Actor-Director-Playwright Michael Wright and I explore risky venues. We chat about finding your creative voice. We also talk about taking a chance with your writing and staging your original work.
Michael and I discuss how to draw an audience into your world.
University of Tulsa professor Michael Wright is a theatre director, actor, teacher, and playwright. His theatrical work plays with form, audience interaction, and uncommon theatre venues. Michael authored Playwriting in Process, Playwriting Master Class, and Sensory Writing for Stage and Screen. He received awards for his work as a teacher of playwriting from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the Kennedy Center.
During the podcast, you’ll hear us talk about the Tulsa Artists’ Coalition Gallery. We also mention Playwright David Blakely. David currently serves as the Playwright in Residence for Tulsa’s Heller Theatre. I’ll feature David in a later episode.
Michael and I reminisced about Sam Shepherd and his play True West (which he saw at Steppenwolf). Michael also mentioned the WomenWorks program for female playwrights in graduate school. I didn’t include links to that program as you must be selected for it. If you are a woman in grad school, talk to your playwriting professor. Mention the University of Tulsa playwriting competition for graduate women playwrights, WomenWorks.
Be sure to listen until the end of the interview for Concise Advice from the Interview. Stay until the end for Words of Wisdom from George. I sometimes even include my bloopers.
SallyPAL can now be found on Acast, Blubrry, GooglePlay, and iTunes. I’m also on Overcast, PlayerFM, Pocketcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, and, of course, my host platform, Podbean. Check out Podbean the week of November 27 when Podbean features the SallyPAL podcast!
If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll get a free insert for your creator’s notebook. It’s a list of people you’ll need to help you produce your show along with some great links to more in-depth information.
Arts Educators Empower the Next Generation
Arts educators bear a special responsibility. They must provide feedback that opens young artists to take creative risks. At the same time they teach technical aspects that are hard to master. For teachers, lifting up while calming down can be challenging but rewarding. When students reach college they have some ideas of their own. They also have some performance habits, both good and bad.
Pitfalls for an Arts Educator
To be an arts educator in a college setting you must be relevant. That means practicing your art while teaching classes. This is always a good idea. But it comes with pitfalls. For a performing artist it means your students will see your work. That can be scary. Students are often supportive. But they can also be very judgemental. If you are not confident in your work, you could lose status as an arts educator. Lisa Stefanic is a working artist and an arts educator. When Lisa is in the classroom, she brings her vast knowledge of what actually works (and doesn’t work) on the stage. When students see her work outside the classroom, it’s clear she knows what she is talking about.
Arts Educator Lisa Stefanic
Today’s episode of SallyPAL is an interview with actor, director, arts educator, and acting coach, Lisa Stefanic. If you’re a fan of Weird Al Yankovich, you may remember her as Phyllis, the Wheel of Fish contestant in his feature length movie, “UHF”. Lisa has performed in or directed more shows than could fit on a resume. She has starred in several original shows. She also teams up with her husband, Vern Stefanic, to help students create new works. We talk about teaching, developing new talent, making old shows new again, and a variety rehearsal techniques.
But Wait… There’s More!
Be sure to listen until the end for Concise Advice from the Interview and Words of Wisdom from George.
Ayah Bdeir at TED: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach How does approaching a complex problem with the mind of a child elicit fresh, creative, accessible new things? Ayah Bdeir, an artist/engineer looked at Legos and was inspired to consider transistors in a new way. I have often told my students that art is a unique expression of a universal idea. This broadens the concept of art significantly. If we want to inspire creative thinking, we must be willing to encourage and celebrate differentness and its contribution to the creative process. Diversity, a buzzword for racial and gender integration, takes on powerful meaning in the world of art and education. Diversity is a necessity for artists. But children who are different often feel at odds with a system that rewards sameness. I look at a classroom full of middle school kids and I sometimes wonder if teaching them how to work to a standard is one way to let them off the hook. Kids do the minimum required rather than push for greater understanding, deeper knowledge, and personal best skill development. Once a student recognizes the objectives of the academic game, he or she is free to play at any level. If good grades are the goal, many savvy learners do what is required to get to the goal, but no more. For those not interested in the game, playing at academics is boring, annoying, or off the radar. For those who have been trained to believe their grades have some connection to an individual’s character quality, the game of school can produce paralyzing anxiety.
How do we, as educators, provide the assessments kids want without attaching them to a child’s self-worth? This non-judgmental assessment feature is no fantasy. Children who play video games live in a world of action assessment. When a character dies on a video screen as a result of a lack of skill or knowledge, there is rarely a response like some I have seen in school when children do poorly on tests. The gamer’s reaction to a lack of skill is to get better at the game whether through repetition, research, or online cheats (don’t be fooled by the name; cheats have their own learning curve). When the expectations for schoolwork reach beyond skill building and touch the sensitive nerves around a student’s developing sense of self, there is room for reassessment of our assessment tools.
