The “Little Things” Have Something Bigger to Say

Blogs are amazing. I mean, take the chance to check in, write what you seem, experience, and realize – record it in time, and then when you come back to years later, you can revisit that moment and recollect where you are at this moment in time, pretty priceless.

Whirlwind weekend speaking of reflecting, but without going into details that ruin the chance for a future conversation starter – in one day I jumped right into the 24in48 hours reading marathon, trekked to Takoma Park, Maryland, with cousins in tow we headed to Cumberland, MD to grab a Penske rental, a little further in La Valle, MD, grabbing a pics 1.PNGpreserved marlin, a couch, an amazing historical story battleship in glass case, thanks to dear friends of my cousins, trekked back to Takoma Park, MD, unloaded, truck, reloaded truck, headed back to Delaware, unloaded tons of “fill in the house” items, and jump back on the 24in48 reading marathon and found it WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!! 

hour 24 2.PNG

LOL – I was thinking…what the……*&$*()~#!#!+@)~  LOLLLL

What others consider little things, but what you as a person desire and consider huge is priceless….for me, I never had time to sit down and write, and reflect, etc – and one of the largest things Mexico ever taught me was to take time out to do that, take time to read, write, reflect and do the things personally, that add a complete picture to your life.  Those kind of lessons are priceless.  

National Novel Writing Month and participating and see your name and an excerpt of what you wrote announced on a live YouTube sit in that people watch because they love to write, winning during the 18th hour of 24in48 reading marathon, finding out you get to participate in the Delaware Association for School Libraries, helping lead community events that people like coming to, participating in, etc these are not Emmy award winning events and yet, they often are felt more inside at the heart that the big time showlight events we see on tv, because they mean something more inside to us – that is the key.

Notoriety for the sake of being noticed is temporary, but being noticed by yourself for the very things you intrinsically find valuable, taking the time to find and search out those very things you find valuable…a better life awaits as a result.

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Still Clamoring in the Room of Requirement…

Going back to school – after a vacation – let me tell you- harder than most think.  I think I found the key to getting past that feeling of dread.  It worked today heading back to work after a well-needed Christmas break.  Setting up a 12:00 – 7:30 PM 20lb frozen turkey turkey for the after- Christmas, Christmas party – it made the whole aura of returning – well amazing, easier, and actually something to look forward to  – not necessarily LAST NIGHT during the cooking and this morning with loading the vehicle and unloading vehicle before anyone was at school but then…it just unfolded into the Necessary Room of Requirement…

 

 

…not the same as Harry Potter, but magical just the same.  The smell of food, the exchange of presents, the food, the time to simply sit down and stuff ourselves and be able to celebrate each other in the library.  I wanted to be no other place with none other than the students coming back from holiday thanking I am around them – .this american life and in that place – it was the best way to start 2019. It felt more right that I thought it would be.

Which brings me to these three acts of This American Life – not endearing to me because they have to do with libraries, but the stories they tell about the people within them.

“Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required.

  I could say more, but nothing more needs to be said if you listen to these three stories, I still am wanting to listen all over again.  So much to say about these three stories and SO GLAD someone spent the time to do this segment, and let these stories speak to you.  Find a quiet place, and play this episode,

and let these dreams, memories, and recollections surround you and celebrate the moments they churn up in your mind as well 🙂

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What You See/Expect is Not All That There is to See/Expect

Shriner’s Hospital.  I was struck by the latest commercial – this is a great one:

and this came to hit home this past year.   I was lucky enough to witness the many many opportunities that Shriner’s Hospital offer as a chaperone for the Upward Bound program this summer – and Shriner’s showed the opportunities in careers for those graduating in the culinary field, medical field, X Ray field and more, aside from the magic that is worked in the carpentry and mechanical shop that design cool and trendy tools that help children walk, reach and more.  Aside from what I knew Shriner’s was known for – in helping so many individuals, children and adults alike.  Add to this repertoire the nurses we talked with and why they chose to work at Shriner’s versus a higher paid position at a comparable medical facility, but they in fact did get to travel abroad to share care to other countries as well, not just isolating the good work they are a part of in the Shriner’s Hospital alone – in this case Philadelphia.

Yet, the biggest surprise was to come – when I encountered a group called FIERCE.  I was intrigued that this program targeted young women and opened them up to the information that they need in today’s age – what they are capable of as women challenged in many various areas, as well as health, physical, and social – it sounded pretty awesome.

Over the next few weeks, I tossed the idea and despite the program being within a fifteen mile radius of the Philadelphia area, and not receiving the grant I wanted to facilitate the choice of bringing them outside that circle I wrote to the Shriner’s.  Thank yo Mark Bulson – he facilitated the go ahead. Thanks to Ms. Kotowski, she laid the plans to happen with out administrator Mr. Chase and Ms. Thompson.  Thanks to our Bay Health staff (Andrea Smith, Suzanne Chafin, Joanna White) nurse Dawn Ellis who had personal experience with BayHealth, our Technical crew members, our PE Trainer Chona Carmen, the WHS coaches, WHS teachers, a GREAT cafeteria staff, led by Terri Hartzell, and that was just the tip of what happened.  We managed to get this elite team of experts to WHS to visit:

Dr. Corinna Franklin, Dr. Bethany Lipa, Dr. Heather Russel, Melissa Cramer – Physician Assistant, Courtney Mullen – Physical Therapist, Mike Szymendera – Dietician

and the thought to involve local, within the area sources of help to compliment these services also hit me, and thank goodness, thanks to the help of Greenwood Librarian Donna Carter, La Red CAME to the school December 6th as well! and thanks to 

Gaby Perez, Lorina Sellers, Pamela White, Juanita Morales, Brian Rodriguez

from La Red- let me just tell you briefly and this says it all.  Several students asked to speak with the counselor Brian Rodriguez about various issues related to social/personal needs and broke down in tears needing to hear from even more support teams how and what they need to do to cope.  It was amazing to see how the call for help being provided from new faces could indeed reach them and direct them to the resources we do have in school already, and allowing these students to hear from a different voice, what they need to do (often this is all it takes, a fresh message and face to realize that is around them that can help!) – in fact – that was what was happening to me in seeing the impact of the FIERCE team and La Red together this day!

