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Monthly Archives: November 2008

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Last Sunday, Theatre Action Project worked with 200 youth during two creative arts workshops hosted by TAP in conjunction with the Paramount Theatre’s showing of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The kids made some great caterpillars, parents were excited about the activity, and we were able to talk a little bit about what Theatre Action Project does.

Another welcomed surprise was the number of volunteers interested in this opportunity. We were fortunate to have volunteers high school aged to recently retired and the Texas Pre-Dental Society, College Forward, and AmeriCorps members in attendance.

Before each show began, an announcement was made about TAP (what we do and our website) and there was huge applause at that time. Pretty special! TAP will be back at the Paramount in the Spring for two more arts-based workshops. Come check us out!

TAP Volunteer Highlight

Julia Swearer, a senior at The Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) High School taking a Research Practicum course, chose Theatre Action Project as her Practicum location. She is focused on writing socially aware curricula and gaining marketing skills. Julia is working with staff from TAP and the Texas State History Museum to write a 3-day curriculum on immigration, as well as looking at ways for TAP to raise its profile in the community. Julia is a mature, talented student. We are pleased to get to enjoy her company in the office twice a week!

Linda Ho Peche, Texas State History Museum (left)
Julia Swearer, TAP volunteer (right)


TAP’s Annual Fundraising Drive

As we collectively face new challenges and new opportunities in our national arena, we are reminded that we have a unique opportunity to come together as a society and make the world a better place for all. We at TAP have been consistently approaching our work with children through the power of the arts and education to do just that. Organizations like TAP need you now more than ever. There are many ways you can make a difference, even with a little time or a little money. Please keep reading.

When you think back to your childhood, what do you remember from 4th grade? If you are like most people, you remember the special things: field trips, guests in the classroom, school plays and assemblies. Theatre Action Project is that special and memorable experience for thousands of young people every year. Years after visiting schools, kids see our incredible teaching artists in grocery stores and at the pool and tell them they still remember the funny songs, the characters and the role-play activities that helped them learn how to stop bullying or how to get along with friends or to stand up against injustice. What we do sticks with kids. It is important work and fills a critical need in the community.

Schools and families are hungry for our unique and engaging plays and classes that successfully address some of the toughest issues young people face today: bullying, conflict, prejudices, dating violence, and low self-esteem. People want our theatre and art-based programs in their communities because they know they make an impact, they are fun, and through them young people get a desperately needed opportunity to express themselves. Our programs give kids the skills and confidence they need to succeed. And, we always leave the kids smiling and wanting to learn even more.

Yet, funding constraints on schools leave them with little to no funds for special and important programs like Theatre Action Project. We turn away schools every single day because there simply isn’t enough funding to fill the demand.

Can you please join us to play your part in the action and help us to use the magic and joy of theatre and the creative arts to educate even more young people?

You can help in a few different ways:

Make a tax-deductible donation. Even $10 will help.

If each of you donate $10, we will have enough money to meet our goal for the year and can provide over 10,000 hours of programs to area schools.
Don’t you want to say you helped make that happen?

Buy us something on our Wish List.
The more you buy for us, the more money we can save from our supply budget to help subsidize our school programs.

Volunteer your time to help us!
We value our incredible team of volunteers who work alongside our staff and teaching artists to help improve the lives of young people every day.
Be one of them.

And, if you work for a business, please inquire to see if they have matching programs for either your gift or your time.

Thank you and please consider making even a small donation today. You will be helping to make something really special happen in an area school.

Visit us online!


Karen LaShelle
Executive and Artistic Director
Theatre Action Project

TAP Volunteer Highlight

Cheri Horner, weekly volunteer at T.A. Brown Elementary School’s after school program, has been taking volunteering to the next level. Not only is she a fantastic volunteer—engaging, warm, and enthusiastic, but she went above and beyond her commitment by joining the after-school class at this past weekend’s Dia de los Muertos march in downtown Austin. She spent her Saturday evening being a zombie with the students and learning the Thriller dance.

Here she is getting Zombie-fied by one of the kids.

Thanks, Cheri, for all you do!!!

