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Monthly Archives: November 2010

New Stages:New Faces and New Challenges bring about New Results

News Stages, a TAP Program that works with juvenile offenders has just started back up again. To get a glimpse of what the year may have in store, check out Teaching Artist Andy Dolan’s experience of working with the young men in the facility over the past year.

We had our first group performance in February and my second group just finished their performance this fall. Over the past few months I’ve worked with this unit of boys to create a performance night of poetry and hip hop.

After cycling through different types of performance in my sessions with the boys, I found that poetry and hip-hop resonated with them. Soon, our sessions were ending with a ‘pass the mic’, where we’d sit around in a circle and freestyle to hip hop instrumentals I’d bring in, and our writing time was focused on crafting poetic images. Since our performance was going to be during Parent Group, the gentlemen decided that our theme should be “Letters to Mom.”

Parents Group was a gathering of parents and family members for the unit of boys. Eight young men, using a mix of hip hop and poetry, expressed individual letters to their mothers. They recounted hard times of growing up without a father, or a father’s drug and abusive streak. They spoke from the heart about events where they strayed from the family, and denied their families love and support. The performance ended with apologies for the hurt they’ve caused as a son and shared their visions of the future, many times including in the song how they plan to restart their relationship with their mother.

It was an amazing act of courage for these young men to not only stand up in front of a room and share their hip hop expressions, but to use that performance as a vehicle to heal wounded relationships with some of the people they care about the most. There were tears among the families. After the performance there were hugs and more tears. We sat down as a group and, using the performance as an example of communication, we had a touching conversation about how families can open pathways of communication between parents and their sons using different mediums of expression. One adult observed that the evening’s performance was a rare occurrence for himself, because it’s not that often where he’ll just sit and just listen wholly to all of what the child is saying.

Teaching Artist, Andrew Lee Dolan

Educating Teens About Domestic Violence

Carolyn Mosley, founder of The Ortralla LuWone Mosley Foundation, is part of Theatre Action Project’s Advisory Council, and was recently interviewed on KEYE-TV.

After her daugter, Ortralla was killed in a domestic violence situation, Carolyn made it her mission to educate teens and parents about the warning signs of abusive relationships to hopefully prevent others from facing what her daughter did.

“If you respect yourself first, you are always going to love you and when you love you, you are never going to let someone come in and break that,” Carolyn said.

Her foundation works with many local groups to educate teens about domestic violence. One such group is the Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, a group that writes and performs plays that cover themes such as domestic violence and un-healthy relationships.

Click here to watch a recent documentary on Changing Lives and learn more about what they do for the community.

To learn more about Carolyn’s story, as well as other resources for students and parents, please go to

What programs have you heard of that help young people in cultivating healthy relationships with one another? We would love to hear what organizations you are or have been a part and/or have heard of that help address this important issue.

Babies, Bullying, and finding the Empathy.

Fighting Bullying with Babies? Now this may seems like a new concept, but not to Mary Gordon, an educator who founded Roots Empathy, a seriously proactive parent education program – one that would begin when the mothers- and fathers-to-be were in kindergarten.

The program runs from kindergarten to 7th grade and involves pre visits, baby visits and post visits. The baby seems to work as a “heart softening magnet.” Mary herself says that the program is a “launch pad for them to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. It carries over to the rest of the class.”

Click here to read the rest of this wonderful article, authored by David Bornstein. Author of “How to Change the World,” which has been published in 20 languages, and “The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank,” and is co-author of “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know.” He is the founder of, a media site that reports on social innovation.

Youth Theatre Arts Symposium: A Success!

On Saturday, November 13th Theatre Action Project hosted their second annual Youth Arts Symposium at ACC’s Eastview Campus. Throughout the day students travelled between three classes: Theatre, Dance and Film. I began the day with TAP Teaching Artist and improv extraordinaire, Caitlin Swahn. The group was nervous during the first warm-up exercises; everyone seemed a little shy about jumping right in. We spent an hour with Caitlin playing name games, throwing imaginary objects around the room, acting like we were on a sinking ship and loosening up our creative muscles! At the end of the hour everyone was laughing, talking, and trading jokes with their new friends.