Rather than push for homogeny, we could reward new ways of thinking. The weird girl who thinks differently will be included at lunch because the school’s environment embraces and rewards her contributions. The weird boy who daydreams will be lured into conversations to mine his mind for unique ideas that cause an upward spiral of abstract thought in the classroom. We have a role to play as teachers in creating an environment where divergence is no longer frowned upon but encouraged. In fact, we now know it is this divergent thinking that creates great ideas such as Legos and littleBits. It’s about time we stop rewarding imitation. Let’s celebrate the weird kids and give everyone permission to reveal his or her diversity.
This is a terrific article written last May for the Washington Post online magazine. My friend and fellow arts instructor, Jan, sent it to me today. It reiterates what I have been saying to anyone who will listen: Improved test scores are not an adequate reason to include or exclude a subject area. Arts have intrinsic value not specifically related and yet foundational to learning in core subject areas.
Because writing 3X a week was becoming more and more challenging as my school year progressed, a friend suggested instead of blogging, I try vlogging! Here it is, my first vlog of the new year. Look for a focus on Middle School and Arts Education!
Developing a Sense of Humor Rather Than a Sense of Outrage: Why Reporting Bullying is only Part of the Answer
My husband found an interesting blog post on the idea of the teacher-led school model. The idea of a greater presence in the classroom for decision-makers is one which piques my interest. I am fortunate to work in an educational community where everybody’s involved in student life. It’s a bit like living in a small town. Mrs. Crabtree tells your Sunday School teacher what she saw and the milkman noticed something too and we’re all talking to your mom. But I digress… Enjoy the post:
This post from TheArtsRoom (in Rhode Island) preaches to the choir but I think you will enjoy many of the quotes. The book mentioned in the post, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith, is one of my favorite teacher resources. I have a copy in my bookshelf and I ordered one for our school’s library. Enjoy the rest of the reblog!
“I soon learned a basic truth about the arts: students involved in arts education are learning about things far beyond the art they study.” -Rafe Esquith, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire This weekend marks the midpoint of summer vacation for those of us with school-age children in the house. So, while I will continue to set aside the back-to-school Lands End catalogs and ignore the Staples ads in my inbox, there are some reminders of the fast-app … Read More
At the recent Creativity Summit in Tulsa this month my kids and I joined a breakout session where we could share our ideas on the question: “How can our schools continue to produce creative young people in a climate of reduced support for education, especially in the arts?” I made a short video and both of my kids answered with a piece of poetry. My daughter’s piece, titled A Sense of Urgency has to do with the reason kids feel misunderstood in the current system. My son’s piece is a reworked poem titled Wasteland. He approaches the idea from a more absurdist perspective because, as he says, the current thinking about education is absurd. Both kids are award-winning writers and I love being able to get a glimpse into their heads. Enjoy!
Barnett Berry Video I gather that some people have had trouble with the embedded video so I am instead making it a link to the Edutoipia site where you can view his video as well as other resources related to education reform. Thanks for letting me know!
Barnett Berry is the president and CEO of the advocacy organization Center for Teaching Quality. In the preceding video he clarifies for all of us just who is going to reform our current system and outlines ways in which that can be done. He bases his ideas on what he calls the Four Emergent Realities:
4. Teacher-preneurs (we used to refer to these progressive educators as mentors) who teach but are also allowed time, space, geography (connecting in person or online) and reward to spread expertise in and out of Cyberspace.
This New York Times story of preschool madness elicits an obvious response: “Are these parents crazy?” There are more subtle forms of directed learning that may thwart rather than propel children. We all know that an over-scheduled child can become a stressed-out child. It would take a month’s worth of blogs to identify negatives associated with stress. For this post I’ll stick to the theme of directed learning. I should call it over-directed learning.
I have seen teachers and parents (including me) pulling their hair in frustration because a child won’t go along with our learning structure. I am a fan of giving a certain amount of structure to kids. This includes a few rules, a reliable schedule and logical consequences. That structure allows kids freedom to create within a psychologically safe environment. But here is where I differ from those who push their children to earn their place among the learning superstars before they enter middle school. A child who plays with Lego’s by destroying and rebuilding or spins around in the backyard until he falls down, stands up, looks around, and spins again is learning. We label this kind of learning “play” and by doing so we reduce its importance in the educational hierarchy. Learning does not only occur at a desk or in an environment where right answers rule the day.
Coercing children into directed learning environments such as the one described in the New York Times article or even placing your baby near the stereo to hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony has only a short-term effect on spatial-temporal reasoning and no discernible increase in intelligence. Why, then, do we continue down these competitive paths? Sometimes we favor organizational skills and following directions over experiment and exploration. Imposing adult standards on children for things like order, neatness and organization has more to do with convenience and less to do with allowing children to learn and grow. Failure Freedom is missing in these environments.
The freedom to fail boldly is what allows for quantum leaps in learning. By encouraging our children to be afraid of failure and push harder to please the adults in their lives we have siphoned the gas from our educational engine. It took me three kids and many years in the classroom to learn this lesson. But my failures (and not the copious books I have read) have been my greatest learning tool.