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Category Archives: The Heroes/Los Heroes

A Bid Farewell

by Emily Watkins, Account Executive, Texas Tower PR

Over the past two years, Theatre Action Project (TAP) has opened to my eyes to a world of creativity. It has been a magical world of Ferdinand the Bull, country fairs, Swimmy, lanterns, cookies, Sara Hickman and of course cupcakes. Behind the events and social media, it has been wonderful watching TAP change Austin’s perspective on the power of arts education.

The biggest thing I have taken away from TAP is that through the arts we can educate our youngsters on important topics that are not easy to talk about, such as bullying. Recently bullying has been a topic of discussion and national issue, however TAP has been fighting against bullying all along with arts programs. TAP has been making an impact on bullying, and the statistics can prove it.

Courage to Stand

In the Courage to Stand program, 91% of responding teachers said that they had seen an increase in students sticking up for other students when confronted with issues of bullying since viewing the CTS program.

In Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, 59% percent of audience respondents report that the program helped them speak up when they see abusive or harassing behavior.

The Heroes/Los Heroes

In The Heroes/Los Heroes program, 72% of reporting teachers saw an increase in students engaging in a 4-step conflict resolution process since viewing the Heroes program.

I am sad to be leaving TAP, but I am thankful for the opportunity I had to work along side such generous and kind people. I am not going too far and plan on helping TAP continue their good work in any way I can.  They can’t get rid of me that easily!

With her transition to a new position with Texas Tower PR, we take the opportunity to say thank you to Emily and her devotion to TAP. We are most grateful for our partnership with Tower PR and their hard-working team which helps to expand TAP’s outreach and fulfill its mission.

The Heroes/Los Heroes

by Amanda Davis, Marketing Associate VISTA

Yesterday I got the opportunity to see our TAP in the Classroom show, “Heroes/Los Heroes,” at Wooten Elementary. This show never fails to put a smile on my face every time I see it (which has been 3 times since I started working here at Theatre Action Project in February). This was my first opportunity to see our new Heroes actor, Mitch Bowman, in the program and getting to see the interactions of a mostly Spanish speaking kindergarten class. It was so much fun to see the interactions, the participation and the excitement of the students. They really seemed to love the use of puppets in the show and how animated the characters were.

The picture at the left is of day two of our four day program. This is Mr. Mitch with the puppet Doña Flor and Miss Stephanie as Sam the Salamander in Costa Rica. They are learning the four simple steps to conflict resolution. To learn more about other days of the performance and to listen to the Heroes Music, check out our website. Also check out more pictures of our Heroes Performances and our other TAP in the Classroom programs from over time on our Flickr page.

Our Newest Hero

by Brian Fahey, TAP in the Classroom Program Director

The beginning of the school year at Theatre Action Project means the beginning of our TAP in the Classroom touring shows. This semester we are very excited to be welcoming a new actor/teacher into the fold, Mitch Bowman.

Mitch has taught for TAP for over a year in our after school programs. This summer he joined us a lead teacher for our film camp. We are lucky to have such a dynamic performer join our team. Mitch is a jazz musician, theatre artist, filmmaker and educator. I know it’ll be a smooth transition welcoming him to the cast of The Heroes / Los Heroes, our program for K – 2 grades.

Today Heroes wrapped up performances at Rawson Saunders School. The Heroes blends puppetry, role-play, music and traditional theatre into a program that is fun, interactive, and gives students clear strategies for resolving conflict. After a summer off from the program it was great to get back to work with our young audience – as they find the pages of the Super Very Important Book, which outlines the process of making peace with your peers. Along the way they journey to Costa Rica, Africa, and beyond. At the end of the program our young students teach the steps outlined in the book to the animals of Barton Springs, who were fighting over resources:

  1. Identify the problem: “Stop right there, there is a problem”
  2. Name your feelings
  3. Shake it off: “Do the ten count shake”
  4. Find Answers: “Share, Take Turns, Give what you have and find more, or ask a grown-up for help.”

Mitch will be performing Heroes along with Stephanie Chavez in elementary schools across Austin. On any given day he will be playing an Owl Scientist, a rock-n-roll turtle, a Costa Rican frog, a camel with an itchy hump, or Sama Elephante, a wise and gentle elephant. He’ll also be playing the accordion, the glockenspiel and an acoustic guitar. Performing in Heroes is no small feat. But I think he’s up for the challenge.

For a closer look at the work of Mitch Bowman, click here.

TAP Teaching Artists…After Hours

by Dustin Wills, Programming Specialist

Many of our very talented teaching artists keep very busy schedules outside of their school days, frequently practicing their own art through performances all over Austin and nationally. Let’s see what our teaching artists have been working on recently and what exciting projects they have coming up very soon.

Recently, Caroline Reck finished up a very successful run of Trouble Puppet Theatre’s The Jungle. I had the privilege of seeing last year’s workshop production of this puppetry performance. I had never before seen live puppetry express such extreme, humane emotion and draw the spectator into the dark world of industry Upton Sinclair painted in his groundbreaking novel. Caroline teaches at Harris Elementary where she brings her expertise in puppetry to those students in the after school program.

Stephanie Chavez and Claire Augustine are in the thick of rehearsal for Ariel Dance Theatre’s production of The Grand Theory Of EVERYTHING BETWEEN: A Movement Index of Light, Sound, and ALIENS. This production is set to open May 13! Stephanie also performed in Andrea Ariel’s last piece (which I saw) titled Switch Shift Go including a mix of text and movement in three variations on the same theme. Stephanie teaches her dance moves to students all over Austin including Webb Middle School, Kocurek, Horsby-Dunlap and Shadowbend Housing Authority Site and tours with TAP in the Classroom’s Heroes/Los Heroes. Claire works with the after school kids at Hillcrest Elementary.

