likes puzzles. I’m decoding something really intricate and special. The process has revealed Shakespeare’s craft as a writer. I’m getting into Shakespeare’s head, like when I try to think like Will Shortz so I can solve New York Times crosswords.”

Solis is part of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s project Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare. The playwrights have been paired with a dramaturg and commissioned to create modern verse translations of plays attributed to Shakespeare. The project aims to “bring fresh voices and perspectives to the rigorous work of translation” while making “39 unique side-by-side companion translations of Shakespeare’s plays that are both performable and extremely useful reference texts for both classrooms and productions.” Solis’ version of Edward III will be presented as a staged reading by Ashland New Plays Festival on March 27.

The Play on! project comes with controversy. For some, Shakespeare’s words should remain unaltered. The belief is that today’s audiences should intuit and grasp one of Shakespeare’s play’s meaning from skilled actors and directors in its original language. Another issue raised is one of funding. As one New York Times op-ed contributor, James Shapiro, writes, “I’d prefer to see [the project] spend its money…enabling those 36 promising American playwrights to devote themselves to writing the next Broadway hit.”

The director of the project, Dr. Lue Douthit, has worked at OSF for over 20 years and says she is frustrated as a theatergoer. She understands the meaning of Shakespeare’s works, having discussed, written about, studied, annotated, and adapted the bard’s plays. And yet, she gets lost in the language. In a HowlRound forum, she writes: “I can hear it at 16 rpms, but not often at the zippy 78 speed that the language is designed to run.”

Solis responds to the controversy: “I understand why this project exists,” he says. “In scholarship, [the language] feeds the scholar’s soul to read and study it. But in performance there are some elements that are over our heads no matter what.”

For instance, he explains that there are many references and metaphors from Shakespeare’s time that have lost their impact, like those related to Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the lives of Roman generals. In one specific case with Edward III, Solis had to research the identity of “the queen of shades,” and upon discovering it, re-wrote the line to provide context that she is “Diana of the moon…”

Sidestepping the discussions and lively debate over the translations, we come face to face with the playwrights and their work. Solis is enthusiastic and passionate about this project: honoring Shakespeare’s poetry and getting to understand the preeminent playwright’s motives in order to clarify and strengthen his play’s power for today’s audiences.

“I’m trying to make myself invisible in this process,” Solis says. “But I’m a poet, too. And I think I bring some poetic clarity to the work. I’ve also been an actor, so I’m trying to make it more actable, to make lines more personal, rather than lofty and disengaged. I’m not inventing characters or story; I’m working from what is already there. Within that, there’s immense creative freedom. It pushes me to be the poet I know I can be, and I am comforted. We know more words than Shakespeare did, and I can access them so quickly.”

One of the most challenging aspects of Solis’ line-by-line translation has been Shakespeare’s use of chiasmus – a reversal of subject and predicate, usually with two parallel statements, as in this line from Act II Scene I, by Shakespeare: “Her beauty hath no match but my affection. / Hers more than most, mine most and more than more / hers more to praise than tell the sea by drops /”

Solis continues: “It’s a device that disengages – to not use ‘my, me, or I’.” One example of Solis making a scene more personal by using more direct language is in this intense speech given by Edward III in response to his son’s challenge to uphold a promise the prince made that contradicts his father:

Thou and thy word lie both in my command

what canst thou promise that I cannot break?

which of these twain is greater infamy

to disobey thy father or thyself?

Thy word nor no man’s may exceed his power

nor that same man doth never break his word

that keeps it to the utmost of his power.

Solis unpacked this verse multiple times and finally rested on this translation:

Your word and you fall under my command.

What can you promise that I cannot break?

Which of these two bring you the most disgrace,

To disobey your father or yourself?

Your word, nor any man’s, should not exceed

My power to break it, nor should you ever

Infringe upon your utmost word to me.

