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It's inevitable. Either at the end of a production or in the beginning of the school year, teachers, administrators, parents and students will hit me with the question: "So, what are you going to do next?" More often than not, I give the same response: "I have no idea."

It's not for lack of forethought, or research. I probably spent the entire summer or semester perusing scripts. I make a list of attributes and challenges for each one. I have many shows in a reserve bank for when I'm unable to find a show in any given year. It's actually the question I ask myself long before anyone else thinks to ask it.

When I was in high school, my teacher already had the season scheduled when we returned from summer vacation. Most high schools did. I don't have the luxury of working in a high school where there are fewer content restrictions, and a wider student talent pool from which to pull. I teach Theatre in a middle school, the most difficult age group for which to find appropriate material. Add to that the fact that my students are constantly growing, changing, and evolving. The boy I thought would be the perfect Oliver Twist or Mowgli hits a growth spurt over the summer and is now the tallest student in my cast. My countertenor finally hits puberty and his voice is a croaky baritone. My budding "starlet" becomes self-conscious and doesn't want to be onstage anymore and would rather work on stage crew or usher. When I choose a show in advance I have to take into consideration that things will happen that I didn't take into consideration.

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Upon arrival in the “mile high city”, Denver, Colorado, the first thing I noticed was the captivating beauty of the scenery around me. This theme of true beauty reigned through my entire visit. Colorado ThesCon consists of over 4,000 thespians not including adults. I got the wonderful opportunity to be a part of this celebration of theatre and watch some of the most stunning performances that I’ve ever come across in high school theatre. My days there were long and filled with all kinds of tasks which I helped the Colorado State Thespian Officers to fulfill. The leadership skills expressed by each of the STO were strong and filled with passion. I am so incredibly proud of each one of these individuals for all the hard work they have put into advocating, raising money for Broadway Cares and keeping the compassion for theatre alive. My trip to Colorado ThesCon was an experience of a lifetime and I am proud to say that I made it through and made life-long friendships in the process.
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Just a short blog today, especially in the mad dash toward the Christmas holidays and the wrapping up of our fall/winter shows, competitions, and other commitments that make up the lot of the Busy Theatre Troupe Sponsor Teacher. I’ve been a little quiet in terms of my presence on the EdTA site of late, mainly due to several things piling up all at once, but also because on Wednesday 3rd December, on the way home from after school practice, I was cut off by an irate driver whilst I was riding my motorcycle.


Man on bike versus man in four door sedan: Man on bike lost.


It wasn’t all that terrible an accident. I braked really hard, fell, bike landed on my leg and I skidded 7 feet, causing pretty horrendous road rash on my elbow, knee and hand (one of each, natch), plus a broken fibula and a mashed ankle. Some surgery, and some time off work.

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 One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and   professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

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I had the privilege to travel back to a time of flappers and jazz this weekend at the Pennsylvania Thespian Conference!

With about 1,200 thespians gathered together at Central York High School this event had just the right size for interacting with thespians.

When I arrived on Thursday with my EdTA rep, Diane Carr, we met up with the ITO Liaison for Junior Thespians (a PA STO): Kim Albanowski. Kim then introduced me to the other 7 STO, their fabulous STO advisers, and the fantastic Chapter Director Mr. Mark Zortman.

The first day began with PA's first All State Show, a collection of Broadway's classics to kick off their Roaring 20's theme. After dinner we watched the second main-stage of the conference "The Laramie Project". It was my first time seeing the show, and I was amazed at the talent and realism each member of the show brought to the stage.