Also add to the day a senior was able to enhance their senior research project by interviewing one of the attending surgeons from Shriner’s, and the fact that a roomful of young ladies received a lot of info and accessories that opened their awareness of how strong and power they hold with the right proper health and view, a positive one of how THEY Themselves can hold themselves to a higher standard, and not relying on others alone to do that.

What would have happened if this would not have happened? One of the most powerful impacts of this visit was the way students views the individuals that work at the High School ; students were able to see the talents that instructors, coaches, nurses, Health professionals all serve in AND out of the classroom in providing resources that not only affect their academic needs, but their social, personal, and mental states to be as healthy as possible. Seeing such a need, and connecting our school with community resources that many do not realize exist, is part of the overall educating process. Putting out students in touch with these resources in one of many steps towards seeing what is not known or expected and being able to do so more in the future.  We were so lucky and privileged to have Shriner’s FIERCE team and La Red to be on hand to also show that to so many in need as well.

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Resolutions of Opportunity & Impact- What Changes Everything.

A year in perspective, many changes and ups and downs for all of us.  In seeing myself relocated a lot of changes in a new school district for the first time, and in the states when that was not at all in the long-term plan (so much of that walks alongside the whole resolution plan made by so many in the new year!) – I realized so much is not checked personally, not examined and evaluated accurately unless a situation forces you to look within.  Sure, we all try to make resolutions that will somehow make our lives better in the new year.  Yet…

… I have discovered the best resolutions that appeared throughout 2018 were from the movements I continued to try and improve elements of my community, that being the community of school, town, county, state.  I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by colleagues, friends, and professionals in Mexico City that helped me want to create, develop, implement ideas I never even had existed or could become reality.  They came to reality due to the ability, energy, and belief that “new” could mean meaningful in the actions we do and how we apply ourselves to develop something new, to improve the community around us.

Bringing back the ability, energy, and belief that I witnessed by so many around me, and applying it to opportunities that did not yet exist but could emerge, it motivated me to see how much a community can grow, morph, and change if you have the commitment and belief of those around you.  Prior to moving back to the states after 6 years, the tumultuous events to make that happen, and that did happen, so much.  From politics, to changes in public school legislation, personal changes, financial changes, and so much more, it was a daunting change – but one important lesson kept revealing itself.

No matter the hits/hurdles/ setbacks that increased on a personal level, repeatedly sometimes and back to back (I know you know what I am talking about), the increasing opportunities that occurred in my professional world made me wonder when the former would catch up with the latter.  It was depressing at times and I often found myself depressed and my first cold, winter and inside dealing with these issues didn’t help.  I also realized the amazing experiences I had in Mexico due to amazing people, the amazing family and friends and colleagues I had surround me BEFORE I left Mexico, I was fully equipped to hang on through the toughest of times, I had in the past, thanks to the friends, family, and colleagues (yes, at some point students had become my colleagues as well) to weather through those and soon both would catch up to each other.

I had not run in a race since I left the states, I had gained weight others could not see in the first year I returned, and felt awful due to the extra weight, lack of exercise I was not getting and had in Mexico, and it had also affected me mentally.  Add to that being behind the odds due to a blown engine, a new house and adjusting to countless costs of renting a vehicle, new home, extra costs hidden into getting back on track (there is a whole set of nuances being in the states when out of the country from so long, cultural and financial). Yet, there was one MAJOR realization along the way.

Despite the thought that those above us dictate the direction of the future, this year we have seen this vein of thought come through the channels of politics and the Me Too Movement, what REALLY is true is change that does not matter if individuals have the heart to make a change and every time, individuals can make the positive change that can override the majority.  Positive wins over negative every time.  The majority thought is superiority wins over everything.  Not so.  If that was the case I would not even have half of the accomplishments I have seen, thanks to those around me that motivated me.

I am the type of person that the more I get pushed back, the more negativity, I need top call it a day after so much, but after a short recovery period, I am just PLAIN angry.  I channel that frustration into creating new events, plans, ideas and implement even more than I am usually capable of.  I fuel my anger into projects and to do’s.  Luckily, I have those around me that support that plan, and they believe the impossible can be made possible.

The world, the  country, ours and others, education, community, and ourselves can be changed for the better and can roll over any authority that bangs back and tries to rule the day with negativity, pushback and detrimental methods.  Patience. and faith.

I look forward to these realizations and “move-forwards” to make the past two years part of a new year full of moving forward.  Thanks to brand new students to a high school in 9th grade, they ran for the first time on a XC team that made me run, and in turn, shed pounds and gained endurance that I had not had in seven years.  The XC team did that for me, as well as an inspiration coach that took the challenge to bring XC back to the school district.  That was one isolated example.

I had family that supported my move back in the way of furniture, moving things in, moving things out, dealing with transportation needs when my truck was down and out, support from students, friends, colleagues from Mexico, from Delaware before I moved away, and with teams like the above – anyone that is considered ‘above” you in position or authority that you feel can make your energy and ideas moot, the key is pushing that aside.  I was doubly lucky to have schoiol adminstrators that bought into positive changes, creative ideas, and rventuring into the new – and we were off to the races in my school district.  This sounds strange, but my dog and cat rescues from Mexico, always weathered anything that would often cause crazy behaviors in the short time that they occurred in 2 years, and all they wanted through all that is to be with me and people, they rolled with every change.  I felt I needed to take their lead and do the same.

I witnessed and witness state legislation that nixes the national level decisions that can cripple environment, politics, international relations, and more, showing, INDIVIDUALS MATTER.  You have to believe your energy, your possibility, your moment matters but you also need to gather those around you that believe your dream, and that one dream, goes from YOUR dream to OUR dream.  That changes everything.