One of Solis’ most treasured discoveries during this project has been what he’s learned from dissecting Shakespeare’s writing process: his word choices, shortcuts, and creativity. “I am in awe of his particular genius, to fit so much into one line, and then make it rhyme,” Solis says. “With my tries, they’ll be one and a half lines – or two or three lines. I’ll agonize sometimes forever on iambic pentameter, and then I’ll go back to the original and find out – Shakespeare cheated! Some lines have one less or a couple more syllables than scan.” (Scansion is the process of scanning a line of verse to determine its rhythm, which is iambic pentameter in Shakespeare’s case.)

Separate from the controversy of translating Shakespeare, Edward III has its own unique discourse and disagreement among scholars as to whether the play was actually written by Shakespeare. It was officially added to Shakespeare’s canon in the late 1990s. Part of the evidence used to credit Shakespeare as the author came from computer software meant to find plagiarism in college papers.

Solis describes what convinced him Edward III must have been written by Shakespeare: “In two of the most powerful speeches, with messengers describing graphic sea battles and French refugees fleeing their villages – there is such a command of language and tone. They’re so vivid, with the poetry subverted to describe something that is truly horrifying.”

The story of Edward III follows the personal and political struggles of pivotal characters at the start of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France in the 14th century. The five-act play features the English king’s love for a married countess, brutal battles for power in France, and personal struggles of honoring oneself versus honoring a king or country.

Solis found that promises resonate in the play: “Promises, swearing oaths, these are big: when is it okay to break a promise, what is the value of your word, from both a personal level to a cosmic level to everything in between – a country to the army and towns? It’s interesting to see how they play out.”

Also of interest for Solis were the impactful correlations between parts of the play and present-day political events, including Brexit, Syrian refugees, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Solis says, “I’m drawn to the way the war, the political situation then, echoes to the present day. Edward III – England – chose to invade France and then they wondered why the French didn’t embrace them. They wanted to win hearts and minds, as they were going through burning villages and killing people.”

When Edward III was written in the 1590s it was a propaganda play, showing the royalty and their praiseworthy wars. “But,” Solis says, “It doesn’t put a gloss on it. Yes, it was patriotic and enormously popular, but there are some dark things that Shakespeare is mindful of exploring, like how to be a good ruler, a good conqueror.”

In a pivotal scene at the town of Calais, it is the king’s wife who helps change her husband’s mind not to kill French men who surrendered voluntarily to save their town. However, the king wants to raze the village and kill the men to show his power. Queen Philippa then says, “Those who fall under the sword and turn to ash by fire, offer you no homage. Only living can pay you homage.”

Another strong female character is the Countess of Salisbury, whom the married Edward falls in love with and propositions, expecting her to fall under his command. He is then humbled by her response. “She had to stand up by herself and make a solution all by herself,” Solis says. “She’s more honorable than I could imagine. She forces [the king] to come to his senses. It’s resonant on so many levels.”

As Solis labored over individual words and phrases, working line by line through the five-act, 103-page, 19,000-word play, “tweaking confusing parts to make it better for contemporary audiences,” he was also translating the characters, giving audiences a stronger connection to the lives and lessons played out in the story.

In addition, the play needs to work as poetry. Solis asked himself constantly, “If Shakespeare were alive today what would he do?” For Solis the poetry was as demanding as the story. “Shakespeare’s poetry is just gorgeous, and I’m a purist.” He quotes the Play on! playwrights’ first rule, “to do no harm.”

When choosing Edward III from the list of available plays to work on for Play on!, Solis was excited. “I found it at the bottom of the list,” he says, “I didn’t know the play, so I was going at it with virgin eyes, and it will be the same for the audience.” When he gave his selection to Douthit, the project’s director, Solis says she was pleased.

“Why?” he asked.

She replied, “Because, you’re a poet.”

The special, one-night-only dramatic reading of Solis’ translated version of Shakespeare’s “new” play is being produced by Ashland New Plays Festival, a nonprofit organization that assists playwrights in the development of new works through public readings and offers educational forums to the community through discussions and workshops.

