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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Thank You Community Partners

Theatre Action Project (TAP) wrapped up National Volunteer Month in April. Along with thanking our volunteers, we’d like to thank some of our most important partners in the community.

Our community partners make TAP’s work possible. The work that we do to fulfill our mission of helping youth become creative artists, courageous allies, critical thinkers, and confident leaders would not be nearly as far-reaching or successful if we did not collaborate with like-minded organizations in Austin.

Special thanks to these partners for their commitments in the 2011-2012 school year:

AmeriCorps VISTA

Austin Community College

Austin, Del Valle, Eanes, Manor, and Round Rock ISDs

Ballet Austin

The Capital Area Food Bank

College Forward

Communities in Schools of Central Texas


El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission

Hands On Central Texas

KIPP Austin Collegiate

The Junior League of Austin

Texas Tower PR

The UT School of Public Health

The UT Volunteer and Service Learning Center

Thank you for making our year a success!

April Highlights at Theatre Action Project

Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble member Colton Gillum wrote “Dealing with Middle School Bullies.” The story was developed by Youth Radio for National Public Radio.

This photo shows Colton in a photo by Theatre Action Project.



Jessie Norriss, our wonderful jack of all trades and former Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble member, received the TAP Champion Volunteer Award. For a list of all of this year’s volunteer award winners who attended TAP’s Spring Open House in April, visit our Facebook photo page.


Happiness is creating a lantern with TAP at Art City Austin Fine Arts Festival. The lanterns were created for the Light/Holocaust project which concluded with a presentation on April 19 at the Dell Jewish Community Center. Theatre Action Project was one of many community partners collaboration on projects with Ballet Austin.

In April The Weinstin Company and Theatre Action Project presented a free screening of the documentary Bully by Lee Hirsch.  This shows the panel discussion and Q&A with Summor Elliott with Dr. Rebecca Bigler, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, Mel Waxler, General Counsel with the Austin Independent School District and TAP staff and students. Join the conversation about the film and bullying by clicking here.

The World As I See It

by Erik Weasenforth, Marketing Associate VISTA

Sometimes it seems like life is just one big movie. But is each and every one of our “movies” written or improvised? There are many instances in my life that seemed predetermined like a screenplay. One of the most improbable situations I’ve ever encountered was after I just made a new friend in 6th grade. We were going into a middle school the next year with a thousand other students in our grade yet we somehow ended up having our lockers right next to each other. Or, the time when I had a horrible professor in a college animation course who ended up leaving for the rest of the semester, only to be replaced by the coolest, most informative and helpful teacher I’d ever have.

All of these events make me feel like someone was guiding the reel of my film of life. I’m glad I got the opportunity to have these great friends and teachers in my experiences.

And my life’s film theme continues here at TAP. I recently visited the Film Club students at Del Valle Middle School. With the help of the talented Teaching Artist Marcelo Teson, from Theatre Action Project, I found out they are filming a documentary called Cardinal 1 (formerly known as Reach for the Stars), which will talk about how science is taught in schools and how kids in our schools think about science and space.

For the film they are working on:

  • interviewing students, teachers, and possibly an astronaut
  • launching a camera into space using a weather balloon rig.

The Del Valle Middle School Film Club had no way they could this on their own budget, so they started a Kickstarter campaign. The goal was to raise funds for their project in 60 days, but they got it within 72 hours! These students are showing us that they are capable of not only dreaming big, but achieving even bigger things, all because they were given the opportunities from others who cared.

Stay tuned for the posting of their movie on YouTube coming soon.

Hang in There

by Freddy Carnes, Artistic Associate

This time of year it is always challenging for all Theatre Action Project (TAP) Teaching Artists to “hang in there” and get the work done with the children that needs to be finished. This is my seventh year teaching for TAP and it doesn’t get much easier, you just get used to it. The children are challenging, whether it’s hormones or Spring Fever, and it takes all of your focus to remind them over and again about the rules and how to respect each other. Many times you second-guess yourself about the year’s plans and what was accomplished (“I planned to do a movie about how to be a courageous ally, confident leader, critical thinker and creative artist that should have already gone viral on YouTube by now! Where has the year gone?”) There is the constant influx and outgo of students because of tutoring for standardized testing. It’s hard to create a big project when you don’t know from day to day who will be in your classroom.

Despite all these worries and concerns, it is nice sometimes to think about what was accomplished. Sometimes it’s the “big” things which include:

  • Taught several classic stories that we adapted, rehearsed and performed
  • Wrote original songs and learned other songs to perform.
  • Played improv games and learned how to manipulate puppets.
  • Worked with shadow effects.
  • Used video as a learning tool to evaluate our performances.
  • Gave a safe place for shy actors to come out of their shell and outgoing actors to rein it in.
  • Our actors played Zeus, Odysseus, Athena, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Menelaus, Helen, Circe, The Cyclops, Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio, Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Hermia, Lysander, Helena, Demetrius, Bottom, Puck, Oberon and Titania.
  • Learned Shakespeare speeches and sang songs from the stories.

Sometimes it’s the “little” things that you remember like:

  • Waiting with the children during pick-up and making a silly face at them that makes them laugh
  • Having them ask you if they can help carry your supplies or take out the trash
  • Having some of them show you a book that they checked out of the library about “The Odyssey” or “Hamlet”.
  • Seeing children at the school, who are no longer in After School wave at you, smile and call your name.
  • Hearing the children from your class continue singing the song that you sang to them earlier as they are walking to recess.