Friday began with the third main-stage, "Once In A Lifetime", coincidentally the show was set in the 1920's and centered around an emerging trio's hilarious journey to Hollywood. Afterwards I lead the conference in their Minute to Give it for the Lincoln Experience. The auditorium had about 900 people in the room, and in one minute they raised $900! Wow! I was so impressed with large of a dramatic impact Pennsylvania Thespians made!
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(Warning: this is very long)
Last weekend I had the privileged of attending the Festival that sparked my joy for Thespians. I remember being a freshman in theatre with no friends, not able to compete or participate in any events because everything was so new to me, and so in awe. Now, 3 years later, I was able to return with two sashes on my shoulder and the same awe I had before. I remember my dad and I were packing for this weekend, and we discussed how I kept him awake till 3:00 in the morning talking about all the exciting things I experienced my freshman year. "They have musicals and plays showing almost EVERY HOUR!" I said to him in shock, I had no idea there was a weekend so magical where everyone just did theatre things for days straight. "You thought that place was like Disney World." My dad said to me on our way to the convention center for the last time. And indeed, it still was. I am always astounded by the things I experience at every convention. This year, I was able to participate in this convention as an ITO, an SSB, and a festival attendee. I will say, I definitely met my match with tasks to do. From teaching workshops with Alex Minton, who earned the merit of honorary Texas Thespian this weekend, to working NON STOP with my fellow SSB members, to receiving a perfect score in my IE and earning a MainStage callback, being able to perform in an Improv show with my fellow troupe members, 20 college callbacks, and receiving $1,000 in Musical Theatre scholarship money, it's safe to say that I had the time of my life! I was so humbled by the talent I was able to witness, such as the extraordinary Andrew Lippa, Ryan Wood, jaw dropping MainStage performances, All State Cast and Crew members, as well as the immense talent that is rooted in each SSB I had the privileged to work side by side with and call my friends. This year I was honored to be able to select the 2015-2016 SSB board and there has only been one other time I ever felt I was surrounded by so much passion and desire to serve, the other occasion being when I ran for ITO, and HOLY COW. Not only with the newly elected SSB's but even with the Candidates that were unable to be selected, I can sleep easy knowing that this convention that I hold so dear to my heart will be left in the hands of students that care so much for their craft. I felt the passion of every student that attended Alex and mine's workshops, I felt it in every student that competed in an IE, I felt it in every play marathon and MainStage performer, I felt it every time we stepped on stage in front of 5,000+ thespians, I felt in in every adult I interacted with this weekend, I felt it in every troupe that interviewed for Troupe-Of-The-Year, and I felt it become reborn in myself. The Texas Thespians raised $3,000 for Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids and $1,350 for the Lincoln Experience in 1 minute! I am so proud of my home state and so thankful that I was able to come home to where it all began. I hope that at least one person left festival finding a home in such a great organization.
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When I arrived in Pheonix, Arizona late on the night before the first day of Arizona ThesFest, I was overwhelmed with excitement and the natural anxiety of the unknown events ahead of me. When Ben Oschner and I reached the hotel, we were greeted with bags full of snacks and I met with one of the Arizona STOs, Rayne Taylor Simmonds. This lovely lady showed me around the conference and helped me on the journey to making tons of new friends and plenty of some of the best memories I will ever have. I had two days full of action and excited thespians who were ready for anything, including my workshops. With the amazing support from the Arizona Thespians adult board and their State Thespian Officers, I had a great first festival. It was the time of my life and over those two days I feel like I became part of a family.
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One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

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I was so honored to attend the Texas Thespian Festival this past weekend in Dallas. With over 5,000 thespians in attendance, this rodeo was one for the record books.

After meeting up with the dedicated Chapter Director, Miss Amy Jordan, and meeting with the fantastic Student State Board (SSB) members it was prep time! I went to the location I knew best--registration. Personally, I love working festival registration booths because it involves organization, interaction, and keeps me on my feet. After a couple hours of stuffing manilla envelopes I had the privilege of bringing to life the 6 foot Texas Thespians mascot... Dusty the duck.

Texas had a unique twist on the infamous duck fundraiser. They called it the duck lottery. Each SSB/ITO had their own themed duck pond (from red carpet to Pokemon, we had a theme for everyone!) Students would then purchase a duck, write their name on the bottom, and set it in their favorite pond. At the end of each day, each SSB would then draw from their pond and hand out a prize to the name they drew. The fundraiser went really well, and all of the money benefited Send a Troupe to Festival.

