These kids are wading in my same canal, but under the watchful eye of several parents. During my youth, our mothers kicked us out of the house early in the morning and told us to stay out until lunch. Then we would stay out all afternoon, too. I remember the signal when to come in was when we started hearing the neighborhood parents calling for their kids. It could be very embarrassing for kids to be called by their pet names like "Sweetie," or "Honey Bear." My dad just whistled for us and we came a running even if we were many blocks away.
Yesterday I took a walk down memory lane -- literally. When I was very young, our family lived next to an irrigation canal. The houses near us got rights on certain summer days to open the little gates to allow water to run from the canal down the hill and onto our gardens and lawns. During the summers, us kids played along the canal bank. We floated little boats, chased the water skeeters, lost our flip flops, and sometimes dammed up the wide place so we could swim. The most fun was swinging across the water and dropping in from our Tarzan swing.
Well, I hadn't visited that canal path in many, many years. I knew that changes had been made, but until yesterday, I didn't know how it had changed. The once rustic and natural canal with a dirt trail has been remodeled into a classic, upscale jogging path complete with police call boxes every few yards. It is beautiful! But it has nearly erased the precious memories of my youth. So, I decided to write a new series of stories documenting some of those cherished moments. (My girls get worried, though, when I tell their children what a feral life I led in my youth.)
So whether my daughters appreciate it or not, I intend to write some stories for my grandchildren about what a fun and free-spirited life I led as a child. Oh, how I wish that more children could know that kind of freedom for exploration.
The coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic has really brought our world to a halt. With all gatherings of over 10 people made illegal for the time being, people are being forced to be creative in how they interact with people and try to continue their work. Some people can utilize the internet and work from home. Others must go into work, but be careful to maintain six feet of space between coworkers at all times. Some people are losing their livelihoods altogether because their jobs rely on large gatherings - restaurants, concerts, school activities, sporting events, Church activities, and the list goes on.
On one hand I have been saddened by the temporary closure of schools. The poor teachers have been frantically trying to post lessons and work via the internet so that their students may continue to progress in their classes at home. On the other hand, I have been so proud of my daughters and daughters-in-law and how they have managed to take those on-line lessons and also plan their own activities for their children at home.
Teachers (like my daughter who teaches performance classes of Band, Orchestra, Choir and is the Vocal Coach and Choreographer for the middle school musical) are having a tough time. Her Title I Middle School students are not allowed to take their instruments home, so the band and orchestra students simply have no instruments to practice with. The choir classes this term were enrolled solely to perform in the school musical. Her only option for the Band and Orchestra classes has been to provide General Music worksheets, fingering chart memorization activities, and required listening assignments. For the Chorus classes, she decided to create videos of snippets of the School Musical's Ensemble songs with choreography that the kids can practice to. Still holding out hope that school will come back in late April and that the Musical and Concerts will be able to take place!
As glad as we are to have the internet and many streaming sources, we are finding that staying far away from people is really NOT satisfying. Our culture is one of Service and Interaction with People. Social Distancing is especially difficult when trying to teach performance classes. We NEED each other. Hopefully, we can all be diligent for this most serious time so that it can be of brief duration. Praying for a successful outcome and that the progression of the coronavirus will be stopped in its tracks!
My neighbors have a son about the same age as my youngest son. He has been a good friend to my boy from their High School years on. Now they are grown-ups. He doesn't visit his folks very often these days because his work is far away, but when he is here, he keeps himself very busy. For example, he was home for the Thanksgiving holiday working on rebuilding his truck transmission. I was visiting with them the other day and was curious about what he was making. It looked like knitting. When I looked closer, he WAS knitting. He told me that he needed a headband of a certain width and color and weight. So he decided to just make it. He did not have knitting needles, though, that would make the stitches as tight as he envisioned. So he took some tent stakes, ground the ends to points, and started his project. What a resourceful guy!
