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Back in February, I received an exciting call from Jim Palmarini, who told me that I had won the Educational Theatre Association’s nationwide Democracyworks essay contest. As a result, I would have the chance to deliver my essay at Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

My trip to Washington, D.C., this March was the thrill of a lifetime. A highlight of the trip was lobbying on Capitol Hill for a cause that means so much to me, arts education. It was both fun and educational to enter the Senate and the House of Representatives to explain the importance of the arts. While I was missing my government class in school, I was witnessing government in action in our nation’s capitol!

So many other aspects of National Arts Advocacy Day were equally exhilarating – from talking to other arts advocates, to learning about the issues, to listening to Maureen Dowd’s incredible lecture at the Kennedy Center, to hearing from members of Congress who support the arts, to meeting Alec Baldwin.

One of the best parts of my experience was reading my essay to the general assembly. In my speech, I explained that I wrote a children’s book, Once Upon a Masterpiece: An Art History Adventure

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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 first Spotlight Member is Scott Piehler, troupe director of Troupe 6745 at Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn, GA. He’s been a positive presence in the Community, offering prompt and helpful advice and opinions on a range of topics, including technical theatre, play selection and advocacy. I asked Scott to answer a few questions for us so we could learn a little more about him.            

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I believe in making our presence known with the professional theatre companies in our regions. If the company has an education department, I think we can be a partner with sharing the value and benefit of sequential, standards-based Theatre education for Pre-K through high school students. 
The professional and regional theatre companies should be looking to us for more than just "selling tickets to our students." They need to recognize what we do to educate their future professionals and appreciative audiences. They can be a valuable link to schools to careers training and internships for our students to work alongside the professionals.
In the April edition of AMERICAN THEATRE, the Executive Director writes an article entitled "Theatre Is the Common Core."
She states, "Theatre has a unique kind of power to cultivate hearts and minds. Its absence in schools reflects an absence of commitment on all our parts to the imaginations of future generations."

I hope that each Theatre educator has made a vital connection with a nearby professional theatre company.
The benefits can be wonderful for educators and students. I also see that we can partner with them when we need help with legislators to adopt the new national standards. 
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After four years of teaching 9th graders the English curriculum, and having just put to bed another hodge-podge attempt at teaching Romeo & Juliet  within the confines of a mandated, academic curriculum that allows as much room for dramatics as there is room for someone to say 'I object' at the appropriate time at a wedding, I turned in my 'Subject Requests for next year form' and sighed dejectedly, expecting to return to the same curriculum and content the following year. 

When my department head instead emailed me, and told me she needed to see me in her office, I immediately panicked. What did I do now? Had another student complained about the content of Romeo & Juliet? (The previous year, a male student had reported that the material was offensive. Well, specifically, Leonard Whiting's posterior in the Zeffirelli version was offensive, apparently. Bless.) No, not this time. I emailed back, trying to feel her out: is it bad? Was I in trouble? My department head is amazing: "Just come see me." As I dropped everything I was doing, and started walking to her office, I wondered if she might be worth inviting out to a poker night: she wasn't giving away
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Two Iowa Chapter Board members, Elizabeth Hansen, and myself, attended National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, in March. The whole experience was enlightening, and valuable, and gave us insight and skills that we have brought back to our own chapter.

Normally, Iowa would have a contingency representing several arts organizations, but this year it was up to Iowa Thespians to have a presence. We arranged all our own congressional appointments in advance, attended the training on Monday, and spent the day Tuesday meeting with congressional aides to discuss issues that directly relate to arts education. Along with the ITO from Grinnell, Sara Etheridge, we made our rounds between Iowa's representative's offices.

Many thanks to Jim Palmarini from EdTA who was supportive and instructional as we learned the process. With his help, Iowa Thespians felt it to be a successful venture on many levels. Our goals for the future include being more highly involved in advocacy issues with our state's organizations, and to attend and support the advocacy events in our state, and future national events. We realize the importance of being involved at local, state and national levels, and now have some skills with which to move forward.
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It has now been two weeks since the day I traveled to Washington D.C. for my very first National Arts Advocacy Day experience. Two weeks has given me plenty of time to relax, reflect- and view the impact this event had on me. I can truly say that it has shaped me in the best way possible as a leader, advocate, and human being.

On that Monday, the ITOs and many other advocates from across the nation were trained for Tuesday. We got to sit through many lectures about the arts and their impact on many different parts of our society today. Being highly involved in the arts since the 6th grade, I thought I realized all of the impacts that the arts could make... But just in this one day, I learned so much more about this simple and beautiful interest that I've had for the majority of my life. My eyes were opened about the arts' impact on health, education, employment, and so much more. The facts were outstanding- facts that I knew would be useful not only the next day, but also when I got back to Cincinnati. 

