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Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Power of Theatre


by Patrick Torres, Middle and High School Program Director


For the past nine years I have been working as an arts educator and theatre director in Washington, D.C. Most recently, I was the Associate Artistic Director at Young Playwrights’ Theater teaching students to express themselves clearly and creatively through the art of playwriting. During my time in D.C., I had the opportunity to work with incarcerated youth, the homeless community, and students from all over the world to create original plays. And while I will always cherish each of those experiences, I can say without question, “It is good to be home.”

I was born and raised in Odessa, TX. Shockingly, it was there that I got my first taste of the power of theatre. I confess that I committed the worst sin in West Texas – I quit playing football the year before I turned varsity to join the drama club! At the end of my senior year, I directed a controversial play called Loyalties by Murphy Guyer. The play confronts audiences’ perspectives on patriotism and war, and it caused a stir when it was finally performed. Some parents were so angry about the content of the play that they did not want their children to be friends with me any longer. My reaction was,

“Wow. I can’t believe directing a play has infuriated people this way…I want to do this for the rest of my life!”

Now that I am a little more mature, I recognize that what was so exciting about that experience in high school was seeing the power of art to lead people to examine their thoughts, perspectives and beliefs.

  • Theatre requires us to sit in a room together and wrestle with our own preconceptions of social issues, morals, and personal choices.

  • It can teach us empathy, conflict resolution and critical thinking.

  • And it can inspire us to take action to create the kind of world we want to live in by sparking civic dialogue and encouraging social change.

For these reasons, I believe it is critical that every young person is exposed to the arts throughout their lives. The lessons taught by participation in the arts equip our youth with the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century.

Theatre Action Project is preparing students for the future by letting them know that their voices have power and their experiences and imaginations have the potential to change the world around them. I am humbled to be a part of the team and look forward to all of the youth I will have the privilege of teaching. I look forward to hearing their stories and seeing the difference they will make in their communities.

Join us at our Youth Arts Festival on May 21st to see what our students have been up to! See you there!

How Can A Mistake Turn Into A Masterpiece?

by Amanda Davis, Marketing Associate VISTA

“I made a mistake; can I have a new sheet”
“If you make a mistake, fix it”
“Huh?”

These were the words exchanged more than 18 years ago between my first art teacher, Mrs. Maupin, and I in my kindergarten classroom. At 5 years old, I was told to take my mistake and fix it, to make it into something else, to create a masterpiece out of it. These words have stuck with me all my life and I have not only done my art by this but I have also lived my life this way. This teacher paved my way for the art world. She taught me to look at art not as just another slide of a paintbrush or a stroke of charcoal, but instead to see each piece through the artist’s eyes. I fell in love with art that day and have never since gone back.

Working here at Theatre Action Project, I have had the opportunity to see so many people take something and make it into a masterpiece, whether it be our mural outside or taking a book and making it into a magnificent play. It is wonderful to see people use their imagination and take it to others. By working at TAP I am getting the opportunity to surround myself with people that can take what others call a piece of junk and turn it into a beautiful masterpiece, to take a mistake and fix it.

What are some memories that you remember from your art teachers growing up? Is there something that has stuck with you?

Colorful Accomplishments

By: Dustin Wills, Programming Specialist

Last Friday, the TAP After School Elementary Team had a marvelous training at the Terrazas Library. One of the activities during the training was the creation of a mural that displayed all the things our teaching artists had accomplished in their classes this year. The mural ran all the way across the training room and our teaching artists filled every last space on it with pictures of Greek drama, large scale puppets, movie titles, quotes, playwriting processes, class titles… and the list goes on.

It was a really neat way to look at all the different types of a programs we offer in elementary after school, as well as all the various skills that our teachers bring to the table. Thank you to our teaching artists for all you have done during this past semester!

Saving the Earth

by Kelly Schiller, Community Relations VISTA

In light of Earth Day, I feel it is imperative to reflect on the ways that Theatre Action Project so creatively integrates environmental consciousness into our daily practices and programming.

We rely on donated supplies for most of our programming which inevitably enables TAP to maintain a light ecological footprint. In this state of receptivity, we can’t be picky and choosy. That’s when we thank the universe that we are artists; embracing the craft component of the notion arts and crafts.

I see the teaching artists come into the supply area daily and stand there with hands on hips, scratching heads, eyes glazed as the right brain begins storming. Aha! They start to grab here and there, above and below, collecting the oddest assortment of materials. I wonder, “What on Earth could they be creating this time?” Before I know it, a masterpiece is complete; created entirely out of salvaged materials.

Just the other day Lilly Hollingsworth, one of our Teaching Artists, came in to prepare for her class. I watched her transform a massive, worn, orange comforter into 15 ant costumes for her classes’ upcoming play. A blue beanie and yarn that was knotted beyond knitting use, which would have been tossed in the trash by many, was turned into a magnificent, wearable, lion’s mane. The ingenuity of the teaching artists to create the infinite from any material is inspiring, and so simple. Creative resourcefulness is something anyone can do. This is the beauty of what they teach to their students each and every day; empowering their students to embody the craft of being an artist.

We thank the many organizations and individuals who have so graciously donated materials to Theatre Action Project and for practicing re-use rather than contributing to the already full, unsustainable, and polluting landfill system.

15 ideas for re-using simple household items:

1. Reuse old plastic bags. There are 10 creative ways to reuse plastic bags here.

2. Reuse paper bags as school book covers, or be a little more creative with these ideas.

3. Reuse pens and art supplies by donating them to Theatre Action Project.

4. Reuse your old food scraps by composting them.

5. Reuse your used margarine and butter tubs by cleaning them and keeping them for leftovers (free Ziploc containers!).

6. Reuse the stuffing from old pillows and comforters into new items like puppets. Reuse the pillow covers for rags.

7. Reuse newspaper, interesting magazines, and other paper products by using them as wrapping paper.

8. Reuse your old paint by finding things to paint in your home, touch up, or donate it to Theatre Action Project.

9. Reuse your old toilet paper rolls.

10. Make a piece of artwork with your old metal cans.

11. Reuse Popsicle sticks with these ingenious, crafty ideas.

12. Even bicycle tires can be reused.

13. There are at least five ways you can reuse your old drinking straws.

14. There are some creative things you can do with old metal pie pan plates.

15. Reuse your old CDs and DVDs.
Ideas provided by Squidoo.

What are some items that you have created using recycled materials?

Happy Earth Day!

By Sarah Rinner, Elementary School Program Director

As the weather grows steadily warmer and the end of the school year gets closer, we are all thinking of summer. Growing up in the countryside of Iowa, Earth Day always made me look forward to summer vacation days spent between the swimming pool and the woods around my house. I don’t think I wore shoes from June to September until I was in junior high (yes, my middle school was ‘junior high’!).
Now spring is my time to reminisce on my favorite childhood experiences, when I collaborated with family and friends to stage our own plays and stories in inspiration of the collaborative and arts-based experiences we provide to youth in our summer camps. So take time today to kick off your shoes, dig your toes into the dirt, and look forward to summertime fun!
What were some of your favorite Earth Day Activities growing up? Did you ever stage your own creative plays? If so, what were they about?