When working in Children's Theater, RESOURCEFULNESS is one trait you really need. Either you do not have funds to cover costs the way you would like, or the venue you have for performance is awkward in many respects, or you don't have exactly the talent pool you need for the show ... there is always something that is challenging. So, the best thing is to be flexible and very resourceful. Take stock of what you've already got and think creatively. It is amazing how you can adapt props and sets and costumes you already have for new purposes. And if you think about it long enough, you can usually come up with solutions to how to use the performance space adequately. And so what if you don't have the talent pool, the dream cast, you expected? This gives someone else a chance for a better part and an opportunity for growth.
All of the shows I have ever been part of had limited budgets. We scrounged around for fabric, old paint, furniture parts, old shoes, cast off craft materials, and anything donated that might possibly be turned into something for the show. We used a lot of found objects such as tree branches and cardboard boxes for props and set pieces. The funds we did have needed to be budgeted for the things we actually had to buy. Those things were precious. You just have to pick your battles and allocate your funds to cover costs for the most important things and be creative for the rest.
You may not need to grind down the points of tent stakes to make the knitting needles to knit your costumes, but you may have some other seemingly insurmountable problems. Remember, with creative thought and some elbow grease, you can be RESOURCEFUL and come up with a solution!
So, this summer's Theater Camp pre-registrations started off very well. I had 35 kids sign up within the first couple of weeks. Then, I started noticing that no older girls (10-12+) had signed up. NONE. "Never Cry Wolf" has some pretty critical parts for that older girl group.
That made me start inquiring to find out why the girls who usually signed up were not registering. Come to find out, our Stake Young Women's Camp was one of those weeks. I thought I had remembered that YW Camp was always the 2nd week of June. But this year, it is the first week of June.
Then, I drew up what I thought was a schedule that should work for most of those families. I added a third week of camp and divided up the students into two divisions. The Older kids would come the first week, the Younger kids would come the second week, and the Everybody would come the third week. The Performance would be on Saturday of the third week.
Unfortunately, that schedule caused more problems for the people who had already signed up. Many families had vacations, or Youth Activity trips, or other situations that would affect their children's participation. So, again, I did some investigating. I used this information to develop yet another Camp Schedule.
Oh, I hope that this NEW COMPROMISE SCHEDULE works out. It is all I can think of to do. I need those older students!
So we are scheduling the Older students from May 28-June1 and June 3 to come to Camp. Then the Younger students from June 1, and June 3-7. Then EVERYONE from June 8, and June 10-12. Sometimes the days overlap, and sometimes the groups meet separately. This might be very good for all of us because I could work more individually with each age group.
The Performance would then be on Wednesday June 12 at 6:00 pm. Hopefully this will fit the schedules of the largest amount of families that have already signed up. Wish us luck!
Each summer as we contemplate the logistics of holding a Theater Camp in our backyard, the #1 concern is providing enough SHADE. June weather can be erratic with rain, wind and cold to sun, scorching heat and bone dry conditions! This year, we came up with what we thought was a brilliant solution -- why not set up a parachute shade canopy over our basketball court? That way, we would have another shaded area to practice blocking and choreography and a nice shaded space for audience seating.
Well, the idea was brilliant in theory, but did not remain so through execution! Just how do you suspend a parachute over a large play space? The research we found suggested that it was helpful to have large trees in a forest to hang the parachute from. Oh -- or a crane. Since, we had neither, my engineer husband came up with a different solution. Why not build a large hoop out of electrical conduit with supports of rope to create a light-weight platform to gently set the the parachute on? Then attach the parachute with zip-ties at the edges so that it would stay aloft.
So we got to work. I cut apart the gathered darts in the parachute and sewed channels for the tubing. My husband bought 72 feet of tent support tubes connected with bungee cording. We threaded the tubing through the channels and connected all the pieces to support the circular shape of the parachute. After my son and husband attached the electrical conduit hoop, or as my neighbor dubbed it "The World's Largest Dream Catcher," to the basketball standard, the apex of the covered patio roof and the neighbor's trees, we slid the parachute up on top. It took extra help from the neighbor boys to get it done, but we got it up there!
But it could not stay there for long. The first few days of camp had ferocious winds that nearly blew the parachute to Timbuktu! So, we quickly had to cut it away from the hoop before the metal was wrenched out of shape. And unfortunately, we lost having the nice shade for a couple of days. When the forecast looked like the winds would be gone, we put the parachute up again. This time it took all of our dinner guests to help us. (Seems we always put our guests to work!)