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In August of this past summer, I had the privilege to attend the first ever Iowa Leadership Retreat held at Grinnell High School.

Numerous schools were in attendance to listen to a guest speaker, take different workshops, share a pizza lunch, and learn what it means to be a leader. This retreat, new this year, was a requirement for any student wanting to run for a position of the Iowa State Chapter Board.

The Retreat opened with an inspiring speech by Mr. Michael Hunter. He encouraged the listeners to "reach down, punch up". Reach down, find people among you to work with you and then together, punch up! Make big changes in places bigger places.

I spent the rest of my day teaching a joint leadership workshop with Abby Kurth, one of the six Iowa STOs. We focused on troupe dynamics, flexibility as leaders, delegation, and having some fun.
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Connecticut! One of the smaller states, but the amount of passion it has for the arts exceeds the size by many miles. 

Enough of that strange analogy because the Connecticut State Conference was spectacular! I don't think that I've seen so many people at our state conference ever before! This year we had five schools participating, which definitely beats the two schools we had last year. And let me tell you, the old saying "The more the merrier" was definitely true for me.

As soon as I walked into the school building I was put to work explaining what guidebook was to one of the schools that were joining us that day. (It's also really awesome to see that many of these festivals are working on going mobile because it can really translate well with us teenagers who are way too into our technology.) Then the STO and I were sent to the stage to do our heroic intro given that the theme was also Adventures in Theatre: Think Outside the Box! ​Then we were all set off to our first workshop of the day

My first workshop that day was tech challenge, and although I'm not much of a techie I got to witness a lot of the techies in action. It was amazing to see how fast some people could fold a drop, change a set or get me in and out of clothes as fast as possible. Oh, did I forget to mention that I was the quick change model? Indeed I had to change from full army uniform to a ball gown many... many times. It may have been quite repetitive, but it was quite the experience being quick changed.
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Once upon a Thursday, my friend Abby Kurth (Iowa STO) and I drove up with our director, William Myatt, to Cedar Falls, IA. Abby slept all three hours and, of course, had her picture taken many times as shown below.

Once there, I helped the Iowa STO board organize, traveled to the campus festival location to stuff registration bags and boxes, and came back to the hotel conference rooms to create IE Judge goodie bags and to vote on various scholarship winners.

Here is the wonderful and ever-silly Iowa STO board hard at work.
(From left to right, Chester Pelsang, Katie Savely, Emilee Cruchelow, Danny Zanger, Abby Kurth, and Joshua Randolph)

After Thursday's hard work, we were ready for #IAThesFest14 to start Friday morning.

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One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.


Our latest Spotlight Member is Amy Sidwell, troupe director of Troupe 7042 at Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy in Woodburn, Oregon. Amy’s earned a bronze MVM ribbon on her profile and teaches IB Theatre (among other classes), a recurring topic within the Community. I asked Amy to answer a few questions for us so we could learn a little more about her.

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Last week I attended the webinar presented by Mr. Jim Palmarini regarding the National Core Arts Standards. The standards were published under the National Coalition for CORE ARTS Standards (NCCAS), in affiliation with the Educational Theatre Association and the American Alliance for Theatre Education, on June 4, 2014. This three year research project included 130 writers, and 6,000 reviewers. Their goal (in simplified terms) is to establish arts education for K-12 grade levels.

While a lot of the information was geared towards arts educators, a few things stuck out to me that I would like to share with you all!