Solis looks forward to the performance. “This is a fresh script, newly done, and I am working in a mode that is entirely new to me.” He also hasn’t heard the play out loud yet. “It’s imperative that I hear this with the most qualified Shakepearean actors,” he says, “in order to know whether I am going in the right direction. ANPF is giving me first shot at this. The importance of that cannot be minimized.”

The performance is Monday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Southern Oregon University’s Music Recital Hall.

Tickets are $20 and $25, reserved seating, available online or at the door, subject to availability.

Visit www.ashlandnewplays.org/ticket s-e3/ to learn more.

It is directed by Dawn Monique Williams and features a cast of 12, including: Armando Duran, Devin White, Sam Osheroff, Tamra Mathias, Jamie Peck, Jon Cates, Jordan Barbour, Kyle Haden, Robin Goodrin Nordli, Nancy Rodriguez, Stephen Michael Spencer, and Vilma Silva.

Edward III actors

More about Octavio Solis:

Author of over 20 plays, Octavio Solis is considered by many to be one of the most prominent Latino playwrights in America. With works that both draw on and transcend the Mexican-American experience, he is a writer and director whose style defies formula, examining the darkness, magic and humor of humanity with brutal honesty and characteristic intensity. His imaginative and ever-evolving work continues to cross cultural and aesthetic boundaries, solidifying him as one of the great playwrights of our time. Learn more at www.octaviosolis.net.

octavio solis

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Ashland New Plays Festival Announces Fall Festival’s Full Schedule

Ashland New Plays Festival Announces Fall Festival’s Full Schedule

Ashland, Ore — Ashland New Plays Festival today announced the full week’s schedule for ANPF 2016, the flagship Fall Festival, which takes place October 19-23, 2016.

Four prize-winning playwrights, selected by volunteer readers from 400 submissions, will have their plays produced as dramatic readings in matinee and evening performances by world-class actors and directors at the Unitarian Center in Ashland. The festival kicks off with a members-only reception for the playwrights to begin the week’s events.

The playwrights and their winning plays are:

– Stephanie Walker with The Madres, which will be directed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Leah Anderson, who also played Lauren Yee in ANPF’s dramatic reading of King of the Yees at the ANPF Women’s Invitational 2016

– Michael Erickson with Oberon Springs, directed by Kenneth Albers, who has acted in and directed past ANPF performances in an esteemed career ranging from OSF to Yale Repertory Theatre

– Mike Teele with EdanEv, directed by Scott Kaiser, actor, playwright, and OSF’s Director of Company Development

– Beth Kander with Hazardous Materials, directed by ANPF’s Artistic Director Kyle Haden. Kander’s play The Bottle Tree, which will have its world premiere at Chicago’s Stage Left Theatre starting October 15, 2016, was an ANPF 2015 winning play.

The opening night performance is Wednesday, October 19, at 7:30 p.m., followed by performances at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The closing performance will be at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 23.

Additionally, immediately following each performance, the playwrights and cast will be joined by ANPF’s Host Playwright EM Lewis, who will moderate talkbacks with the audience about the plays. Lewis, originally from rural Oregon, is an award-winning playwright, librettist, and teacher, as well as the recipient of the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama.

Lewis will also conduct a playwriting workshop, “Who They Are and What They Say,” on Saturday, October 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The workshop is $10 at the door. Reserve your space by contacting Gray McKee at [email protected].

2016 Ashland new Plays Festival Schedule

Performances are $20 each, with tickets available in advance at Paddington Station or online, starting September 20, 2016, and at the door.

ANPF members receive benefits including one or more festival passes (tickets to four performances, $80 value), priority seating, and invitations to members-only receptions.

ANPF Script Submissions Accepted Starting June 15

ASHLAND NEW PLAYS FESTIVAL, ASHLAND, OREGON

ANPF Script Submissions : Accepted beginning June 15, 2016 and 8 AM pT

ANPF Script Submissions Accepted Starting June 15, 2016 at 8 a.m. PT.