Anyway, after having glorious shade for a couple of days, the wind suddenly came up again. We raced to get the parachute down just in time! So, once again we were without shade. But I was determined to at least have shade for the audience during the performance. Early Saturday morning, we arranged for the strapping lads from across the street to come help us yet again to raise the parachute canopy as well as set up four other canopies plus all of the chairs we could rustle. (What will we do without those boys when they grow up and leave the neighborhood?) I think our audience really appreciated the shade on that very hot day!
It was a Herculean effort to engineer, produce, attach, and suspend -- and take down and put up two more times--- but in the end, I think our World's Largest Dream Catcher was a brilliant success!
Does anyone have a bunch of very large feathers we can borrow for our picture to send into the Guinness Book of World Records?
Our second performance of "The Adventures of Dick Whittington" was triumphant on many levels. I was amazed at how the cast supported the substitute players and helpers to make the show go smoothly. And kudos must go out to the children who stepped up to fill in for missing actors! We even had some brand new backstage helpers that rose to the challenge and made our cast look good! Many thanks!
Cast of "The Adventures of Dick Whittington" - Provost Elementary March 2016
The list of casualties included one "mouse" with a broken toe, a dancer with a broken arm, a missing Narrator who had gotten confused with when her community children's choir concert actually was, and a family that had a funeral that day. Fortunately, the broken toe and arm did not keep the actresses from performing. The funeral was early enough that the family made it back in time for the show. But the choir concert did prevent our Narrator #3 from performing. Luckily, one of her friends that had been helping on stage crew stepped up to the plate, memorized the lines, cues and movements and did a great job filling in. And another dancer handily changed her position in the "Spices and Perfumes" dance to fill in for Narrator #3 so that there would not be a hole. Whew! But the great news was that our little actress with the laryngitis Friday night recovered her beautiful voice and gave a brilliant performance! Yay!
I don't think the audience noticed or could even appreciate what went on backstage to make this performance happen. I told the kids that these kinds of things happen all of the time in live theater. I told them that this experience of juggling parts and covering for the missing actors was even something that seasoned professionals have to deal with. They were getting a real world experience. I was so proud of them that they hung together and made everything go smoothly!
When I was a Cub Scout leader, I was always delighted to find that BSA planned the most ambitious, theatrical Pack Meetings to coincide with the time of year when it was easier to find costumes and props readily available. We had all kinds of great themed Pack meetings in October such as the Cub Scout Circus, or Gold Mining in the Yukon, or Medieval Times Jousting Contests or Adventures in Outer Space. Convenience is not lost on the master planners of Cub Scouting. They've been around a long time and have learned a few things.
Yesterday I spent the day trying to sew costumes for my son and his wife to be Nacho Libre (as the Monk) and Sister Encarnacion. They brought me the fabric - the right colors and inexpensive, but also a pain to sew with. (I really hate cutting and sewing satin. It is so slick and it unravels so easily. What a mess!) The problem was that I was to create them just using a picture as my guide with no pattern to follow and no live bodies to fit them to. I resorted to using my other (taller and skinnier) son and a random football friend he had over for the models. As they were soon going off to play a Varsity Football game, they really did not appreciate modeling for me, especially for the nun costume. Anyway, the mission was accomplished, but I have yet to see the final results on the real models. Hope they fit!
The point is that the fabric and accessories were easy to come by and affordable. If I was wise, I would go out and scour the Halloween shops for my up-coming show that won't be mounted until March. So what if I do not know the exact sizes or shapes of the cast members? Or even how many? Now is the time to find those hard to find props and fabrics for cheap. What am I sitting around for? At least I could see if any of the props I will need are out there for cheap. I can always write in an new character if I find something I absolutely can't resist!
My name is Betsy Bailey. I have sung, written and taught music all of my life. I enjoy writing and directing Children's Theater shows. This blog will be directed to topics on creating the magic of Children's Theater. I would love to hear your comments!