I owe everything I achieve to those that continue to believe in the dreams I have and make them reality – pushing through obstacles that come our way, some thrown in our path and some that fall in our path. I could not shake the last Northern Male Rhino in existence to die.  I realized how far we have to go to preserve that which cannot be replaced by items like money, greed, authority, wealth, position cannot replace.  I remember being a young boy in the Carnegie Museum looking at stuffed versions of the Dodo Bird, and wished I could have seen that in real-time.  Not a preserved version.  I want that for our world, the world to be preserved and positive steps forward that preserve the beauty that is possible, not the monetary first and foremost.  Each of us have that power, voice to make a positive change to all around us rather than lament the hits that inevitably, will keep coming.

I look forward to a 2019 that realizes these realizations, (yes I did that) and use the past two years to blend with the accomplishments possible in a 2019. Not to put away the past year or two, but to use it to advanatges for all of us.  We are more important than the common thought that there is nothing more we can do – our communities, world, relationships with each other are more important. 

Let’s do this.

 

 

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Twelve Hours in a Bookstore, Pages Turning…

The last two days were exactly that, 10:00AM – 10:00PM on hand wrapping gifts and filling time when that did not occur.  Sunday, completely different looking day.  Arriving at 10:00 AM, and by 11:00 AM, I was surrounded by gifts needing wrapping, a line of individuals waiting to have gifts wrapped and wondering WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED since LAST NIGHT? The next time I looked down at my watch, 1:L17 PM – Seriously, how can that happen?  

In the course of those four hours that truly disappeared, I had met Darlene and Bob Jones, a retired husband and wife that were so easy to talk to and get to know them quite well.  It was a pleasure wrapping their mountain of gifts with the good conversation that was to be had.  It was great to just have a conversation about their grandson, their life in retirement, and just aspects in general.  I guess wrapping gifts paves the way for that.

A second man that worked for the Post Office, chatted with me as I wrapped his gifts and we discussed the misconceptions regarding that occupation versus the reality.   I relayed my holiday break experience at one time when I was in Edinboro realizing the seasonal position I maintained at UPS while studying school and in awe of how the misconception of what a job entails and the reality clash.  He stated, “When I have the job that people think I have, then I will let them know!” and we chuckled much.

Before you knew it, 2:00 PM came through, and my relief came and even though I felt so much better than yesterday’s relief time (Thank you Jady and Sydney!) – it still felt amazing to be able to get a change of scenery.  I do have to spend some time explaining how successful we have been this year as a Junior class due to the motivations of the students themselves.  As in any group, you always try to measure and outweigh the individuals that are there for the minimum,  versus the individuals that should not get burned out and be motivated to keep moving the group forward.  Indya and Jasmine are two of those individuals.  I remember last year a slew of events that barely were pulled off and we had some reliable members as well thank goodness in the resources of Rachel who really came through, and we were lucky enough to have a great collaboration with the then freshmen class to simply make things happen.

Indya and Jasmine continue to come to the table and expect others around them to do the same based on their commitment to move the Class of 2020 forward, and that is exactly what it takes.  Their commitment to planning at meetings in the morning that are way to early to think about anything, their follow through with fundraisers that continue to bring in at times hundreds, even thousands, make an impact overall of where the group will be headed.  At Apple Scrapple, had it not been for Rachel and family, Indya, Anthony, and Jasmine, we would not even be halfway where we are now, not even close.  It showed so much selflessness to come in on a day that was so close to holidays, allow me to see a portion of a football game I would obviously due to the long day, and return refreshed and able to do the best I possibly could.  Extra duties we do while being a guest at the store, straightening the magazine racks, directing customers to the correct area, wishing people happy holidays as they entered, and more left a great feeling 20181223_174824 (1)working with a company that in turn supports us every year.  Yet, without the energy and willingness to push forward when you have an off day (Saturday), when you have team players like Indya and Jasmine, it is priceless to see them be able to turn the group around at the turn of a dime based on their ability, motivation, and optimism. Certainly it makes the long hours in as well as the road to what the future holds a little bit brighter to see, their involvement just in one day in a span of hours brought the Class of 2020 on track to rebound from one bad dad, to an amazing one.  What matters in the success of any group, is the willingness of a group to contribute a little at a time and all combined, one huge masterpiece.  

While on my break, even more conversations that tied ourselves to individuals occurred.  While sitting down for lunch, a couple beside me began a conversation with how their ties to graduating from the former high school in Bridgeville, and the antics that he put on while a student at the high school.  During the lunch, we visited connections that did not contain itself to just Woodbridge.  We discussed a sad event to a young lady from Seaford that is remembered by a concrete bench at the Seaford High School, a sad event that tied a tragedy to a very sad event, and I just marveled.  Marveled at the connections that go beyond the borders of specific school districts within one state, and go to the very people that make the borders of one state.  it is such a shame during the holidays to not peel through the layers of meeting people on the pretense of shopping and make it to the layers that reveals stories, connections, and relationships you discover that do indeed go beyond the surface.  We are very lucky in the state of Delaware to have this open door open to us and the offer and opportunity just needs to be taken to full realize these experiences, and enrich the life you can and do find along the eastern shore.  I found it amazing how many times I found this myself, being in Salisbury and meeting so many individuals that connected to Woodbridge almost 40 minutes away, but yet individuals all day that were right along each of us where we lived. 

Again, I met a sprinkling of information and ties to Woodbridge in the remaining time until 10:00 PM.  It was a crazy length of time to put in right before the holidays, hard to get there and a long trek, and a long day to sidle with over twelve hours each day.  I did still realize working each day the information and conversations we had during those two days of conversation while wrapping gifts, creating wreaths, and straightening /helping those around us, it was worth it.  Hard to image this from the beginning, and jumping right in did have its priceless benefits at the end of the experience.  The trick is find those individuals and involve them, that can also bring you along to the trek and that have the foresight of where you can go, not being there yet!

 

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Spiriting the Unexpected Spirit.

