Monday, July 29, 2013
This past weekend was a treat for many reasons. For starters, I got to see four shows through the course of the weekend. But greater than the quantity was being able to take a group of students to see Shakespeare--and for them to enjoy it--and then to see such a large group participate in a local children's production.
It is energizing to see young people enjoying theater, to see them getting turned on and excited about it. I strongly believe that our job is just to get young people to the theater. Once they're there, the art will work its magic on them.
On Saturday, we took a group of Waverly High School students to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. We saw "Twelfth Night" and "King John", attended the talk back and bard talk and played theater games in between the two shows. After the final show, some of the actors came out to the lobby and talked to our students. They offered comments that were insightful and articulate. Our students left turned on to theater, excited, energized. It was a perfect day.
On Sunday, we saw "Charlotte's Web" at Riverwalk. It was an enormous cast and it was thrilling to see so many young people doing theater--getting an experience that they'd always remember. For us it was especially rewarding to see our friend's daughters Bella and Josie Croff as the goose and Avery, respectfully. We also loved seeing Waverly students in several important roles including John Henrikson as Wilbur, Sarah Kennedy as one of the narrators and Xavier Carroll as Unk the Pig.
If young people continue to get involved in positive experiences in theater, we have a promising future for the art.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
- 27 years of professional writing experience
- B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University (I graduated either magna cum laude or summa cum laude, but I can't remember which--it didn't really strike me as important.)
- Winner of Serwach Leadership Award in Journalism ("This award recognizes undergraduate journalism majors who have demonstrated superior leadership and reporting and writing ability for campus or professional media.")
- Second place winner for the Focus:Hope Journalism Olympics award
- Alternate for Dow Jones International Journalism internship in Brussels, Belgium
- Executive Editor of my college newspaper at Olivet Nazarene University
- Editor of the opinions section of my high school newspaper and editor for two years of my junior high newspaper
- Temporary entertainment editor and reporter for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers
- Intern at the Grand Rapids Press--which included writing book reviews
- Copy editor for the Lansing State Journal--which included editing theater reviews when they came in and writing restaurant reviews
- Editor of hospitality textbooks and training materials for the past 17 years
- Writer of training materials and textbook chapters for the hospitality industry for the past 17 years
- Author of numerous books for the hospitality, private club, and spa industries
- Ghost writer for marriage self-help book, football biography, several ph.d. papers, natural hormone replacement therapy book, textbook chapters on everything from turfgrass to training.
- Category Lead for the Book, Newspaper, and Magazine category of Epinions.com, a consumer review site. I wrote for them for 10 years, primarily reviewing books but also writing travel and theater reviews. I was a top reviewer for many years.
- Publisher and primary contributor of Book Help Web, a consumer book site that included exclusive author interviews, book reviews, author bios, and related book news. I created content for more than 1,500 pages.
- Freelance writer for a variety of organizations including General Motors, Michigan State University, EduGuide, Lansing CityLimits magazine, Dramatics Magazine, National Parks and Recreation Association, Club Managers Association of America, International SPA Association, Pulse Magazine, and others.
- 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Arts Journalism in Theater and Musical Theater at the University of Southern California Annenburg.
- Was a founding contributing blogger to Flyover, a national arts blog focusing on theater outside the country's major theater centers. It is hosted by Arts Journal.
- Theater reviewer for the Lansing State Journal and Encore Michigan
- Performing arts columnist for the Lansing State Journal
- Weekly theater correspondent for Michigan Entertainment Internet radio and occasional co-host at live theater broadcasts
- Performed in theater in junior high and high school
- Performed in pit orchestra
- President of the forensics team my senior year and competed on the team for three years
- Was part of a religious acting troupe
- Took several courses in dramatic literature
- Performed in several community theater roles from minor parts to a lead.
- Directed a show.
- Assistant directed several shows.
- Produced many shows.
- Costumed shows.
- Worked lights and sound for shows.
- Served on two community theater boards.
- Volunteered extensively for several years for a professional theater.