What it means to be Artistically Literate:
  • Use a variety of artistic media
  • Develop creative personal realization
  • Cultivate culture
  • Find joy in intellectual ideas
  • Seek artistic support
The most useful component for students, I believe, are the Anchor Standards. The Anchor Standards are the following:
  • Creating
  • Performing
  • Responding
  • Connecting

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    We are absolutely past the honeymoon period of the year by this point, the point at which some of us start wondering 'why are we doing this?', hopefully before realizing that, as Theatre teachers, we probably have the best job on campus. (Apart from the science guys who like to blow things up, of course. But, we also get to blow things up. As long as there's a fire marshall and strict adherence to OHSA regulations, of course.)
    The other major thing that tends to blow up for the new theatre teacher is the question of time management, or priority setting, or, because I like strong visual metaphors and have a curious love of capitalization, what I call Managing Your Spinning Plates. And it really does feel more like, in the first few years of this position, you are essentially trying your best not to create too much breakage. But if some of those plates fall, it's really okay. Sometimes plates just spin out of control and make this dreadful crashing sound, and we learn from it (hopefully!).

    In the Western hemisphere referred to generally as North America and Europe, there is an increasingly burdensome pile of tasks for us to complete, and what works out as diminishing time to complete them in. As teachers in 2014, with the increased pressure of new Common or State Core Standards which are loved and loathed in equal measures and brand new, more rigourous demands on our students and on we, the educators, it can be hard to remember that yes, we too are human, and that without balance, the whole ensemble of our being is likely to fall apart. In plain English: there's a big pile of stuff on our desk, and we have less time to manage all of it.
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One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We plan to shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

Our latest Spotlight Member is Bryan Ringsted, troupe director of Troupe 7618 at Leigh High School in San Jose, CA, home of the world’s

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Well, I've gone to my official first thespian festival. 


Well the drive over may have been a little long, but I knew that it would be completely worth it. When I arrived on campus I was immediately put to work! I met up with Brianna Brooks (a thespian alumn) who helped to guide the STO to open up the festival with excitement and preparedness by doing the whole spiel of the rules for festival, introducing our guests, and then going to do connection circles. They were also very kind in letting me join the STO in their opening and letting me take a HUGE SELFIE (or rather a vine) WITH ALL OF THE MAINE THESPIANS!!! While also leading my own connection circle (and getting to know all of their spirit animals!).

I also took a picture with the STO (Feirce!)

Sadly I didn't have the opportunity to lead my advocacy workshop [u_u,], I still had the opportunity to do my leadership workshop! If I compare this session to the leadership workshop that I led in Michigan (which had about 80+ students), this time around you would consider it quite small... Okay quite
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It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the final day to register for the 2014 TOTS-EAT Campaign! I am anxious to witness the enormous difference our troupes are about to make in their hometown through this project! Please continue to feel free to reach out with any questions you may have concerning your troupe's collection efforts.

This month, we headed south to speak with 
The Atlanta Community Food Bank, located in Atlanta, Georgia. I had the privilege of speaking with Angie Clawson,  Public Relations Manager
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This past weekend I spent 3 days with the Oregon Thespians at their teacher conference, led by Scott Walker and the newly combined board of the Oregon Thespians and the Oregon Theatre Educators Association (OTEA). Oregon is a gem of a place, and this weekend was a gem for me in my EdTA journey.

The teacher conference included high school and middle school teachers from all over the state with a diverse mix of schools, EdTA members and nonmembers, veteran teachers and new teachers, and representatives from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Western Oregon University, the Oregon Alliance for Arts Education, and a Foundation in Seattle. I love the progressive thinking of the Oregon board as they go outside their circle and include a wider community to build their programs on a larger “stage.”    

If you think you are busy, you should take a look at what these guys do. In the past couple months -- all on a volunteer basis on top of their full time jobs and directing their plays -- they have led Camp Thespis for students, Leadership Summit for student leaders, an Improv Festival for high school and middle school students, this teacher conference, and are heading into their IE judges training day which occurs simultaneously in 3 cities and onto their regional competitions. The big state festival occurs in April. Their attendance continues to grow. I am especially encouraged by their growth in junior thespians and the inclusion of middle school students and teachers in these events.

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