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Category Archives: Courage to Stand

Contribute to Stop Bullying in 2012

Dear Friends,

As 2011 comes to a close, and bullying continues to negatively affect so many children every day across the nation, please watch this video below and consider making a donation to our counter-bullying efforts.

Together, we can make a difference. At any level of giving, your donation matters.

  • $15 allows a student to participate in a 5-day conflict resolution, counter bullying or leadership program.
  • $375 allows a group of 35 youth to participate in a 5-day conflict resolution, counter bullying or leadership program.
  • $1,875 allows an entire grade level, 125 students, to participate in a 5-day conflict resolution, counter bullying or leadership program.

Thank you for your support!

The Theatre Action Project Team

Your gift is tax-deductible and extremely appreciated.

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.

Bullying: One of the Most Urgent Problems Youth Face Today

by Karen LaShelle, Executive and Artistic Director

You have most likely seen the news highlighting the problem of bullying lately. The stories are tragic and troubling and it seems like they are becoming all too frequent. Most recently, Jamey Rodemeyer from Buffalo New York committed suicide after relentless harassment for being gay. Last year, Phoebe Prince, a 15-year old Irish immigrant committed suicide after extreme bullying by other girls in her school. Young people today deal with bullying in a whole new way in which the internet and cell phones have become dangerous, unsupervised spaces for bullies to make attacks. Read the rest of this entry

Excitement for School

by Sarah Rinner, Elementary School Program Director

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down and the new school year is just around the corner.  As we close out the summer with our last camp next week, Songs for the Stage, the Theatre Action Project Afterschool Team is already busy preparing for the 2011-2012 school year.

Read the rest of this entry

My Top 11 TAP Memories as I Depart

by Dustin Wills, Programming Specialist

11.Lindsey, the “fake” volunteer: I have an alter ego at the Theatre Action Project office, who is Lindsey, one of the most troublesome volunteers you could ever imagine. She is overzealous, always lost and enjoys leaving ten minute messages on the TAP voicemail, most of which are her accidentally forgetting to hang up. Poor Megan Fullen received the bulk of this whim.

10. Karaoke at the Christmas party: Particular highlights include Natalie Goodnow stealing Peter’s microphone and singing the Thong Song, Amanda Hashagen’s rendition of White Rabbit and of course Sarah Rinner bringing her own copy of WHAM’s Last Christmas.

 9. Piano Time: Some very nice person donated an old turn of the century player piano to TAP, with scrolls of old music. Thus began a sometime tradition of the staff gathering around to sing old lauds from yesteryear. It also ended up in a play I directed – which is also when we tuned it.

8. Taking students to the Globe theatre replica: I had the pleasure of taking students from Copperfield Elementary to the Globe Theatre replica in Austin, where they put on a performance of the storm form Twelfth Night. It was the perfect culminating event for a great first semester at that campus.

7. The Revenge: Many may not know that until recently TAP had a kickball team called the Revenge. The Revenge was well named because we never won, so, were always on the revenge. Who could forget Sarah’s infamous Sasquatch armbands, Red Fox’s actual red fox shirt and Julia Smith’s scream of terror running down the first base line?

6. Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed/PTO Conference in Omaha: An incident with the tiny bicycle. And of course, listening to Augusto Boal speak.

5. TAP-ABS or Friday Beyonce dance party: For about 1 month we had a weekly workout regime here at TAP that involved crunches, push-ups and a Flashdance. This fizzled away quickly but was replaced by a Friday Beyonce office dance party – usually to Single Ladies. Staying active!

4. Parades, in general: I have collaborated closely with Karen on 2 First Night parades, 2 Summer processions and a Pageant play about the Life of Cesar Chavez. Planning such large-scale community projects is sometimes frustrating, demanding and overwhelming, but is always rewarding and fun. Lots of late night puppet making with Karen – sometimes so late the delirium kicks in and you begin to wonder if there is a carbon monoxide leak… lots of lifting and sweating and corralling and running up and down parade lines. A great time, to say the least.

