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Monthly Archives: August 2012

What I Learned About Taking Photos at TAP Camp

by Erik Weasenforth, Marketing Associate VISTA

This summer, I developed my photography skills over eight weeks of Theatre Action Project (TAP) Summer Camp. As an amateur photographer, these simple tips can help a lot for someone new to photography and can be used for a wide variety of events.

1) Be prepared. Not only is it important to have a camera, memory card, and fully charged battery before the event, but you should visualize shots before they happen. I would often be able to pre-visualize shots based on previous camper practices where I watched their sequence of performances. At final share day I arrived early to pick spots I knew would be good for different shots (group shots, action shots, close-ups, etc.)

2) Work with what you have. I don’t have the most advanced camera, but I found ways to get great photos by getting close to the action, framing the composition strategically, shooting different perspectives, taking more than enough photos to have a large selection to choose the best from. These are things you can do with any camera.

3) Shoot from the hip. This is similar to shooting different perspectives, but in a different meaning. A lot of times early on, campers would get nervous in front of the camera because they either didn’t know me, were camera-shy, or any number of things. Sometimes I would switch from using the camera pin hole to the camera’s screen and hold my camera lower as if I was viewing previous shots. Then when a camper would get up and do something spontaneous and thought no one had a camera on them, I would get some of the funniest, most expressive photos of campers.

4) Be social. When someone doesn’t know who you are, even with the identification of your organization’s T-shirt, they are more reluctant to want their picture taken by you. But if you introduce yourself and chat with them, they will open up to you. At final share day I would talk to parents a bit to get to know them and their camper, what they enjoyed about camp. This was not only a great way to be social but helped me get great family photos.

To see photos from every week of  TAP Summer Camp, plus more TAP events go to our Flickr.

P.S. My first day of school memory happened in Kindergarten when I met one of my best friends by playing with Hot Wheels cars.

An Amazing Summer

by Freddy Carnes, Artistic Associate

After doing 2 weeks of day camps in Del Valle, helping with the Summer Pageant in the Park, 5 weeks of Theatre Action Project (TAP) Summer Camps at Trinity Methodist and 3 weeks of “World Tales and Tunes” at Stepping Stone Schools in Central Texas I was exhausted.  Not because I didn’t have a fun and amazing summer, but because teaching and performing is so physical.

My favorite memories from this summer include:

  • Seeing campers sing “True Colors” and “One Heart” during “Songs for the Stage“,
  • Seeing the kids really get into putting on costumes for “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream”,
  • Playing “Here Comes the Sun” for the Summer Pageant, and
  • Setting up the backdrop 4 times each week of camp at Trinity.

I feel so lucky to work with such passionate and dedicated staff.  We should all pat ourselves on the back for such an amazing summer!

P.S. My only memory of the first day of school was 1st grade.  I stopped halfway walking to school and was met by my 1st grade teacher and my mom trying to convince me that school would be fun, and it was.

Back to Basics: Volunteer

by Mary Alice Carnes, Community Relations Director
The first day of school comes with so much anticipation and excitement. Reconnecting with old friends and making new friends used to make me so nervous every year. One thing I’ve noticed as an adult–many years out of the classroom–is how many people use going back to school time as a way to renew commitments. As you get back into a set routine this fall, consider adding volunteer service to Theatre Action Project to your list of must-do’s for this school year. Volunteering is a great way to get back to the basics of service, giving back and serving an inspiring mission:

Theatre Action Project uses the creative arts to activate the academic, social and emotional development of young people. Through interactive classroom performances, after school residencies and community based programs, TAP’s team of professional teaching artists inspire youth to be creative artists, courageous allies, critical thinkers and confident leaders in their community.

In 2011-2012, Theatre Action Project volunteers gave an average of 229 hours a month in our After School programs, at events, creating journals and crafts for our TAP in the Classroom programs, database management and social media. For our TAP Summer Camp, 22 volunteers gave over 1002 hours in just a few short weeks, assistant Teaching Artists with camps such as Songs for the Stage, Puppetpalooza, Rhythm and Drums, Playmakers, and more at several locations. What a great way to spend your summer and brighten children’s lives!

You have several volunteer options:

1) be a volunteer willing to take on a single project,

2) be “on tap” for projects as they come up, consider a more committed relationship as a TAP Volunteer Project Leader and recruit and lead your own project and TAP volunteers for specific tasks, or

3) as an After School volunteer assigned to a specific campus for the semester assisting a Teaching Artist.

If you are interested in getting back to the basics, please send us an e-mail about your volunteer interest and availability:

For TAP’s Open House on Thursday, October 4th. Learn all there is to learn about Theatre Action Project and find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you! Enjoy some food and refreshments, network, enjoy, and make new friends. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

PS: On my very first day at school as a five-year old (just before I turned six), my Mom didn’t know if the school provided lunch for us or if I needed a sack lunch. It was the best bag of grapes I’d ever eaten.

