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Being Reminded of Amazing Opportunity Creative Action Gives to Austin Artists

by Freddy Carnes, Artistic Associate

While at our teacher training this week at Scottish Rite Theater,I was reminded  why Creative Action continues to grow and attract such gifted young artists. Part of the training was to demonstrate to new teachers the power of using teacher-in-role (or acting out a character) to teach a lesson. The demonstration involved using “The Heroes/Los Heroes” show to spotlight how this technique worked. Mitch Bowman and Stephanie Chavez-Noell are the actors in the show and they performed an excerpt. It was great!

The teachers were totally engaged and played the part of Kindergarten students. The story, the humor and the scaffolding of questions built in to the show allow the actors to demonstrate to the children how to solve conflicts at school and at home.

I was so proud of Stephanie and Mitch for carrying on the tradition of “Heroes” just like other shows developed over the years to teach students about such issues as:

  • Conflict resolution,
  • World culture, and
  • Bullying

I understand their commitment to making each show fresh and spontaneous. I was fortunate to perform in “The Heroes/Los Heroes” from 2006-2010. Mitch and Stephanie have added so many nice touches to the performance that it has become uniquely their own.

Once again I was reminded of the amazing opportunity that Creative Action has given to talented Austin artists to practice their craft. Thank you Creative Action!

About The Heroes/Los Heroes

  • 97% of reporting teachers reported they had new tools to help them resolve classroom conflict
  • 60% of teachers saw an increase in students engaging in a four-step conflict resolution process during any given week since receiving the Heroes program.
  • 89% of participating teachers reported their students have been using vocabulary from the program to help them resolve conflict in the classroom

The Creative Action Proclamation

by Sarah Rinner, Elementary School Program Director

Teaching artists drawing their ideal “Creative Action island”

At our after school teaching artist training this year we put the creative imaginations of our staff to work in exploring the world of Creative Action and what it means to our community.

Our amazing group of over 55 teaching and administrative staff worked in small groups to create Creative Action Islands that encompasses our actions and values and communicates the culture of our organization. (And crammed into the Ruiz Library, it was positively overwhelming to have such a large team of dedicated people!)

My favorite, and most meaningful, part of the activity was our Creative Action Proclamation. We had each group contribute a line to our proclamation and we read it aloud to close out our day together.

Here are a few lines of the Creative Action Proclamation:

We hereby declare that the inhabitants of the Creative Action Island have come together for the purpose of… 

Being happy; relaxing; exploring and having adventures; making their imagination world reality; destroying boredom; making stuff; and expressing themselves,

With the intention of allowing everyone to live their best life,

Therefore we shall explore and have adventures, dance, smile,

So that our community can create without boundaries,

Furthermore on our island, we shall eat Family Style at a large table,

So that our land can be a place where creative expression reigns free and social change & creative action can come to be,

And with this purpose we transform our communities in positive and creative ways,

In order to inspire the flow of creative energy among a generation of youth, we model the behavior and attitude we hope to instill in our students,

To conclude, our island shall be a place where everyone is free to be creative without limit of judgment. There are an infinite number of resources of varying types to facilitate creativity and art. It is an island where people are made well through creating and receiving art!

P.S. My favorite pie flavor is apple pie.
Join us at I Spy Pie! on Saturday, October 20th at Central Market North. 12 – 3 p.m.
Family fun, arts and crafts and pie for families of all ages!

Want to volunteer? Sign up here for 1 or 2 (or both) shifts:  I Spy Pie! Volunteer Sign Up.

After School Volunteering Opportunity

by Cassie Swayze, After School Programs Associate AmeriCorps VISTA

Creative Action needs superstar After-School volunteers to assist Teaching Artists in the classroom throughout the school year. Do you love working artistically, helping students, or need a new challenge? This is a great opportunity for students of many disciplines: education, theatre, social work, art, humanities and more!

Volunteering with the Creative Action After-School program entails a once a week commitment in a dynamic after-school class exploring social themes through theatre, art, music, and puppets. As a volunteer you act as an extra pair of hands for one of our Teaching Artists (TAs) in the classroom throughout the Fall semester (September – mid-December). The hours are generally 2:30-5:30PM or 3-6PM weekly. After-School volunteers assist in a wide variety of activities:

  • Prepping art projects
  • Helping film movies
  • Leading games
  • And much, much more!

Here’s what past volunteers said about working with the After-School program:

  • “I loved volunteering at Ojeda. I think I learned more from the kids. The more valued they feel, the more invested they are in the program. [Creative Action] validates these kids’ personal experiences and gives them value.”
  • “One thing I really noticed when working with first graders was how [Creative Action] contributed to their teamwork and sharing…The activities and projects resulted in emerging leadership and individual creativity as the kids began to trust each other, the teacher and their own strengths and abilities.”

Creative Action has after-school programming at over 40 different campuses throughout Austin, Round Rock, Del Valle, Manor, and Bastrop school districts.

Contact Cassie Swayze at or call (512) 442-8773 x107 for more information or set up an orientation.

UPDATE: Theatre Action Project is now Creative Action. Read more about our name change.

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!

Summer Pageant in the Park 2012 in Photos

Theatre Action Project’s Summer Pageant in the Park  on  June 23rd was an explosion of color, giant puppets and fun parade elements. Elementary students, their families, TAP Teaching Artists and staff marched in celebration of How Our Food Grows.

Here are just  a few photos  from behind the scenes leading up to Pageant day. We invite you to visit our Facebook and Flickr pages to view many more fun photos. We also invite you to share your Pageant photos with us. Email us at

Cassie Swayze, left and Patrick Torres, right prepare for the event. Caroline Reck, center on Pageant day.

Happy Teaching Artists, Aron Taylor, left, Christin Davis, and Noel Gaulin lead the cheers in the parade.

Winter, Spring, and Summer seasons at Summer Pageant in the Park.

Summer Camp Teaching Artists

Now that school is coming to an end, Theatre Action Project (TAP) teaching artists (TA’s) are gearing up for TAP Summer Camp. But this year is different because TAP now has 4 camp locations whereas in the past there was only 1 camp, which means there will be a few more teaching artists working this summer.

This summer features the following TA’s:

  • Amy Downing
  • Aron Taylor
  • Caroline Reck
  • Freddy Carnes
  • Ignacio Cruz
  • Kate Shaw
  • Keri Boyd
  • Lillie Hollingsworth
  • Marcelo Teson
  • Maya Berry
  • Meg Greene
  • Mitch Bowman
  • Natalie Goodnow
  • Sevylla del Mazo
  • Stephanie Chavez-Noell
  • Taylor Harrison
  • Tonya Lyles

To see the full list of our wonderful TA’s that work year-round, visit the TAP Teaching Artists page. For more information on camp, see our TAP Camps page.

See you this summer!

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.