ANPF’s flagship festival is an international playwright competition that culminates in the reading of four new plays chosen from hundreds of submissions by a cadre of volunteer readers. ANPF Script Submissions will be accepted starting at 8 a.m. PT, June 15, 2016, through December 31, 2016, or until 400 scripts are received, whichever comes first. A running tally of submissions will be shown on our website. The ANPF 2017 Fall Festival will take place October 18-22, 2017.

This unique and much-loved five-day festival in Ashland, Oregon, features professional actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the community. The event includes rehearsals and two staged readings of each winning play.

The winning playwrights receive a $1,000 stipend and local accommodations. There is a $15 submission fee.

For the complete list of criteria and further details see our Submit a Script page:

  • Script legibly typed with 12-point Times New Roman font in a standard 8½” x 11″ play format
  •  Full‐length drama or comedy (total 90‐ to 150‐minute running time); intermission preferred
  • Previously unproduced
  • Maximum 8 characters; doubling allowed provided a doubling plan is included with the cast list
  • The submitting author is the sole owner of the copyright of the script

ANPF Script Submissions will be accepted starting at 8 a.m. PT, June 15, 2016, through December 31, 2016, or until 400 scripts are received, whichever comes first. A running tally of submissions will be shown on our website. The ANPF 2017 Fall Festival will take place October 18-22, 2017.

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NOW THIS, a Play by Scott Kaiser

ANPF to Present NOW THIS, a Play by Scott Kaiser

ANPF to Present NOW THIS, a Play by Scott Kaiser

Ashland, Ore. — Ashland New Plays Festival (ANPF) will present a dramatic reading of Scott Kaiser’s play NOW THIS on Monday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Unitarian Center, 87 4th Street in Ashland.

Kaiser, the Director of Company Development now in his 26th season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), will join a cast of 14 superb actors in this story about the tragic consequences of American consumerism.

Featured with Kaiser will be ANPF artistic director Kyle Haden and a number of actors playing this season at OSF, including Daniel Duque-Estrada, Armando McClain, Dylan Paul, Jamie Ann Romero and Triney Sandoval among the talented cast. Sara Becker will direct.

NOW THIS was developed by Kaiser at OSF’s Black Swan Lab several years ago and was performed previously in Houston, Texas under Becker’s direction. It explores the fictitious town of Purple Mountain and a terribly fatal response one teenager inflicts on the community as his life unravels.

The Synopsis: Welcome to the town of Purple Mountain, where teenager Joey Adderall is at the end of his tether. His girlfriend, Amy Clearblue, is pregnant; his father, Mort Soloflex, hasn’t spoken to him in years; his mother, Purelle Swiffer, is a clean freak; his former teacher, Activia Green, is a raging liberal; his boss, Shad Rogaine, has anger management issues; his roommate’s pit bull, Oswald, is a terror. He’s broke, alone, and without hope. What’s a young man to do? Joey heads to the Clear Cut Mall with a loaded pistol and shoots his way out of his disposable life, taking with him several fellow consumers. It’s all captured on CCTV by security specialist Randy Lenscrafter and uploaded to the internet for everyone to see. Can the people of Purple Mountain ever hope to understand—and learn from—Joey’s rampage at the mall?

$15 general admission tickets are on sale beginning May 2 at Paddington Station and at the door before the show, space permitting.

ANPF Women’s Invitational Winning Playwrights Announced

ANPF Women’s Invitational Winners Announced

Three outstanding plays by noted playwrights selected for presentation.
March 25-27, 2016 festival honors under-represented American playwrights.

Ashland New Plays Festival announces the winners of its ANPF Women’s Invitational. They are Martyna Majok for Cost of Living (formerly Ropes in the Well); Lauren Yee for King of the Yees; and grand prize winner Jiehae Park for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo.

The Women’s Invitational will be held March 25-27, 2016 in the Music Recital Hall at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Dramatic readings of each play will be presented in both matinee and evening performances at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

As an effort to highlight critically acclaimed but unproduced work by leading American playwrights, the Women’s Invitational received 30 works from which ten finalists were selected in blind readings. ANPF Artistic Director Kyle Haden and The Kilroys co-founder Laura Jacqmin, who chairs the festival, chose the winners.

