Friday, August 28, 2009

Mockingbird Fly

The goal of the scriptwriting class is to write and the goal of the blog is to post some of what I write for Mel to review. So I looked at what I've written in just the last week and I was surprised at the variety of writing. As verified by the "recent documents" on my computer, I've edited an appendix for a professor's textbook and a column for the national publication Storytelling Magazine, I wrote two grant reports, posts for my new blog, and most exciting, I wrote the three first scenes of a new play I'm working on (working title: The Storytelling Stone.) That was a good writing week! I know grant reports sound dull and dry, but I'm going to post a narrative from one of the reports. It was from a project I did last fall called Mockingbird Fly. Writing the final report reminded me how much I loved that project and what an impact it had on my life. I spent over 100 hours researching and writing the script and also acted, sang, musically directed and produced as Resonance Story Theatre.

Mockingbird Fly

“Somewhere we read a little child shall lead them… These young people are about their father’s business.

They are carving a tunnel of hope through the red mountain of despair and they will bring to this nation a newness and a genuine quality and an idealism that it so desperately needs.

Keep this movement rolling in spite of the difficulties and we’re going to have a few more difficulties. Keep calm.

Keep moving! If you can’t fly, run! If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

Martin Luther King
on the Children’s Crusade

Mockingbird Fly was true community collaboration as Resonance Story Theatre joined forces with Orem City, the Orem Public Library, SCERA, UVU’s Contemporary Dance Company, Theatre Department, Education Department, and Center for Engaged Learning to bring to life this powerful performance piece. Inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird, Resonance Story Theatre created a show that wove dialogue from the book, music, dance, folktales, and true narratives from Americans who were involved in pushing the cause of civil right. Mockingbird Fly showed just how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

Atticus Finch said, “You’ll get along a lot better, if you can learn this simple trick. You’ll never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

This was our directive, to create a performance piece that would address the issues of race found in the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and to raise awareness and understanding – to allow our audiences the chance to climb into someone else’s skin. We used the power of story – real stories of young people who had stood up and made a difference – and music and dance to reach our audiences. We also used images. When we said the Freedom Riders hit some trouble once they got to Alabama, a picture of a bus with black smoke billowing out of it, was worth a thousand words.

The response to the piece was overwhelmingly postive and qualitative research was gathered as UVU student essays. They show the acquisition of new knowledge:

“It was crazy to hear how many things they had to go through to get rid of the Jim Crow laws. I had always heard it was hard, but it didn’t really have the same aspect of seeing it acted out.”

The essays show the deep connection the audience made with the stories and how music and dance deepened that connection:

“It was truly inspirational and you could feel the emotion. I loved the drums; it made my heart beat fast as they grew faster and louder. This production made me want to cry when remembering how hard it must have been for these wonderful people. They had so much hope to go on.”

The essays also showed processing and relfection:

“I hadn’t heard of many of the people they spoke about and the small ways they stood up for their freedoms. I love how small acts of what was once considered rebellion and defiance are now seen as acts of heroism, showing that just because people don’t agree with what we are doing at the time, does not mean that the action is wrong, but rather that the minds of society are
not yet developed as they should be.”

We feel the impact to Orem audiences was significant, as reflected in the essays. We
reached every goal of connecting Orem enitites & people. For the writers, directors and cast,
Mockingbird Fly was truly a remarkable experience and we were all changed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Persephone Personified

Here I am. This is my blog.

I am here because Mel commands it. Mel is my instructor at Utah Valley University for my beginning playwrighting class - an otherwise perfectly pleasant person, except for the fact that we have to blog for our class.

I have returned to school and they call me a non-traditional student. That's just their polite way to say that I'm old. And being as ancient as I am (a decrepit 44 years) I am a bit of a technological hermit. Oh sure, I have a cell phone, laptop, a website and I email everyday, but I am a hold out on everything else. I have turned down about one billion invitations to join Facebook, Linked In, MySpace etc. I have never sent a text. And I have ignored the advice of many in my line of work to get professionally connected online, and most of all to blog.

I have scorned them all for two very good reasons. The first is on principle. I think our society is too fractured already. I don't text because I'd rather talk to a voice - a real person. I have to email, it's a necessity to getting things done, but I will always choose the most human, real form of communication I can. I have seen younger students around me not answer a call, but then text back their friend (you know you do it!) We are loosing the skill of real communication and connection. I find that scary.

The second reason is simply...time. Especially for the next two years while I finish my degree (theatre arts with an emphasis in playwrighting,) I just don't have the time. Again, well meaning fellow artist (actors, storytellers, writers) have advised me to market, to blog, to get Linked In. I just smile, then run for the door. I've got more work than I can get to, so I don't think spending time doing these things to get work I don't have time to do is a wise choice.

So against my moral beliefs and busy schedule, here I am... in my very own blog. I feel a bit like Persephone. You know who Persephone is, don't you? In Greek mythology, she is the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of all living, growing things. The two live in a idyllic world, roaming the woods and fields without a cell phone in sight. But then Hades, the God of the underworld, spies Persephone and want her for his wife. Does he ask for a date? Does he approach Demeter for permission? No. He thunders out of a crack in the ground in his chariot pulled by black horses, grabs her while she's picking flowers and drags her down to hell.

So this is me, being dragged kicking and screaming down to blogger hell. I guess that makes Mel, Hades (sorry, Mel.) But the story has a happy ending - sort of. Demeter is so upset that all growing things die, until Zeus commands that Hades returns Persephone to her mother. The problem is, Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds in Hades' garden, so she has to live 6 months out of the year with Hades and 6 months with her mother - and that's how we get the seasons, according to the Greeks. When I was a kid, I used to think, what's up with the pomegranate seeds? The story makes more sense when you realize that the red pomegranate seeds represent sexual knowledge, so there you go.

So perhaps I too may find some pleasure in blogging hell. Who knows? Maybe after the semester's over, I might find that I return to the blog time and time again.