- Taught drama to K-3 grades for four years.
- Wrote, produced, and directed children's shows.
- I also see an average of 100 live performances a year (mostly theater and musicals but also opera, dance concerts, symphonic concerts, and vocal concerts)--and have seen them all around the country.
(And I'm not sure if this counts or not, but I am married to an Equity actor and have learned a lot from him and his colleagues. Also, my father is a journalist and I hung out in newsrooms from the time I could walk.)
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
What is the difference between community theater and professional theater?
Aside from the obvious difference that one is a volunteer organization and the other pays its performers, how are the missions different?
There are many people who want to define the difference by creating some measure of quality. There is some validity to that measurement, but what is it that contributes to that quality?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge supporter of community theater. Yet, you will not hear me say that community theater is as good as professional theater. To me, that would be a bit like saying a strawberry is as good as a carrot. They’re both good, but both different in core ways. They both provide different but necessary vitamins to the human body just as the different types of theater provide different but necessary forms to the arts community.
Why do I value community theater?
I value community theater because it gives a wide variety of people a chance to participate in the art as an avocation. It enriches their lives and makes them more committed to the community in which they live. It helps them to form long-lasting bonds with people who share a geographic home with them. They’re able to connect to people who have similar interests, temperaments, and personalities.
Community theater, when it is true to its mission, is focused inward on the participants.
Why do I value professional theater?
I value professional theater because it elevates the art form and allows audiences to participate in the art as a transformative experience. The performers matter less than the story being told and the effectiveness with which it is being told. The story is the medium in which people are talking to people about things that matter to them. Theater becomes a way of exploring issues, experiencing catharsis, and laughing deeply.
Professional theater, when it is true to its mission, is focused outward on the audience.
In community theater, production values can take on a lesser role as what is important is providing the support and structure for the performers to be able to explore and create. Choices are made based on whether they challenge, encourage or distract the actor. The audience is coming to see their friends, co-workers and families. They’ll be far more forgiving and far more inclined to praise a show because the priority isn’t what the audience was able to feel, but what the performers were able to do. Performers want to be treated with respect because they have given up their free time and worked hard at something for an extended period of time.
In professional theater, production values are of extreme importance. Even a bare set needs to be executed well. Choices are made based on whether they will challenge, encourage, or distract the audience. The audience is coming to be entertained, moved and transformed. They’ll have high expectations for the time they are spending in the theater and will have high expectations. They want to be treated with respect and have the show creators think that the audience was worth the effort.
In community theater, the performers are learning on the fly in an invigorating, collaborative effort that allows them to transcend their daily lives. A show’s success can often depend on whether the cast is able to bond with each other in mutual respect and admiration. The participants should be given a chance to learn, grow, and develop. Once the show ends, the relationships can continue and all are likely to be given opportunities to perform together again.
In professional theater, the performers are already proficient and trained in the skills the art demands. A show’s success depends on the strong collaboration of artistic and technical staff that is focused on the work and not the personalities. When the show ends, the artists will go their separate ways, maintaining a professional respect and connection, but no longer a part of each other’s daily lives until they once again end up at the same theater.
In community theater, it is essential that an effort be made to draw in new people who may not know much about the art or the craft. There needs to be room for participants to grow as performers. They should not be required to be great performers when they first show up. A community theater stagnates when it doesn't allow "less talented" people to be part of the shows.
In professional theater, it is essential that every performer from the lead to the walk-on role, from the stage manager to the box office manager, have all of the skills required to do the job. The theater should make sure it is hiring the best people possible for each role and job and not just the performers and technicians with whom they are most familiar and comfortable.
Community theater fails when it treats its performers poorly or ignores their needs and abilities. They succeed when they select work that allows their participants to stretch without asking the impossible.
Professional theater fails when it ignores the needs and desires of its audience and gets caught up in what it wants to do to the degree that it shows contempt for their patrons.
Community theater enriches society by giving people the chance to perform.
Professional theater enriches society by giving people the chance to experience performance.