Says Haden, “It was tremendously exciting reading the finalist plays. All of them were truly impressive. I am so excited by our three winners and can’t wait to share these new stories with our audiences. We all know that women are vastly under-represented in theatre today, and have been since the beginning. We want to do our part to change that inequity. The Women’s Invitational will be a meaningful step for us in that direction.”

Additionally, the week will include an opening reception hosted by Bill Rauch, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF); and Parity, a roundtable discussion with Jacqmin, host playwright EM Lewis, and the winning playwrights, moderated by Dr. Lue Morgan Douthit, OSF’s director of literary development and dramaturgy. The roundtable is open to the public.

More information is available at www.ashlandnewplays.org

The Legend of Old Befana

John Gretzinger and Bryan Ibach, onstage during a performance of "The Legend of Old Befana" t the Sawdust Theatre in Coquille, Oregon

John Gretzinger and Bryan Ibach

 

Classic folklore meets contemporary storytelling in “The Legend of Old Befana,” a traditional Italian story come to life in a musical celebration of the holidays.

 

The narrative unfolds through song and dialogue. The lilt of old world harp and the rhythm of contemporary guitar invite audience members to step into the magical world of story and song–a place where disappointments give way to new beginnings inspired by the birth of a special child.

 

“Honestly, I just love the story and the message in it. It gives you hope when you don’t feel you have any—and I never get tired of Lonnquist’s music,” said director Candace Kreitlow.

 

John Gretzinger and Candace Kreitlow, onstage during a performance of "The Legend of Old Befana" t the Sawdust Theatre in Coquille, Oregon

John Gretzinger and Candace Kreitlow

Kreitlow toured the show for many years with writer and musician Ken Lonnquist. The 1992 audio CD recording of the play features her instrumentation and vocals. The musical debuted in Coos County under Kreitlow’s direction in a 2011 production by the Bandon Playhouse. Corrie Gant and John “Skeet” Gretzinger thrilled the audience with their depictions of Old Befana and the fishmonger. The two will reprise their roles for the 2013 Coquille production.

 

Meet Befana. By day, she sweeps dust and would-be callers off her doorstep with a swish of her broom. But she keeps her neighbors guessing. Each evening, villagers are drawn to Befana’s little house by the scent of freshly baked sweets. Venturing closer, they hear the strains of a gentle lullaby. Could that be Befana singing?

 

Bryan Ibach and Corrie Gant, onstage during a performance of "The Legend of Old Befana" t the Sawdust Theatre in Coquille, Oregon

Bryan Ibach and Corrie Gant

Area music and theater fans will recognize bassist Jerene Shaffer and mandolin player Bryan Ibach. Sawdusters actress Kitty Gray appears as the basket maker, with Tomas Fisher as the produce seller. Brodie Blair, Dakota Blair, Sammi Huffman, and Nia Hunsaker complete the village chorus.

 

The historic Sawdust Theatre presents traditional melodrama throughout the summer. Holiday audiences will be treated to preshow performances by Coquille talent, including Sawdusters cast. Advance tickets at Bree’s Upscale Resale, 71 E 1st Street, Coquille; or call the Sawdust box office for will-call.

 

The Legend of Old Befana
December 6, 7, 8; 13, 14, 15
7 PM Friday and Saturday; 2 PM Sunday
Sawdust Theatre, East 1st Street and North Adams Street, Coquille
Tickets $10 adults, $5 students
sawdusttheatre.com
541-396-4563

RCC students performing updated “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

RCC Rogue Community College logoGRANTS PASS — Theater art students at Rogue Community College will present a version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that has been adapted to modern-day language.
Performances are scheduled 3-4:15 p.m. June 6 and 11 in the Rogue Auditorium, RCC Redwood Campus, 3345 Redwood Hwy.
“Shakespeare’s plays tell wonderful stories and capture the human condition beautifully,” said Wayd Drake, RCC Humanities instructor. “Unfortunately, the language can be a barrier to understanding.
This modernized adaptation is intended to increase understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare’s
play,” he explained.
Admission is by donation. For more information contact Drake at 541-956-7165 or [email protected]

Stories Behind the Statistics

Cathlyn Melvin

“I was in a play once!”