In addition to learning countless facts, I learned so much about myself by attending this event. I learned how much the stories I've heard this year have meant to me. How, without the arts, I would have still be a really shy kid that's afraid to tackle any opportunity she may want. The greatest thing I learned about myself, though, was that it made so much sense that I want to pursue chemistry education after being so involved in the arts. The arts have expanded my mind into a world that longs for constant discovery, creativity, ingenuity, and more. Science, oddly enough, goes hand in hand with the arts because of its ability to make us think and not be afraid of trial and error.
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High School Theatre is for rich schools.”

 

I was actually told that – by a PRINCIPAL – when I went in to talk about spending a day in his school & asked why there wasn't a Theatre program.

 

And it isn't the first or only time I've heard comments like that.

 

As I travel, I've learned that in regions with a higher concentration of Title I schools, many schools have music programs, maybe fine art programs, but often not Theatre programs. If an area is fortunate, there will be a Magnet School for Arts that kids can apply to attend part-time. But the past month it has been near to impossible to find the kind of Theatre programs I want to visit. So many of these schools have shifted curricular focus to accommodate for repairing low test scores - accommodations which often result in losses of arts.

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Howard Sherman, former executive director of the American Theatre Wing who is now a business consultant, writer, and passionate advocate for educational theatre, summed up an April 2 hearing on a school play cancellation in Plaistow, New Hampshire in a tweet.

“How does a high school show get canceled over complaints about content, and then no one comes forward to voice complaints?” he wrote.

Administrators in New Hampshire’s Timberlane School District had scheduled the hearing to provide for community comment on their decision to cancel the scheduled 2015 production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Timberlane Regional High School. Of the dozens of speakers among the 150 people who attended the hearing, only the administrators supported the cancellation. Their position: the musical is “too dark” and unsuitable for family audiences.

Laura Lingar, a senior at Timberlane, responded to that argument in a way that might have been enlightening to school officials about what students learn in theatre. She’s planning to train as a firefighter when she graduates and is already enrolled in an EMT class. She recently worked her first shift in the field, and she said her school theatre experiences helped her get through a hard night.

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A glorious day in Washington: Arts Advocacy Day 2014  

This week was really important in Cincinnati, the home of the national EdTA office. Baseball season started with a parade and gloriously sunny day. The home team lost, but that was a minor detail—we didn’t win the battle but maybe we’ll win the war of 162 games. And that makes me think of what took place the previous week in Washington, D.C.—Arts Advocacy Day 2014. In that glorious event (not so sunny, but it didn’t matter) several hundred arts advocates from throughout the country converged on our nation’s capitol for two days of training and visits to legislators’ offices to “make the ask” on behalf of arts and arts education. Among the advocates we’re twenty-two members from the Educational Theatre Association—both students and adults—from nine states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.  The group included the entire

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Welcome to the EdTA Advocacy Update

 

April 3, 2014 edition

 

The Advocacy Update is where you can find state and national news about theatre and other arts education

 

EdTA NEWS

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Since we have the good fortune of hosting the 2014 EdTA National Conference right here in our hometown, the EdTA staff was excited to be able to share some of our favorite places. Check out the recommendations below for the most unique spots and tips for some of the main attractions!

Clare Jaymes: My three favorite places to eat in Cincinnati are Taste of Belgium (it’s really fun if you get it at Findlay Market on Saturday Mornings), Bakersfield, and Tom and Chee.


Jim Curtis:

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Hello! 

I just got an e-mail yesterday from a student interested in running for an ITO position. I thought that her questions were really valuable, and wanted to share not only the questions but the answers! Hopefully, this will help to shed some more light on becoming/ being an ITO for anyone who is interested! Please feel free to post any more questions below, or e-mail us directly! 


  1. When is the national thespian festival?
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So, this past weekend was my second time participating in Arts Advocacy Day, an event hosted each spring in Washington, D.C. by American for the Arts (http://www.americansforthearts.org). My second year was just as exciting as my first, but brought to mind, and put in perspective, my experience last year.

Before I attended last year, I had heard a lot about the event and been told by others who had attended that I had to attend. They all said, “You have to attend Arts Advocacy Day.” So I went to Washington last year and was excited to learn about advocacy. The learning sessions were relevant and fact-filled and detailed. Training lasted an entire day (but was followed immediately with a performance at the Kennedy Center by Yo - Yo Ma). Experts presented lots of research and lots of statistics and lots of numbers. For a person who believes himself to be number dyslectic, I was simply overwhelmed. It was all convincing information, but outside of my ability to remember and use it fluently, like so many of the other advocates. I felt unprepared.