Four of our amazing Teaching Artists: Cami Alys, Noel Gaulin, Aron Taylor and Erin Meyer will be performing in an upcoming world premiere show developed with the Rude Mechanicals titled I’ve Never Been So Happy. This production recently toured to the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. as part of a National New Play Festival – a great feat indeed!! Over the past two years I have seen numerous workshop incarnations of this production and will say that I am very, very excited to see the full production opening at the end of this month. This production is a strange and enchanting blend of music, dance, projection and carnival that unravels the myths of The West. It will be presented as part of the Fusebox Festival, which brings many interdisciplinary artists from all over the country to share experimental work with Austin audiences.

Cami Alys tours with Stephanie Chavez in Heroes/Los Heroes. Aron Taylor tours with The Courage to Stand and teaches afterschool at Barrington Elementary and at Goodrich Housing Authority with Erin Meyer. Noel Gaulin holds down the fort at Reilly and Shadowbend Housing Authority. Langford is also graced with Erin Meyer’s mad teaching skills.

And this is jut to name a few project that involve TAP’s FANTASTIC TEACHING ARTISTS. It is exciting to know our TAs are out in the community working and creating and imagining with both young people and professional artists alike. If you get a chance, please click on the links above and grab your tickets to these amazing shows… they are sure to sell out fast!

When We Stand Together, We Stand Strong! Courage in Action!

By Natalie Goodnow – Artistic Associate
Courage in Action (CIA) is one of Theatre Action Project’s newest TAP in the Classroom programs. This is the first year we’ve been able to fully develop and tour CIA extensively, and we’re thrilled at its success. This is my fourth year working with TAP as a Teaching Artist, and I count this as one of the most powerful and transformative programs I’ve ever had the joy of participating in.

CIA is a five-day, interactive performance, with a similar structure as some of our older and more well-known programs, The Heroes/Los Heroes and The Courage to Stand. We meet with one class of students for an hour at a time, for four days in a row, and then visit for a follow-up several weeks later. With CIA, we visit primarily 5th grade classes, though we’ve found that the program is equally effective for 4th or 6th graders as well.

The goal of CIA:
to inspire young people to become leaders, community-builders, problem-solvers, and agents of change in their own lives,

Or, as we say in the program, to be “courageous leaders.”

The dramatic frame is that my fellow Actor-Teacher Keri Boyd and I are agents in an undercover agency known as the CIA, or, Courage in Action. Our job is to travel the world training courageous individuals to become agents in the CIA, also known as courageous leaders. The dramatic frame is ridiculously fun. We wear shiny jackets, space helmets, and take directions from Bobobot, the motherboard of our spaceship, who relays messages to us from Mission Control. The students are then in role as “cadets.” Throughout the course of the week, the cadets undergo various “simulations” as part of their rigorous training regimen.

On Day 1: the cadets generate a definition of courageous leadership, and then, in small groups, they read about various courageous leaders from throughout history and throughout the world, and are given the challenge of re-creating courageous moments from those leaders’ lives through dramatic tableaus, and then must tell one another about those people and those moments. The “courageous leaders” we feature are individuals who used nonviolent tactics to promote peace, justice, and equality, such as Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi, and also lesser-known individuals like Emma Tenayuca and Zachary Bonner.

On Day 2: cadets travel back in time and meet Cesar Chavez (I play Cesar Chavez!), and, with him, discover the four steps to becoming a courageous leader:

1) Recognize a Problem and Imagine Solutions,
2) Assemble a Team and Make a Plan,
3) Take Action,
4) Evaluate Your Success and Try Again.

They learn about the plight of the farmworkers in Delano, California, and then, in-role as farmworkers themselves, must work with Cesar to make a plan as to how they can overcome their desperate circumstances. Through role-play and improvisation, we allow the students to Take Action, and try out all kinds of Plans – talking to the boss, pleading with the boss, working harder, or even threatening him – and to discover for themselves, by Evaluating their Success, what works best. At the end of the day, we lead the students in a narrative pantomime, re-enacting Cesar Chavez’ 300-mile march across the state of California to the capital, so that they can discover what really happened, and what really worked to effect change in the farmworkers’ lives. We’ve been pleasantly surprised, though, to find that many students have the imagination to figure out an effective, peaceful solution before we get to that point in the program!

On Day 3: we present a semi-imaginary scenario of two students at Anyplace Elementary who learn that their school lunches are not healthy, one of whom would like to do something about it. Cadets are given the challenge of using the four steps to becoming a Courageous Leader to help the students to solve the problem at their school. And so, through various “simulations,” or, improvisations, the students get to generate and try out a variety of plans, to try convincing their friends, parents, teachers to help them, and to brainstorm how they, as 10-year olds, could impact something as big and as complex as our educational system. What they realize by the end of the day is that, as impossible as it seems, they really can make a change.

On Day 4: Bobobot presents the toughest challenge yet: to stay at their school, rather than traveling to Simulation Station, to begin solving problems in the real world. Cadets choose 1-3 problems that they recognize in their school, neighborhood, or in the world at large, and begin devising and implementing plans to do something about it. We’ve seen students write speeches, short plays, and letters to the president; create ribbon and poster campaigns, websites, and newsletters; and make appointments with the counselor and the principal to discuss the creation of peer mediation and recycling programs on their campus. One youth at Mathews Elementary even started a petition for healthier lunches at his school, got 60 signatures, presented it to his principal, and got permission to speak to the superintendent about the matter, all in one day!

I am awed, inspired, and transformed by the youth every day I do this program. I have so many CIA stories to share, it’s almost overwhelming! For now, I sign off with this introduction to the program, and I look forward to sharing more.

And remember the CIA pledge, everybody…

When We Stand Together, We Stand Strong! Courage in Action!