The original cliques made up of familiar classmates began changing into a united group as we made our way to Film class. There we met Teaching Artists Moeke Crider, Maganthrie Pillay, and Marcelo Teson. We quickly made our introductions then divided into two groups to film our Public Service Announcements (PSA). The topics varied but all showed how kids can change the world. Our PSA was a lot of fun to make and Maganthrie had so many great suggestions. She gave one student control over the camera, directing and placing shots, while everyone else took a turn in front of the lens. Near the end of our hour in Film class the cell phones began to come out and I knew it was time for lunch. Everyone gathered around the tables, taking the opportunity to mingle with their new friends. We even celebrated one student’s birthday with an enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

Our final class of the day was Dance with TAP Teaching Artist Rhianon Renae. Everyone was full of energy after lunch so we dove right in with trust exercises. We divided into groups of two, with one partner leading the other around the room with eyes closed. We also molded each other into statues, learned a short dance, and choreographed our own dance routines. There was one small Rootbeer explosion, but the rest of the afternoon was very productive and fun! At the end of the day we all gathered together to watch the finished PSAs (quickly and lovingly edited by Marcelo), then closed with an enthusiastic thank you to the TAP staff! I was so happy walking home from ACC and will definitely attend the Youth Arts Symposium next fall!

What are all the different ways that kids can change the world? Share your comments here or on our Facebook Page!

Children with asthma have high risk to be victim of bullying

According to a report by MedPage Today, which was republished on, one in 10 children with asthma will experience bullying or teasing related to it. Other common grievances by children with asthma worldwide were their limited participation in sports and the changing of family habits.

This research included children from Canada, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Britain, and South Africa.

Have you or any children you know faced bullying because of asthma or a similar illness? Please share your comments, stories and advice in the comments section or on our Facebook Page.

Read the Full article

A Message From Cassie Swazye, TAP’s New VISTA After School Program Associate

I joined Theatre Action Project (TAP) this week as their After School Program Associate, supporting the Teaching Artists in the TAP After School (TAPAS) programs, and as TAP’s third AmeriCorps VISTA member. In 2008 I received a BA in Arts Administration with a focus on community based fine arts programming. My background, arts education, and lifelong service history led me to TAP and AmeriCorps VISTA. I participated in a variety of after school programs throughout elementary, middle, and high school.

TAP’s mission appealed to me as an adult who found her own voice through fine arts. I spent four years participating in the Loop Press program at Whitworth University, experiencing firsthand the positive effect diverse voices have on the artistic approach.

Not only does TAP encourage creativity in Austin’s schools and neighborhoods, but it supports the city’s community of working artists and performers.

My goals as TAP’s After School Program Associate are to:
• Encourage TA’s to connect with each other;
• Share their experiences as educators, and
• Grow together to make TAP’s programming even stronger.

If you’re at TAP volunteer, family member, Teaching Artist, board member, supporter, or VISTA volunteer, I invite you to send me your thoughts as I begin my TAP journey. What suggestions do you have for me as I begin? I’d love to hear from you.

Join Cassie Swayze at TAP’s Youth Arts Symposium, Saturday, November 13 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the ACC Eastview Campus, 3401 Webberville Rd Austin, TX 78756. The Youth Theatre Symposium is an opportunity for middle and high school students in Austin to participate in creative workshops taught by local theater professionals. FREE event, open to all community. Check out our blog from other TAP VISTA volunteers by clicking here.

T.A.P. into Your Self Esteem!

T.A.P. into Your Self Esteem!

This video shows 7th and 10th grade girls from Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders singing an original song they wrote called:

“Don’t Let the Pictures Fool You”

This performance was at Thunderbird Coffee House on Manor Rd on Tuesday November 9, 2010.

The song is all about promoting positive self esteem and body acceptance in young women of all ages!

T.A.P into Your Self Esteem is supported by Theatre Action Project and facilitated by Jenn Hartmann, Amy Downing, and Christena Rutz.