3. Seeing the Cycle 4 and 6 students grow up: For 4 years I have worked primarily with 6 schools: T.A. Brown, Wooldridge, Hart, Barrington, Wooten and Reilly – I have watched these kids mature from 1st to 5th grade through our after-school program, from our First Night and Summer Pageants and in our touring programs like Heroes and The Courage to Stand. I am frequently amazed by their growth into strong creative individuals who hold TAP values as their own. These are testaments to the impact TAP has over time.

2. Daily Face -2-Face time with Florinda Bryant: Florinda and I tend to sit facing each other in the office, slightly obscured by a computer screen or a file cabinet – no matter which room of the office we move into. I think that is because of our one-shot faces. I have practically memorized Florinda’s facial expressions, like the face on a barometer. One look can make me burst into laughter or immediately leave the room. I like to think she can read mine too… and if she can’t, she can always tell by the number of empty coffee cups on my desk. This office time also included lots of singing, secret messages, G-chats, and raising a child together (or we like to pretend)…

1. Courage to Stand at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired: This was by far the most rewarding singular moment for me at TAP. The courage offered by these students in the context of this program left me speechless. Karen later created a way for me to return to the TSBVI to teach an in school theatre program with the Elementary students. Every week I was inspired by these students and was taught volumes about ability, strength and the limitless potential of the imagination. I could not thank those kids more for what they gave me that semester.


  • Amanda Hashagan as “The Creeper”
  • Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble 2009 show
  • The Story of Humphry and Lucille
  • TAP lunch-share
  • TAP staff scavenger hunts
  • Papier Mache, in general.
Dustin leaves Theatre Action Project to attend grad school at the Yale School of Drama this fall where he will be in the directing program. We will miss you Dustin.

Texas House of Representatives Approval of House Bill 1942

by Karen LaShelle, Executive and Artistic Director

We have some exciting news to share, courtesy of our friends at Equality Texas. On May 24th, the Texas House of Representatives gave final approval to House Bill 1942, relating to bullying in public schools. The House’s final vote to concur with Senate amendments was 118-26. The bill will make its way to Governor Rick Perry, who is expected to sign it into law.

Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington), the primary author of HB 1942 stated, “Parents and children deserve to know they are within safe walls while receiving an education.” She added, “I am especially grateful for the work that Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) and other House Public Education members contributed to lead this bill to fruition.”

Indeed, the efforts to pass an anti-bullying law have extended over multiple legislative sessions dating back over 15 years to legislation filed by former Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, and current members Reps. Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Mark Strama, Diane Patrick and Senators John Whitmire, Wendy Davis, and Leticia Van de Putte.

But it was the courageous efforts by Texas parents whose children have suffered from bullying that propelled the bipartisan effort in the Texas House and Senate to finally pass meaningful anti-bullying legislation in the wake of recent bullying-related tragedies in Texas and across the country.

Amy and David Truong of Houston lost their son, Asher Brown, eight months ago to bullying-related suicide. The couple has been working tirelessly for passage of the law. “It was a promise I made to Asher the day that he died before his little body left this house,” Amy Truong said. “I told him that I would never stop fighting until we did something to change this.”  David said, “We’ll never let this happen to any other family.”

Equality Texas made anti-bullying legislation its top priority for the legislative session. Executive Director Dennis Coleman stated, “Our 2010 Equality Poll showed overwhelming public support for legislation to address the problem of bullying in schools. We were determined to focus all our efforts to provide school administrators, teachers and parents with tools to create a safe learning environment for every student.”

The new law will:

  • Establish a new bullying definition that includes bullying through electronic means;
  • Integrates awareness, prevention, identification, and resolution of and intervention in bullying into the health curriculum;
  • Provides local school boards with discretion to transfer a student found to have bullied to another classroom or to another campus in consultation with the parent or guardian; and
  • Requires local school districts to adopt and implement a bullying policy that recognizes minimum guidelines such as prohibition of bullying, providing counseling options, and establishes procedures for reporting an incidence of bullying.