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This past Sunday, the six ITO and several other members of EdTA traveled to Washington DC to take part in the annual Arts Advocacy Day. The day is an opportunity for representatives of the state's arts organizations to meet with members of congress and enlighten them on the importance of funding the arts. Some representatives are in favor of appropriating funds for the arts, and some are not. This is our opportunity to provide facts, figures, and passion to help sway those that are opposed to it.

After a day of training and info sessions, we hit Capitol Hill to meet with the reps. As I'm from St. Louis, I was with the Missouri squad for the day. Our delegation was pretty small, about 5 or 6, so we all stayed together rather than dividing and conquering. Along with us was Keelly Jones, a speech contest winner with the Missouri Arts Alliance and, ironically, one of Missouri's STOs for next year. We had four meetings throughout the day. All four were with the representative's staff, as they are very busy and were not able to attend. One of the meetings was in Senator Roy Blunt's office, and the other three were with district Congressmen/women.

Ultimately, the Arts
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My short stay in Washington was amazing.  Above all I realized that in Nevada we need to invest in this event for our state.  I believe that it is essential for our Senators and Representatives to hear the voice of our students.  I learned a lot of facts and figures about the state of the arts with the budget cuts, but the voice of D'Andre Carter our STO and ITO Region I representative is the voice that made a difference to our congress men and women.

Most importantly our Senators and Congress men and women need to hear the stories from our students about how their lives are being affected and changed by the opportunities they've had in theatre and the arts in education.  We actually got to talk to three out of six of those we had appointments with.  It was very interesting to talk with the aides of others.  These young men and women who are the aides and spokespeople of our senators and congressmen are very eloquent and I was surprised to hear how many of them have had some kind of public speaking or theatre backgrounds! 

Although we might not think it makes a difference, I believe the more we ask for what we want and need regarding funding in the arts the more likely they will be to listen...  especially if the voice is that of our students. 
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I was honored to attend the Nevada State Conference last weekend.  During the course of the weekend, I saw outstanding student work, high quality guest artists and workshop leaders, and a state board that was just enjoying the heck out of themselves!  (It's also worth mentioning that, even though fire alarms went off again and again in the middle of IE's and a guest artist's performance, the entire delegation rolled with it, and got right back into action when we were cleared to re-enter campus.)

Here are some particularly steal-worthy things that Nevada is doing:
All STO candidates wore Mickey ears (in line with the festival theme) - this made them easy to spot throughout the weekend, and helped the board to recognize their work, facilitating the election conversation. 
A local artist writes and directs an hour-long Opening Number, which was performed by students from across the state.  They rehearsed the day before festival started, and performed for the delegation during the first all festival assembly.  The number was an original script that parodied several well known musicals (Les Mis, Annie, Legally Blonde...).
The festival was mostly paperless; delegates used Guidebook to explore their workshop options.  Paper schedules were posted in a central location.
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Support the. Relative economy through federal programs and actions
Many program arts are eligible, but lack support
There are grant programs out there.
The NEA supports but there are other Federal Programs out there.
Senator Tom Udall - legislation to support the creative industries, recognize the power of the creative communities.
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What do we say? Use the materials and make an honest statement. Tell our story. I have seen how the arts change lives. We have a new project with no funding our All State Show. Offering a new opportunity for students. So, what I need to do is decide what is most important to ask in the short minute or two that we have. D'Andre is the perfect example of how theatre has changed a life!
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So excited to be here! A little exhausted after a 4-day Nevada State Conference but ready to learn how to put into action new ways to advocate for the arts in Nevada! Tomorrow is day 1. Lots more to come😃
Day one:
I feel a little overwhelmed like I know nothing about how to approach the congressional leaders to get them to understand the importance of the arts in education. They say to tell our "story"... Oh dear there are so many ways theatre has changed my students lives... But is one students story enough?
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Successful Theatre Teachers: Connect with Kids


The “awards” wall...I know that when I walk into a teacher's classroom or office or teaching space & see a wall filled with student photos, letters from kids, handmade cards emblazoned with “THANK YOU” or “YOU ARE THE BEST DIRECTOR EVER”, or funky objects (shakespeare figures, fuzzy bookmarks, pins/stickers, show memorabilia, etc) - I know I have walked into the room of an educator who has connected with her/his students.

The “hanger-outers”...I know that when I walk into a teacher's classroom or office or teaching space before school or between classes or during lunch or after school and see kids hanging out on the floor or on the couch or on the teacher's desk...I know I have walked into the room of an educator who has connected with her/his students.

 

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