It is after reflecting on these moments that you can charge forward and give your best until the last day of school.

Dealing With Middle School Bullies

Reblogged with permission from Youth Radio
Originally Posted by Youth Radio Editor on April 16, 2012 at 02:02pm

photo: trix0r/ BY-NC-SA

I’m Colton Gillum. I’m in the eighth grade.

I have blonde hair. I’m a blue eyed boy. I’m fairly tall. I’m 5’6”, maybe 5’5”. And I’ve been bullied.

Through middle school, I’ve learned you basically have to know who to mess with and who not to mess with. And to know that, you basically have to look around and see who is doing what. If someone is picking on a kid, you know ‘Oh, that guy’s a bully.’ Don’t mess with him.

What I’ve learned is how to maneuver between bullies. Every time someone bullies me in a hallway and they are coming after me, I just basically swivel through the crowd so they can’t see me anymore.

I was getting bullied one time in the seventh grade and this kid was running after me. So I went in a classroom and just hid there for like five minutes and the teacher gave me a pass to class.

I guess how I’m here today is the support from the program Changing Lives and my mother always telling me, “Just don’t go after him. He’s not important in your life. If he picks on you — not important. You just keep on going.”

I feel like people need to know what’s happening in middle schools. You get bullied and you don’t really tell anyone until the eighth grade. And you really can’t do anything about it. I want people to know that you have to tell someone what’s going on.

Make a friend before becoming a bully.

Colton Gillum, troupe member of the Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble. Photo by Theatre Action Project.

Join Theater Action Project for a conversation about bullying. Visit us at:

Bullying: An On-Going Topic of Discussion

by Mary Alice Carnes, Community Relations Director

At the microphone is Dr. Rebecca Bigler, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at the April 11th screening of the Bully documentary.

It can seem that the focus on bullying is new to some, but as we know it’s an issue that has been a discussion topic for as long as people have been, well, people. With the release of the new documentary Bully by Lee Hirsch, the topic is back in full force. Discussion groups are popping up everywhere the film plays. The Theatre Action Project screening of Bully two weeks ago drew a sold out crowd and the event afforded a great opportunity for parents, school administrators and TAP staff to talk about the film and what is being done locally about the problem of bullying. Last year Anderson Cooper at CNN did a series of panel discussions to talk about bullying, with the results of a CNN Anderson Cooper 360 study being conducted with sociologist Robert Faris.

Instead of the National Public Radio’s Fresh Air program on April 20, KUT FM Radio aired Teen Stories from Generation PRX. It was a full hour of teens sharing their stories about bullying from a teen perspective. To catch up with their stories, listen to their segments by visiting Teen Stories.

Even today as I drove to work at Theatre Action Project, NPR news ran a story on autism and bullying, Children with Autism are Often Targeted with Bullying. The story cites how children with autism can be special targets. Listen to this news piece to hear the journey of one autistic child’s experience.

What bullying stories are you hearing? We’d love to hear from you, especially if you want to join the conversation about bullying with Theatre Action Project and the community. To join the discussion, click here.

National Service Week: Celebrating Our Volunteers

by Katie Grills, Community Relations AmeriCorps VISTA

Annie Hsu, TAP Volunteer

I had an argument with my Humanities professor a few years ago. I’d trudged through much of the other 2 semesters of this required course, but my last semester was different. We had a professor that challenged us to apply philosophical ideas and principles to our own lives. For my final paper, I posited that my generation was more compelled to rise above selfish ambition than any other in recent memory, and that for every bit of negative press that existed, there was a positive action happening that countered it.

He used the Socratic method to challenge my opinion in the hope of strengthening my argument. “What about the growing disparity between the rich and poor? Is that not a reflection of the drive towards greed? If you believe that there is this huge movement towards serving others, then why do so many people characterize modern youth as lazy bums?” After talking over these arguments, doing some soul searching, and making a few edits for sound logic, I got an A on the paper and the rights to say I successfully rid my professor of any doubt that we are living in a time of giving.

Eraina Porras, Spring Break Camp Intern Volunteer

As I celebrate National Service Week here at Theatre Action Project (TAP), I have thousands of reasons to believe that my argument still rings true. They are:

  • The hours of time that our volunteers of every age have selflessly given to help youth in the Austin community (1,215 since August 2012 and counting, to be exact);
  • The smiles that our teaching artists and volunteers see at our after school programming; and 
  • The thousands of hours a month that TAP spends in classrooms across Central Texas to help our youth become creative artists, courageous allies, critical thinkers, and confident leaders in their communities.

    (l-r) Emily Watkins and Sharon Chin, Texas Tower PR volunteering with Tbeatre Action Project

Those thousands of TAP achievements are but a drop in the bucket of all the good that happens in our nation every day. We’re proud to do our part.

Elizabeth Gonzalez, TAP Summer Camp Assistant and Junior League Volunteer

We will celebrate the achievements and service of our amazing volunteers and committed community partners on Tuesday, April 24 at TAP’s Spring Open House. Please join us for rewards and fellowship with those who are keeping the light of service and positive action alive. Email me at to RSVP, or visit our Facebook Event Page to RSVP.