The sponsor of HB 1942 in the Senate, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) stated, “Texas could no longer ignore this problem. It was imperative that our state take action and implement the appropriate steps to prevent further unnecessary bullying that unfortunately occurs in our public schools.”

Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) added, “The real goal is prevention. We’ve got to hold public school officials accountable when they know about these acts.”
Here at Theatre Action Project, our programs The Courage to Stand and The Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble empower young people to be courageous allies in the face of bullying. Our programs are one part of the changing tide on bullying in our country. We are so pleased to see that policies are changing in Texas and that laws will now be in place to help protect young people.

Change Seen Firsthand

By: Emily Tindall, Program Manager
“When I was a kid, the arts were all but nonexistent in my schools. Occasionally, we went to a music class, and played our little hearts out on bells and recorders; but theatre! – Oh, theatre was an unknown art form.”

As a program manager for TAP, I work with schools to bring our daytime program residencies directly into elementary and middle school classrooms. I often find myself thinking of what it might be like to be a part of “The Courage to Stand” as a fourth grader. It is an exciting thought, and indeed seems exciting for the kids, for multitudes of reasons. First and foremost, it is an exciting break from their regular classes, a break from TAKS testing or preparation, and a break from the way they use their brains on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, they get to be up on their feet, playing games with their friends, engaged – talking, laughing, and having fun. Third, and what I consider to be the most valuable, is, that not only are they doing something novel and having fun, but they are LEARNING. They learn what it means to be a courageous bystander – a person, who sees what is happening between the Bully and the Target, and stands up and intervenes on behalf of the Target. They learn how to stand up and speak out against bullying – who to ask for help, and when it is safe to do so. They rehearse it, to root the idea in their bodies, to have practiced speaking out against it, to hear and see the power that their words can have. This is masked learning, in that they are having so much fun, because in TAP programming their whole body is engaged and they are experiencing it with all of their classmates, that they don’t even realize that there is research based curriculum being taught.

This is such a valuable and fun program, and I know that my fourth grade self would have been overjoyed to have the opportunity to participate. I hope that this type of programming becomes more visible in classrooms in the coming years, because I have seen firsthand the change that can occur because of it, and it couldn’t have happened without TAP!

A Visit to The Courage to Stand

by Anita Aston, Development Director

Today, Chelsea Gilman, Business and Development Associate at Theatre Action Project and I hosted Seton Hospital’s Vice President for Diversity and Community Outreach to Day 3 of Courage to Stand at Gullett Elementary.

Courage to Stand is always a moving experience and Day 3 is particularly affecting, but today was the first day I’d ever seen the program performed for 5th graders. Watching the students involve themselves so totally and the teaching artists, Aron Taylor and Natalie Holmes, engage them so completely reminded me how uniquely engaging the production is. It brought me back to the first time I came to see the program when I was still considering this job and TAP was still considering me.

I spent a Wednesday morning at Widen Elementary in southeast Austin back in the fall, hoping that I was going to see a programming strong enough that I would feel good about raising money on its behalf. There are a lot of great ideas floating around in the world of arts education and supplementary programming…

Not all of it works.

There is a complicated formula of factors involved in the successful engagement of young people. Pre-adolescents come with their own unique slate of challenges. The alchemy that combines teaching talent, curricular excellence, well-designed materials and setting into a transformative experience is difficult and uncommonly achieved, but TAP teaching artists have created this magic every time I’ve seen them attempt it. That first day back in the fall, I was amazed. Over several Day 3’s since, I’d started to take it a little bit for granted.

But these 5th graders, who seemed so much TALLER than the 4th graders we usually see — and so much OLDER — were every bit as excited about being cast as fishermen and a bakers as the kids at Widen.

I’m sure I’ll get blasé about it again, but awesomeness is a pretty cool thing to take for granted.