Hard to Say Goodbye

by Katie Grills, Community Relations AmeriCorps VISTA

Culture, language, and the intangible things that make a place what it is are constant preoccupations for me as a writer. These interests also make it challenging for me to let go of the experiences I have in life. In other words, it’s hard to say goodbye.

My time as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Theatre Action Project (TAP) will always populate my imagination as a time of color and joy—a place where good-willed artists come together with the intention to see the world changed for the better, and actually see their wildest dreams for the next generation come true.

Here are some of the amazing things that have happened this year that I will never forget:

  • The nearly 2,700 hours of time that volunteers selflessly gave
  • The smiles and huge hearts of more than 200 people who were compelled to pass through our doors to give freely of their time and talents
  • The endless well of wisdom that I had to draw from in our staff, and especially from Mary Alice, my wonderful supervisor and dear friend.
  • The support and warmth of the Austin community
  • The unbridled creative spirit of young people

I am forever grateful for the work that TAP does, and I will continue living and working for their mission to develop creative artists, courageous allies, critical thinkers, and confident leaders wherever I go. My next step is a move to Atlanta, GA, where I hope to continue cultivating a career in the nonprofit sector. I want to continue being an advocate for the arts, and especially for the crucial part that creativity plays in the development of the lives of young people.

Many thanks to the TAP community for carving out a place in my heart and mind that will stay there for years to come.

Our Superhero Teaching Artists

by Cassie Swayze, After School Programs Associate AmeriCorps VISTA

For the next week and a half, our 2011-2012 community of teaching artists launch into our Fall training intensive.  I am very excited to meet our newest cohort of teachers and welcome our returning TAs to Theatre Action Project (TAP) After-School.

Yesterday was our first training day with new, returning, elementary, and middle school Teaching Artists: nearly fifty in attendance! We packed the Ruiz Branch library and played games like Chair Swap and Superhero Factory. In Superhero Factory, teams of Teaching Artists put their heads together to create a new hero using one unique trait from each person. Using their newly acquired superhero traits they posed for the rest of the team. The activity was goofy and fun, but led to a discussion about how this game could inspire the 4C’s in students.

The TAP After-School team is so lucky to have so many intelligent, engaging, and enthusiastic Teaching Artists this year. I can’t wait to see what our Superhero TAs create with their students this semester!

Saying Goodbye

by Brian C. Fahey, TAP in the Classroom Program Director

After two years as the TAP in the Classroom Program Director, I am leaving Austin and Theatre Action Project at the end of the month to move back to my home state of Massachusetts. While I’m looking forward to being closer to my family, there are many things I will miss about TAP and the family of artists who carry out its important mission, including:

  • Witnessing the daily impact of our TAP in the Classroom performances.
  • Receiving continuous feedback from schoolteachers and administrators on the positive change our residencies have had on school culture.
  • Our community events. Whether it’s the Kite Festival, Youth Arts Festival, Austin Kiddie Limits or the Big Hair Country Fair it’s always a good time.
  • CAMP! Even through the hot Texas summers our campers create some amazing work: Films, dances, puppet shows, original plays – our campers do it all.
  • Working in a colorful bustling office filled with puppets and productivity.
  • The TAP Staff. I’ve learned so much from all of my colleagues.

I look forward to witnessing TAP’s continued growth from afar. And I’ll be back to visit often.

Until we meet again!

Where has the summer gone?

by Thea Kohout, Intern at Theatre Action Project

Today is my last day at Theatre Action Project, which seems incredibly weird. Where on earth has the summer gone? I am really sorry to be leaving, though, because this summer has been the perfect combination of fun, challenging, silly, and rewarding. I feel like I’ve done and learned an incredible amount of things, such as:

  • Set up galleries of campers’ projects at Friday camp sharings,
  • Did an incredible amount of research on artistic pedagogies, different learning styles, different teaching styles, and theories of the uses of public spaces,
  • Fought with (and lost to)  Microsoft Excel almost daily while helping with data entry,
  • Learned how to screen print,
  • Put together guides and resources for TAP teaching artists,
  • Went through and organized camp curricula,
  • Managed (somehow) not to kill the beautiful plants growing outside the TAP storage shed,
  • Researched and compiled a list of fun multicultural children’s books for the TAP library,
  • Gone on one of the most fun staff retreats imaginable,
  • And, finally, met a group of amazingly creative, intelligent, and passionate people at this organization who really have inspired me to think about a future in arts education.

What a great, full summer I’ve been lucky enough to have here. And now, off to something completely different: a semester in South Africa. If any of you are interested in keeping up with me, you can find my travel blog at Thanks for everything and see you later, TAP!