I’m standing in line at a bookstore in my neighborhood, and the woman behind me is telling me her story. She recognized me from a show I did last spring, see, and her eyes light up as she tells me about her high school musical—how she almost didn’t audition, but in the end, it turned out to be the best eight weeks she had that year.

As an actor, I get that all the time. Not the being-recognized-on-the-street thing. That’s unusual. But when people find out I do theatre, so often I see their eyes brighten just like that lady’s, and they tell me about their third grade play, or an annual Christmas pageant, or being in the kids’ chorus of Joseph at their community theatre.

I love these stories.

I help run a children’s theatre called Compass Creative Dramatics, in Chicago, where I live, and we work with kids to create those kinds memories.

My co-founder, Cassandra Quinn, and I don’t focus on readying kids for careers in theatre, and we won’t “Make Your Child a Star.” We concentrate on stretching kids creativity and bravery muscles—so they can be bold enough to raise their hands in class, or imaginative enough to problem-solve in real life. And over the course of a week-long program, we see those skills develop, and we witness those memories taking shape, so that some day, they’ll want to tell someone “I was in a play once!”

Earlier this fall, our company decided to start a campaign to collect people’s memories about participation in theatre, and how it affected them. We posted on YouTube asking for video responses, and watched the stories begin to trickle in, both through responses to our YouTube channel and through essays submitted through our email:

As active leaders in school communities, arts educators witness the development of students through programs like the residency we offer at Compass Creative Dramatics.

We interact with other artists who share our opinions, our passions, and our stories. Existing in this cocoon, it’s easy to forget that there are others in the world for whom the importance of art in education is not a foregone conclusion. There are people who don’t see that there is inherent value in what we do—and so we evangelize.

We’re constantly striving to spread the word that the arts are vital to child development, and to the development of our society. We push statistics—because that’s the language of administrators and policymakers.

But even administrators and policymakers aren’t only convinced by hard facts—by numbers and graphs and formulas. Those figures may help a person wrap their head around why what we do is so important, but numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Rarely do we meet the faces behind the statistics—the doctor, the mom, the cab driver whose story has been enriched by participation in the arts. It’s those personal stories that help people connect to the work we’re doing. And it’s that connection that paves the way to comprehension.

Through our response project, the faceless statistics were given shape, names, and personalities:

  • Leona in Georgia described how doing theatre at school has taught her daughter that it’s cool to be who you are, and has helped develop her sense of self.
  • Marilyn in Arizona explained that high school theatre helped her cope with her mother’s death.
  • Robert in Illinois shared how a chance encounter with a theatre teacher guided him away from a relationship with a schoolmate who later ended up in prison for murder.
  • Shqipron in Wisconsin told us how being in a play shortly after he moved to the States helped him learn to speak English, and how to interact with other kids.

The dozens of stories we received over the course of our 30-day project (and continue to receive!) rang truer than any statistics could, and they reminded us of why we started this company in the first place: to lead by example, guiding kids’ toward healthy, happy adult lives.

Now we’re planning our summer programming: four summer camps across three states: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. We’ll be teaching through an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea (our version is called Peas & Harmony). It’s a story about a girl who is arbitrarily picked on—and the lesson she learns about standing up for herself and showing respect.

Through these four weeks of camp, we can reach up to 300 participants, and a potential audience of 1500 children and their families who’ll watch the magic from the audience.

We’re looking forward to helping these kids create memories they’ll reflect on, standing in line at a bookstore, or sitting at a coffee shop, or with their families later in life. I hope that in the end, they’ll have many stories to tell.