Two days until Christmas, (yesterday), so now one less,  unreal. I did some things right this year, I thought, as I thought as I drove to an obligation I was committed to, today, for my Junior class.  The day well actually started really bleah, 20 minutes late and no sign indicating we would be on location today, a tiny table with two seats, and it just felt like it was going to be not the productive day I hoped for. 

I improvised in making a nice display for our donation box to hold the different styles of wrapping paper to be offered, as well as a homemade sign stating who would be the group today offering wrapping as a service. 

The oddest thing happened though, despite setting up a yearbook displaying out school, and with the sign stating our school was giving the wrapping service today, people glanced over, some reading the sign, some not, and the look they gave was not disgust, but felt like it was due to so many looks that seemed to say, “You’re in the way, why are you here?”  Hard to explain, but that is exactly the feelings and looks sent over to me were feeling after about 2-3 hours the same thing, looks that were just downright make you feel bad.  There was the occasional browse through the yearbook of Woodbridge but with the obliviousness that we were there to gather donations as a measure of our success of being there at all – and of course the seconds, to minutes, to hours CRAWLED.

That fact in itself made me feel bad.  I did the only thing I could think of, I wanted to create a distraction.  I brought in the frame to construct book wreaths, and simply started making them right there.  I thought if I am going to be there / (here!) from open to close, I was going to work constructively.  Needless to say, the work progressed.  The most amazing thing occurred. Pages came out and began to turn themselves into book wreaths.

Individuals came over like moths to a flame.  I had more conversations about what I was doing, where I learned this from, had I seen this at Longwood Gardens, and over five more hours of conversations, looks that were not disdainful, intimidating, and more smiles than I had received the first half of the day.  Two and a half wreaths later, many many conversations later, and people in the store all knowing who I was, what I was doing there, and what I was doing, the realization dawned on me. The assessment I had been using as successful for the day, money, the only assessment I was providing, did not include assessments that interested others that would pull them in. 

 

How many times have me done this in and out of the classroom? 

I always provided myself as being an educator and not just a teacher, trying to tip into  into realms of the unknown and creative, and here I was educating people on what I was doing, without having to teach them how to do it – and it worked.  It worked so well, that we received $5.00 donation for an 11 hour day.  That is a little depressing when you look at the stats on that one, hours versus receipt, yet, what you can not measure is the number of people that actually interacted with us, associated Woodbridge High with something creative, social, and interactive, worth more than $500.00 for the day.

What powered to the front and center was the fact that meeting halfway, more than halfway to create assessments, create assessments, create a way to evaluate that is not often a preferred method, yet achieves another objective that is more powerful in a variety of other ways.  Take this story into consideration that the week before, our students were live and active among hundreds of individuals in the very same store and a HUGE success thanks to those online and those that came into the store that used our vouchers to contribute to our WHS school – a huge success. We are waiting on the exact numbers but even without exact numbers, we were congratulated by the one supervising manager that acknowledged that many schools just plop down papers and site there, and expect goodness to come to them.  I realized I did the same with the wreaths yesterday, and resorted to a way to better bring individuals to me for conversation and interest, a characteristic much more powerful than a monetary amount attributes success to.

The connections to education, to success in life, how you view when life serves you sour grapes and really not sour grapes as well but a serving much different than expected, but not a failure or a negative result at all.  What was humorous was as I was sometimes needing a break and walked around the store, I found the Librarian Media Specialist in me straightening items in disarray from the public, looking for lost and misplaced items and replacing them back in their order, and thinking I know the location of some of the items even more then the employees I feel at this point.  I am sure the clerks who might have seen this occur thing I am ADD and need to be there to fill out the need to put things back in an order.

Overall, I still have strides and plateaus to encounter and deal with in returning to the states following six years in another country.  That shocks me much, and I find myself wanting to discover my own meaning in corners of a country I was born into, and yet still finding difficulty having to find the meaning within me as I interpret so much around myself within my control as well as that not part of my control.  The similarities of myself with students and their needs to have an individual reach beyond the familiar ways to assess that are comfortable, and move to those methods that are often uncomfortable that make others comfortable STILL, after all these years is a learning process after all these years.  I am grateful for the students that buy into the alternative to create a successful path forward.  Realizations as this are perhaps the best gifts one can receive on a holiday, and having the opportunity to do so.

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Assembling the Ensemble of Art

48263106_10155847503401003_720369550020837376_oCertainly if you did not notice the number of posts, that even five, six, or seven is not enough to acknowledge the details that you really, truly, could walk away with and from, if you paid close enough attention to. I have realized this years later, in coming back to art I would see in museums in Mexico and a voice saying, ‘Why not go back?  Check out if you might have missed something just for the fun of it” and sure enough, there always is more.  

That was so satisfying with WHS’s production of Annie, there was always more worth going back for and more that escaped the first witness.  In looking at the star packed Ensemble, you might not have heard in the last few posts mention of Billy E. – but have NO FEAR!  There was plenty to remark on with these two characters –

 Asst. dog Catcher – Billy E. – Let me tell you, you would not want anyone else to play the Dog Catcher and Asst. Dog Catcher EXCEPT for Kaleb and Billy.  These two are characters of emotion and expression in their own right – and as low key as Billy might seem to be, his humor and quirky reactions are priceless.  First he is a dog catcher, then personifying Santa Claus, then a Marine (fitting) and amid the changes of all the scenes – amid helping every single person and many assistance moments needed with moving props on and off, and supporting the presence of Amaya and making her feel part of the cast – Billy’s role was a welcome site each night.  It was enlightening to see his concern with the details of his costumes every time he began to approach the stage and sure enough, the care he did pay to details made their way to every moment he added to Annie each night of practice and performance.