What the world of Arts Education could look like with President Obama

We here at TAP are pretty excited about the election of President Obama. Ok, we are estatic. Now, we do not promote any sort of political agenda, of course, but we are thrilled that the very work we do throughout the community is supported by Barack Obama’s platform and the country will hopefully see increased funding for arts education and a renewed understanding of the importance of art in our schools. Here is Obama’s platform on the arts:

Our nation’s creativity has filled the world’s libraries, museums, recital halls,movie houses, and marketplaces with works of genius. The arts embody the American spirit of self-definition. As the author of two best-selling books – Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama uniquely appreciates the role and value of creative expression.

Reinvest in Arts Education: To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children’s creative skills. In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education. Unfortunately, many school districts are cutting instructional time for art and music education.

Barack Obama believes that the arts should be a central part of effective teaching and learning. The Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts recently said “The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society.” To support greater arts education, Obama will:

Expand Public/Private Partnerships Between Schools and Arts Organizations:
Barack Obama will increase resources for the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants, which develop public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations. Obama will also engage the foundation and corporate community to increase support for public/private partnerships.

Create an Artist Corps:
Barack Obama supports the creation of an “Artists Corps” of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. Studies in Chicago have demonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

Publicly Champion the Importance of Arts Education:
As president, Barack Obama will use the bully pulpit and the example he will set in the White House to promote the importance of arts and arts education in America. Not only is arts education indispensable for success in a rapidly changing, high
skill, information economy, but studies show that arts education raises test scores in other subject areas as well.

Support Increased Funding for the NEA:
Over the last 15 years, government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been slashed from $175 million annually in 1992 to $125 million today. Barack Obama supports increased funding for the NEA, the support of which enriches schools and neighborhoods all across the nation and helps to promote the economic development of countless communities.

Promote Cultural Diplomacy:

American artists, performers and thinkers – representing our values and ideals can inspire people both at home and all over the world. Through efforts like that of the United States Information Agency, America’s cultural leaders were deployed around the world during the Cold War as artistic ambassadors and helped win the war of ideas by demonstrating to the world the promise of America. Artists can be utilized again to help us win the war of ideas against Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, our resources for cultural diplomacy are at their lowest level in a decade. Barack Obama will work to reverse this trend and improve and expand public-private partnerships to expand cultural and arts exchanges throughout the world.

Attract Foreign Talent:

The flipside to promoting American arts and culture abroad is welcoming members of the foreign arts community to America. Opening America’s doors to students and professional artists provides the kind of two-way cultural understanding that can break down the barriers that feed hatred and fear. As America tightened visa restrictions after 9/11, the world’s most talented students and artists, who used to come here, went elsewhere. Barack Obama will streamline the visa process to return America to its rightful place as the world’s top destination for artists and art students.

Provide Health Care to Artists:
Finding affordable health coverage has often been one of the most vexing obstacles for artists and those in the creative community. Since many artists work independently or have non-traditional employment relationships, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach. Barack Obama’s plan will provide all Americans with quality, affordable health care. His plan includes the creation of a new public program that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health care similar to that available to federal employees. His plan also creates a National Health Insurance Exchange to reform the private insurance market and allow Americans to enroll in participating private plans, which would have to provide comprehensive benefits, issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums. For those who still cannot afford coverage, the government will provide a subsidy. His health plan will lower costs for the typical American family by up to $2,500 per year.

Ensure Tax Fairness for Artists:
Barack Obama supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Act amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow artists to deduct the fair market value of their work, rather than just the costs of the materials, when they make charitable contributions.

Cell Phone Zombies

Mikala Gibson, TAP’s Artistic Associate and teaching artist extraordinaire, recently made a short film with her after school class at Ojeda Middle School in Del Valle Independent School District. photos courtesy of Edward Pierce

Cell Phone Zombies, a short horror film doubling as a public service announcement, is about zombies that attack students who break school rules and use their cell phones at school. While Mikala is proud to have facilitated the story and help put everything together, she can’t take credit, as it was 100% the Ojeda students’ idea. The Ojeda principal, Timica Patton, attended the premiere during the after school program on Thursday, October 30th. Applauding the students’ work, she decided to show the film to the entire student body during advisory period on Halloween. The students were ecstatic and can’t wait to begin work on their next film on perfect attendance.

Group photo shot at Ojeda Middle School

Zombies in action