Going to NYC with MTVarts was an amazing experience! The lights, the city, the stages, and the shows all set the atmosphere for a memorable and teachable experience that I will never forget! The experience of the Broadway workshops, the opportunities and the ideas generated from these courses, just shows that MTVarts is doing everything right! And not just that, but looking in the right direction to expand and provide the best theater productions and experiences for our students here in Mount Vernon.
When I was asked to go with MTVarts to NYC for this training, I felt honored. I have a daughter who has been in multiple artsIQ productions and whose passion is being on the stage singing and doing what she loves. As a parent and lover of the “arts” myself, I could not say no. I wanted to be part of something that was making a difference in our town, and also support my daughter at the same time. I also looked at this opportunity as a great professional addition to my credentials. I am a teacher at Danville Local Schools and saw this experience as a door to help more people see the benefits of the “ARTS” in education and how it helps students thrive both socially and academically while they are in school.
While in NYC and attending these workshops I constantly was thinking in the back of my mind about “our kids”, “our students” and how I needed to absorb as much as I could from these seminars to take back to the MTVarts and artsIQ programs. During the days that we were there, we talked with several actors and actresses from shows across the Broadway spectrum. We got to talk with teachers, stage managers, producers, and other theater leaders from around the world that were doing what MTVarts is doing, which is…...engaging and expanding live theater opportunities in our towns! The seminars taught us so much about how to work with our students, how to show that theater has so many “avenues” and job opportunities then just who you see on stage. The seminars gave us ideas and examples of how to expand and engage our students during production run-throughs, lessons, warm-ups and so much more.
This experience gave us the opportunity to hear how small theater groups, like MTVarts, make such a difference in the lives of our kids and community. Every performer we met from every show that we saw would always thank us. They constantly would thank “us”, the educators, for being a light and guiding source to where they were today. Every performer had a story where a teacher or theater troop inspired them to be the best that they could be and to never give up. All of these accounts made me cry….every single time!
This is the reason MTVarts and artsIQ do what they do! This is why as a mom and an educator I saw this experience and took it! I knew it would change my perspective as a “theater mom” but also give me more of an understanding on how to help empower MTVarts. As the artsIQ director, I am so excited moving forward with MTVarts.I am so excited to see and apply what I learned to excel and expand MTVarts mission of “...inspiring dreams, teaching skills, instilling confidence & courage, and ensuring quality affordable live theater” for our community, but especially our children and students!
In the midst of the mania of tech week, fretting at 4am over undone items on to do lists, one tends to ponder the purpose of community theatre. Why do we do this thing and does it truly have a noble purpose?
Could it be for the loyal and enthusiastic ensemble member stepping into a lead role, the young actress reprising the role her mother played some years ago, the seasoned actress once again delivering a gripping portrayal, or a family doing a show together? Is it for the actor who is stepping on stage for the very first time or the one who hasn’t done theatre since their younger days rediscovering their love for live theatre? Perhaps it is for the actor who just moved to town or the actor stepping behind the curtain for the first time acquiring new skills and an appreciation for the creation process. Maybe it’s the actor or production team member working tirelessly, unseen, simply because they need it to be right. What drives that purpose? That passion, that commitment to higher standards?
Could it all be for the audience? Those that need to escape, to socialize, to return to a night out with friends? Is there just one person that needs this show on some level? Truth is, I don’t know. I believe live theatre is unique and, yes, I do believe there is a reason, a reason each of us is here, in this moment, doing this thing. We chose it but it is something more. We may never know exactly what that purpose is but there is a purpose.
MV City Recreation Needs the Arts
By MATT STARR
Mayor, City of Mount Vernon
MOUNT VERNON - Finding fun things to do can be difficult these days. For my MTVarts family, we all know the joy of being on stage, behind the scenes on the set, playing for a packed house (or even a small house), and telling stories through performances. The theater and other live performances offer an escape from reality. Heck, even rehearsals are fun. This escape from reality is precisely what our community needs, and storytelling through performances, song, poetry, and visual arts are just what the doctor ordered.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has necessitated restrictions and has certainly forced all of us to rethink how we live our lives and conduct business. For the City of Mount Vernon, we are adapting to many things and moving on some initiatives much sooner than planned which includes technology-based solutions to our operations. Still, we need to see each other in a social context which is where our traditional recreational programming service delivery has transformed into something new, exciting, and larger than this city has seen.