When you add all this amazing level of independence, interdependence, elevation of the themes of respect, charity, hope, discovery, perseverance, to name some of the many themes there for the taking, anyone that has been part of a stage crew or technical crew knows, the tech is the mech that keeps it all going.  Mid South Audio was supportive and solid, and you knew the show would go on thanks to their influence.  Tammy Williamson insuring the best would always be in the spotlight, Carson Williamson and Alonzo Dixon supporting the characters and Tammy’s lead, Tori Szabo-Block, Jaycie Kerrick, all making sure backstage activities happen and facilitate the great show everyone witnessed, Josh Dickson and Darren Todd insuring an Annie set was created from the very beginning along with Macree Workman, the solid advice and building design advice from Craig Malloy, the solid support from day one from Sharon Workman, Slaye Workman, Butch Lord, Dawn Lord, and you KNOW you have to say, the pit and talents of the Annie Musicians:

Stacey Hartman, Terry Stewart, Kevin van Syckle, Derek Dillman, Jillian Laasko, Erica Stine, Arthur Henry, Kaitlyn Gretencord, and Joshua Getka, yes.  Absolutely yes, witrh the music that was able to time itself with the emotions and themes that needed to reach the audience, and you have a production NOT AFRAID to reach above the stage and into the audience on many levels.

As if you needed to know, the direction, advice, suggestions, and expertise of Jolene Workman and Danielle Jones? – There are words you can often give to guide the right emotions, lines, vocal directives and more, that is needed but certainly the WAY those all comes across end in the results you receive.  The analogies, the awesome ways that these two motivate the cast and total crew before, during, AND AFTER – there is a reason why there is magic on and off the stage, and nothing more needs to be said when you see that magic that occurs from beginning, during, and after.

annie 1.JPGThere was one final test that was sure fire the minute I walked among the cast.  The sense that humans have yet to master as much as the canine.  the second my canines came amidst this cast, Wriggley, Dane, (Who can forget Dane’s walk on and YES I am IT runway stint?!) and Amaya, they did not want to leave.  They were a little shy which is always their case but without hesitation, all three canines and the rest of the practices Amaya, knew miles away when she was getting close and after a few days needed to be around the cast.  Her sense of what was happening before, during, and on the set was DOG GONE right ON – and the way the cast welcomed her into the middle of all the action – it was pure magic.  Believe it or not, there is MUCH more to say about WHS’s Annie production, and most will simply have to be content that the cast of Annie was able to bring the true emotions and feelings of the holiday to so many individuals.  That becomes the true magic of the gifts Annie gave to everyone. 

 

 

 

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Up, Down, or All Around?

That’s right, there were bonafide Hooverites and Hoovervilles in Annie. Hooverites and Hoovervilles in Annie.  I heard this so frequently from the practices and shows, it reminded me almost of Whoville in Dr. Seuss (turns out there were connections to Whoville and Hooverville!)  However, when you hear something so often, you tend to forget what it really represents, means, in the larger picture.  That is where individual characters came into play to remind everyone within in viewing distance, there is a bigger picture for all of us with the representation of the Hooverites and Warbuck’s Staff on stage.  

While there could be a debate if the Whoville and Hooverville idea from two different literary pieces are related, with the cast making up Warbucks’ Staff as well, you see at many turns in this production the contrasting lives that either have a life of security, a job, and regular pay they can count on or the other side of this production where there are so many that do not have any of those promises towards a better life. When we look at the cast who made up these two areas of the overall production, much can be viewed and contemplated when it comes to how this distinct division of upper and working class, can sometimes blur and those lines, at times, are not that obvious.

Hooverite – Alex N – Difficult to realize unless you were behind stage, but the change of roles between the Hooverite and Warbucks’s staff was rapid at times; add into this moving into the role of Cordell Hull-  there is this transition between social classes and financial levels with each character, it IS as if something was being compared as individuals like Alex adjust into very different roles as a character.  Alex did this so well, amid rushing back and turning into a completely different person between the various roles – her flexibility, versatility, and ability set the tone for moral lessons amidst a trying time in history overall.  Calm, confident, and persistent, it was not a surprise to see Alex on the stage as she seemed from the very beginning this was where she could and would be.  I felt the very confident and hold your head high demeanor she seemed to possessed certainly spread from one cast member and quickly spread to everyone during the course of the practice leading into the shows ending the week.  Ultimately, this would be one of the main strengths you were able to see behind the stage if you did not see from the very first one.

Shelby S– Having seen Shelby from last year’s variety show, as well as seen previously the positive and absolute appearance she brings to being in the public eye, Shelby certainly added to the overall production.  As being a center in the Hooverites, Mrs. Greer, AND Frances Perkins in Annie, (the first female cabinet member in the United States), it seened perfectly natural to see Shelby rotate through several roles throughout the production.  She has the quality tenacity, and energy on stage that seems to push forward the mix and confidence, as well as the will, to represent a variety of personalities – which she did very well in representing a  variety of social stations in Annie.  Not without a reason.  The blending of what individuals during Roosevelt’s New Deal deserved, were capable of, and needed as far as a mix of upper class, middle class, and lower class I felt was often ignored until programs were finally initiated to involve more of the country’s residents. You see the way of breaking through class distinctions with Annie’s scores and ideas.  Shelby does a very good job in showing individuals are the substance that matter more than a social station determine by others  considered around you, above you, and below you.  As a cast, the members never delineated between helping or not helping each other based on their role, they were all in it together and the variety of roles Shelby played help reinforce that fact.

Elizabeth T- Elizabeth might come off as a quiet and reserved individual when you first meet her.  However, from her characters of Hooverite and Warbuck’s student, to the emerging of humor and seriousness you witness behind stage, it is another story of a character that can offer a wide breadth of her own style, supporting many others along the way.  Again, I did not realize how much I would miss realizing the ability of each individual character in Annie without being behind stage.  You see students every day, get a vibe of who they are, and then when a stage performance presents itself, you see a new spotlight reaction of who that individual is, and usually a more personal and deeper conviction revealed of that individual  It is a gift to be able to see that change and transformation over a period of weeks, even days.  Elizabeth was always in the middle of supporting a another cast member while holding up her part of the plot each scene.  Her dress that almost would swallow her was one of many comedic highlights you would witness off stage, but her contribution to how an upper class role character is tied to what society would consider a middle or lower class character worked and emphasized the fact that as a whole, no matter what arena, we are in this together.

C.J. C- If you know C.J, there is just something always lingering on that smile that is on the verge of laughter and hilarity,  C.J. would carry this positive and optimistic vibe through every single scene and event, and you could sense this in all the cast as practices led into final shows.  From policeman, to Drake serving Warbucks with a sense of irony, it is difficult to even imagine a production of Annie without C.J.  From Drake, to Lt, Ward, to Ickes, to Fred McCracken, the transition for authority figure, to a dummy, to a faithful Batman like Butler, to someone playing protector, it is easy to see C.J’s easy going style melt social class distinctions and get to the heart of who a character really is as a person.  I would not really want to see a production without C.J a part, and seeing him here, there, everywhere across the stage and behind, it made the feel and content of Annie rewarding to say the least.

Tyree W- I have to put Tyree and C.J. pretty close together as far as how were willing to support so many individuals on the cast throughout the week.  Be it moving a bed off stage, downstage, way down the hall behind stage, to helping rearrange mic lines and a host of other rearrangements, to the general topics discussed off stage between scenes, the easy-going nature of Tyree just worked with the roles of so many Warbuck servants and Judge Brandeis as a contracting role.  It certainly helps settle the score of when government and law works towards an individual and contrasting when it works against an individual.  Tyree helped bring that idea and theme around on and off stage both.  Supporting so many, and willing to do so, left you with wondering when and where you would see him next!

Again, add into this mix the repeated roles of individuals such as Alexander S, Kaleb P., Steven L., Alyssa A., Rachel B., Marissa K., Alex B., Rheya F., Anya G., and Sydney W.,  I loved the fact that there was never a feeling of a small cast trying to cover multiple roles.  Being able to represent so many different individuals and doing it well is so much different that another upon another individual coming on stage to simply move a play forward.  The role of Annie as well as many secondary stories occurring did in fact stick up for the fact that social class can not be a determining factor of one’s true worth. Be it government, employment, the lack of employment and host of other influences, that tag is not a real check of who an individual really and truly is. Each night casts members from The Hooverites and Warbucks’ staff went on to prove that. 

 

 

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Consciously Historical, or Historically Subsconscious – Annie Pulls Off Both.

It is funny, as I get older, and supposedly wiser (lol) – I find myself realizing more and more details I never connected together – (and maybe should have).  I recall the first historically-based musical I witnessed in December 2016, December 02 to be exact at ASF, the Radium Girls. 

I remember thinking “Two for one! Revisiting the past and also catching how major and minor characters in this musical manage to pull off a historical piece of time” – and I watched it that way every single night, still entertained.  To me, it seemed at times that I was watching the film knowing the “magic” that occurred behind the effects, but in the musical at least, I did not find it being “stripped” knowing it was done so well with the characters that delivered the historical context as well as the lines that made up the musical as well.  I guess that is the magic of it being a musical and having great actors. 

The ironic thing is with Annie, I never, EVER realized, despite the hints in all the songs, the references all throughout this historical period piece, how much historical reference there was -I focused so much on the audio and Annie’s story and watching how that story developed; at some point I really, unconsciously became unaware of the constant ties to how much historical was coming through the songs, the lines, the characters, until after the production was over!  My thoughts then led me to the countless musical numbers and moments that characters other than the main characters, helped that historical as well as drama-delivered message come across.  Something inside tells me the magic of a good, and even GREAT, production is the ability to still hear the numbers, and revisit what you witnessed and play it over in your head and want to talk about how powerful a piece a production is based on two, sometimes even three-story lines happening.  

The historical literally flew over my head as I was so focused on the moments the characters delivered on stage, and this led me to realize how amazingly rich some of the characters I mention tonight delivered and supported the seven actors and actresses mentioned in last night’s post.  I love how rich the production was when looking and revisit a second time, walking away with as much to learn as there is as much to be entertained by.  That is the awesome power of stage, a musical, and characters that can deliver.  Such as…

Molly – Alyssa A – There is MUCH also to be said about Alyssa.  I have to say, one of the most inviting and surprising moments was my FIRST musical since leaving Mexico city, and that was Miracle on 34th Street.  I prepared myself mentally saying, “This is NOT Mexico City, this is small town Delaware, and this will not be the same, however shocking it will be to you, so just ease into the transition back to a small town, small state.”  While this mental preparation/mantra was going through my head, I realized as soon as I saw and heard Alyssa, this was no ordinary individual on stage.  Her energy, direct eye contact, motions, emotions, and WILLINGNESS to bring the story to you individually, it hit me like a freight train in Miracle on 34th Street and caught me unexpected.  The same momentum Alyssa brought to that lead role she brought to the staged as an orphan and turned what not necessarily a lead character into the same qualities and talent she possessed in Miracle on 34th Street.  There is no doubt her story was powerful then, and she continued to show amazing strength and power as an orphan in Annie.  I kept recalling her active standouts in “It’s a Hardknock Life” but there is NO DOUBT her energy and stage presence does not “orphan” her ability on stage AT ALL.  Her ability as a puppeteer, hysterical mimic of Ms. Hannigan, a Hooverite, AND orphan not only show her flexibility AND ability, but her strength in voice (I can still her her in the key songs in Annie) do in fact neatly help “bury”any doubts of her ability, similar to the very laundry she is buried in the show. She carries herself so well, while at the same time uplifting those around her. 

Pepper – Alex B. – Resolute.  I am not sure why this word comes to mind with I think of the role of Pepper,  Ms. Pugh, and Alex but I think it is mainly because of what Alex brings to these characters.  Supporting her role as Mrs. Pugh and how the staff of Warbucks supports him, as well as providing alot of spunk that only Alex could bring?, it makes sense.  When I witnessed the talent on stage of Alex when it came to the Variety Show last year, heck yes.  She can do QUITE ANYTHING and surprise your socks off.  She did and does in Annie, and that resolute expression, determined expression you see on her face makes you realize, she will be able to get through anything she sets her mind to.  Love it.