For decades, our recreation department organized summer softball, baseball, soccer, tennis, and swimming very well, but when those programs became difficult to
administer, we began looking to the arts and entertainment community (and those offering lifelong fitness programs) for leadership. Summer in the City was born
involving several business partners and private citizens. Buckminster Fuller once wrote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Social distancing, limiting crowd sizes, and maintaining infection control measures make it difficult to do the work both of our recreation programs and the theater - or does it have to be difficult?
As the summer continues to unfold, we see program opportunities each week multiply including rock painting, music on the Kokosing Gap Trail, early morning bike rides, and musical performances planned at several of our parks - each one meeting the requirements of social distancing outdoors. MTVarts is poised to fill a new need for the community through entertainment and art. I hope that MTVarts’ “show people” show people how to have fun. Who knows? Perhaps this summer will provide a new audience, new volunteers, new actors, and new crew members for the MTVarts family.
This forced sabbatical can get us back to our roots of why we are called to theater in the first place. I’ve even dusted off my guitar and plan to play and sing with friends from our Senior Center when we reopen (rehearsals are underway). The artist has an enormous responsibility. Today’s pandemic is a reminder of that. Let’s embrace the Summer in the City with renewed enthusiasm and a chance to connect with audience members one-on-one in a new setting whether it be at the
Memorial Theater, Warehouse 14, at the new Riverview Park, in a pavilion, or on Public Square. The simplicity of song, poetry, painting, dance, or other storytelling offers escape, hope, and a zest for living. Let’s have some fun.
We at MTVarts often talk of the power of live theater and how it influences our artsIQ participants? What starts out in a workshop setting culminates into a full theatrical production. Having taught for more years than I would like to admit, I’ve seen first hand that theater makes for smarter, braver human beings. Theater helps connect the head to the heart.
Theater also connects to the importance of reading. A play has the ability to jump a story off the page and bring it to life. This can be a revelation to regular bookworms, but also a connection to reluctant readers. Part of what is happening on stage is very similar to the roleplaying all children do. The difference with roleplaying and live theater is that an audience completes the process of theater. However it is with a live audience that actors subject themselves to the risk of being critiqued. Imagine yourself standing in front of a large group of strangers with a spotlight on you, hanging on to every word you say. This can be a very paralyzing experience. Theater breaks down those imaginary barriers and bolsters self-confidence that will carry through the rest of their lives. Without risk there is no growth.
The selection of our material is no accident. Choosing the junior versions of well known musicals seems to celebrate risk, leaving open the option of success once one breaks boundaries. They also give a message of "follow your dreams". One of my friends used a very good expression; he said, "It is not about an ending that is happy, but an ending that is positive.''
We humbly thank our volunteers, donors, patrons, parents, and friends for their support of MTVarts and the power of community. We are very grateful to be a part of the artistic movement that is embracing our great city.
I am a drummer. It’s not my day job, it’s not my hobby – it’s my way of life. By trade, I work as a Vice President for one of the largest banks on the planet. By spirit, I am a drummer. Why? Well, it started when I was given my first “Country Western” beginners drum set for Christmas at the age of 5. I have to assume my parents were either gluttons for punishment or they just wanted me to beat on something besides the furniture. Because I was born with the blessed curse of constant rhythm in my head. So, I drum. Always.
I describe drumming as a “blessed curse” because it’s both a natural gift I was blessed with and a curse, well, for a couple reasons. For one thing, no one wants to hear you practice – period. For another, the constant finger and toe-tapping can be annoying to other people, to say the least. If I’m in a meeting, in a vehicle, on an elevator, in the shower, I’m drumming. Whether in my head, air-drumming, tapping on a desk to a new or familiar rhythm, or actually sitting at my kit – I am always drumming. I can’t stop it and no longer even care to try.
I’m neither a remarkable player nor quite as gifted as my professional heroes, but I’ve had the opportunity to make music through drums with many other gifted musicians, some famous, some not so famous. It doesn’t matter to me who I play with or how it’s orchestrated as the spirit of music doesn’t care about fame or fortune. While my preference is just to play smaller venues of either jazz or rock-style music with friends, I’ve said “yes” to a variety of gigs, some more odd than others.
In early 2012, I received a phone call from a friend asking if I’d be willing to play drums in the “pit band” for an upcoming summer musical called Grease. I remember thinking that I’d seen the movie Grease probably a hundred times on television since the early 80’s and knew the music pretty well. How hard could it be? I would soon find out...