Duffy – Avery K and Te’Neal G. – Certainly at first thought you might see characters in a production as “extra’s there for supporting the main characters and little else.  It was refreshing, exciting, and inspiring to see Avery and Te’Neal on stage and doing this OFF stage, and on stage putting their hope, energy, and obvious expressions that a better day does exist for all to see.  Not only supporting how many individuals during this time period did hope for a better tomorrow, today, when the topic of so many youth in very own towns as well as an international issue deal with the topic of being parentless, these two characters managed to turn a supporting position into a role that was necessary and integral to what else occurred on stage.  That is exciting to see any role taken seriously and brought to life – and usually can only be done with the right people. Avery and Te’Neal were the right people.

July- Sydney W.- I have to admit seeing someone off stage and then on stage, sometimes can be shocking. This was the case with Sydney.  I would have never placed Sydney as someone able to perform in front of people, she seemed reserved, quiet, to herself.  On stage, BAM, the lightning has come into the building PEOPLE! I was so inspired getting to know Sydney from the life she brought to life – (is that possible?) on stage.  That she did as July being the quietest orphan and yet, if you pay attention to the details of what unfolds on stage, Sydney without a doubt belongs there.  That is the magic of the stage, and I found myself looking forward to her part and how she continued to make the orphans become a reality, when so many conveniently put the status of orphans in real life away in a corner of history.  Sydney continues to resurrect the power orphans play in this historical context, as well as this production itself.

Tessie – Rheya F. – AGAIN! – I question myself as a teacher when I see someone in a production and wonder, how had I NOT seen this student in school until NOW?  I love the way Rheya carries herself and commands her role, as well as knows SO MUCH about what is happening behind the scenes, on stage, and the commitment she dedicates to her role.  Her “Oh My Goodness I thought at first needed more oomph and by the progressive shows she did provide that oomph to match her ability on stage.  Add to this the mood swings that Tessie needs to have, and honestly, I simply want to see Rheya on stage again. Playing support to Annie as Cecille, Rhyea shows she is capable of much in two dimensions when it comes to bringing forth multiple needs.  I love seeing someone that seems to have much more substance than they imply and felt Rheya on stage – it will be exciting to see what she brings next and what she can being next.  

Kate – Anya G. – I am also am finding it interesting how the orphans metaphorically in Annie have become in reality a halfway house of talent for future shows at WHS. Kate being the shyest and quietest orphan, friendly with everyone, described Anya to a “T”.  On and off set this was Anya perfectly, and yet, you SAW this smile, this ability, and wantingness to do great things and a commitment to the overall orphan group, almost being a testing ground for answering the question, can you bring more to other roles? I believe Anya has a TON more to bring roles in the future, and without a shadow of a doubt, became to acquire who this young lady was due to her ability on stage in Annie.

Add to this the reappearance of Marissa K. and you do in fact realize the orphans in Anne represent the very diversity, strength, and ability that often maybe unknown talents that exist in a sea of individuals.  Marissa is able to bring this message through her roles and these individuals during the course of the run of Annie reminded the audience over and over, the true one major theme of Annie –

Face Annie

something in a very historical and emotional sense, all of the above and aforementioned characters did every night of this powerful, meaningful production of WHS’s Annie.  Stay tuned for seeing how the Hooverites, Warbucks’ Staff, and Ensemble (by the way! – Tuesday between 8:15 and 8:30 –

ensemble

 

See what I did there?  Connections! – it is all about Connections, and I can’t say enough about the hidden pockets of connections this cast was able to bring out in WHS’s Annie.  Stay tuned, there is MUCH more to realize about what the WHS show Annie brings out in so many!

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Production Versus Independence.

I have been fortunate in my life to have been influenced with having difficult moments. I remember days I had to work harder than my average classmates when I knew others were having a much easier time, often swimming, vacationing, but anything but what I was doing which usually was a combination working on a paper route, weeding one of several customers that made up many landscaping spots, working a Turnpike toll booth shift, working a double or extra shift at Friedman’s grocery, later it was pulling summer school hours whether here or in Mexico.  Point is, it all paid off.  Only now, at the ripe age of 46, am I realizing that instilled in me a sense of discipline to weather through the rough times as they would come in like the tide and some obviously are rougher to ride out than others.  Watching the final show of Woodbridge’s Annie, I realized how amazing each individual has worked to create a sense of independence while also being able to create a sense of walking away with a feeling of supporting each other, two very opposite qualities but qualities not many people who participate in events of any discipline can carry with them.   

I have also had the opportunity, starting back in my first years of college to accompany a faculty member of the college I attended to Pittsburgh Public Theatre, due to her age and needing a driver, and it created an opportunity of interest I never knew, would grow.  Theatre and the stage did have the power to be personal, driving, motivating, personal.  Since those first years experiencing the stage, I have had the privilege of seeing some of the best productions behind stage, on stage, in front of the stage, above the stage, in this country, on other countries, in famous halls, high school stages, arenas, you name it. They each have had signature moments from beginning to end.  

Very few times did I think I would ever feel the emotions you can feel without seeing the full stage, the full show from the front.  From the very first night, of dress rehearsal and showtime, the feeling that was created among a cast that was given to the audience, and while not often covered, witnessed, or attended by as many to see such magic, that is when the magic occurs and you know few, if any group can achieve what happens on the stage, as well as off.  Until I am proven wrong, over 16 years of witnessing amazing productions from Canada to Mexico City, you know when you see that special magic occur, and when you do, there is a selfish part celebrating you and maybe not alot of others did get to see what you felt inside and out, day in and day out.  There were alot of reason why, and here are a few:

Annie – Gabriella M. –  Without a doubt, Gabriella has known the fact that the good and bad days coexist alongside each other.  However, one of the most difficult challenges seemed to be meeting a shy Amaya and making it seem as if they traveled this path of stage all along.  At first I am sure Gabriella felt it was the chicken that tied Amaya to her during practice and the play itself.  However, little she know I knew better.  Having seen Amaya rebound after events that would not normally let any canine be confident, from the struggles of being born literally on the road and in the back of my truck in Mexico, literally falling out of her mother Kinah on the steps., days of struggling with being alone during a hectic day schedule, losing Kinah, Amaya’s mother on Valentine’s Day, and adjusting to new additions all the time to a home fuller of newer strays all the time, to being uprooted and moved to a new country and a new situation again – Amaya can and was aloof for a reason.  Amaya needed to meet Gabriella and show me I needed to spend way more time with Amaya, Wriggley, and Dane; Amaya always was known for being a canine that pushed her trust back awhile until something proved her 10 steps back would not occur.  Amaya connected with Gabriella on many levels for the very reason Gabriella connected to Annie and in turn found herself amid a cast that indeed, cast the feeling of what holidays truly mean and give that back to the audience.  All you had to do was see the way Amaya ran to Gaby each evening, and you knew 🙂

Warbucks – Alexander S. – Transformations are unexpected, and to be honest, are one of the best gifts of the holiday, and have the potential to change everything.  The ease and flair that Alexander brought to the stage throughout this production also continued to reign through the relationships on stage and off stage among the whole cast.  The idea of Annie around Christmas – brilliant when you have a cast made up of individuals that are tied to how the audience feels and how the characters feel in front of that audience.  Alexander continued to maintain the consciousness of an actor, a father, as well as a student that sees the stage as a way to send emotions to the individuals that need a remind of what a season like Christmas does and can do for individuals.  Alexander maintained this responsibility every single day. Add to this the multiple responsibility of blending in as a Hooverite, the roles divided in his mind did not seem to take away from either of the roles he played, played as if he had no other role in the show.

Grace Farrell – Marissa K. – When Marissa was on stage in previous productions, she still maintained a sense of responsibility, a sense of belonging, a sense of entitlement to all that come to see the show, given be herself as an actress and character on the stage.  If one did not believe that, when you see Marissa outside of classes, you see she is exhausted at times.  This is due to the motivation and dedication to insure that she would not appear as a fraud, someone who embodied the role as a student, actress, as well as reinforcing the fact that being a spectacular team player is one that gives as much as one receives.  All you had to do was watch the show to see every single night Marissa, through Grace’s character, gave all you would need to know to see Annie as a vehicle for us all to celebrate holidays as a means to support and strengthen each other. One forgets unless noticing the details how Mariassa’s role as Rissa, a Hooverite, and one of the Boylan sisters emphasizes how in life there will be multiple tasks and roles, as well as expectations of us in life, and how we play that role defines our success.  well played Marissa.

Miss Hannigan – Genevieve M. – Abrasive, startling, unexpected, humorous, crucial to the overall plot.  Genevieve brought the same creativity and determination to the character of Miss Hannigan as she also brought to the role of Ronnie, one of the Boylan sisters. With the ability to switch roles and do so, so quickly – the success of both roles allowed you to have to really really scrutinize if you even were aware of Genevieve more than once at one time on stage in two different roles.  Her ability to shift the abrasiveness, hurt, and put-downs in a character such as strong as Miss Hannigan could not be pulled off by too many, but Genevieve pulled it off for every performance. 

Rooster- Kaleb P. –  There is a place and time for comedy as well as deception.  We often find out later, working through and past temptations us make us stronger in character.  Kaleb easily was able to make the most ludicrous motivations and character reality.  If you think of life as we have seen it the last few years, we have seen so much ludicrousness in the world around us.  Kaleb embodied the idea of deception, the ludicrous, the easy road to get what others work hard for, and he as an individual outside of the role of Rooter could not be more different,  He attacked a goal and role, and with the dedication you would only hope for in most individuals, he represents all of the above and more if you just sat down to analyze the role of Rooster, how it is represented, and what it means beyond the stage.  The clarity of his ability to pull off a role as Rooster – crystal.

Lily- Rachel B. – Being a partner in crime to another partner in crime is not easy – and yet falling intro stride with such a role – one has to delve right in and live it.  Rachel managed to do so, while filling the roles of a Hooverite and servant, apple server, and one of the Boylan sisters.  Being able to pull one role off, let another 3= more? – there is not much more one can say about being able to do so – but seeing Rachel on the stage was enough to bring home what this play took to reach in and pull you in.  The will to be triumphant, be it a dark side or the bright side, the will to succeed exists in all of us, and having such a strong character as Rachel only helped reinforce the overall themes that do reach out and make you know the holidays are here.

Roosevelt – Steven L. – Leadership, dominating, history, rebuilding, if you remember or had the chance to see Steven in Miracle on 34th Street, you saw the same characteristics and ability in the singing, voice, and command Steven took on that stage and brought even more command of his role on the stage of Annie.  His ability to foresee when help would be needed between scenes, from moving props to simply suggesting improvements to providing light-hearted atmosphere.  Steven provides insight into all he sees that can make a positive change, can make a change in anything at all, and it is obvious Steven not only presents a larger than life window where audiences can see what is possible by looking at what was our history, and where we can go from here based on our history.

What I noticed was in simply looking at these seven roles of the four-day show Annie, there are many reasons why Annie was more than just any ordinary high school production, and most of they story was what occurs off the stage as well as on.  Not every individual gets a chance to realize this, and yet, this is worthy of spending time to reveal the specifics that made this production such a heart-warming experience.  Yet, there are 17+ reasons, these reasons being the most talented actors and actresses that put amazing emotions on their sleeves and giving this experience everything they had, for themselves but for the chance to also give back to those that surround them every day.  That in itself is worth mentioning the time and results of who they are, on stage as well as in real life.  The next post will bring the awesome contributions of Alyssa A., Alex B., Avery K., Te’Neal G., Sydney W., Rheya F., Anya G., brought through such an unexpected and powerful message that came through the production Annie.  It is highly ironic that by each of these young actresses and actors being so independent in their roles, how interdependent they became in supporting each other.  That in itself changes how everyone can and should look at this holiday season.  Stay tuned for round two’s post tomorrow, and thank you cast of Annie for teaching so many so many complicated, yet simple things about life in a story we all know well, but thanks to you, not well enough.

 

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