To My Fellow “Fraidy Cats”

By Shannon Boatwright

five orange and one white pupkinsBy the time this blog is posted, Halloween will have come and gone. And that’s ok, but I’m hoping there might just be some folks out there who can relate to what I have to say. I’m all for spooky fun. I’m all for mysterious fun. But add in the gore and realistically bloody grossness, and, well, I’m out. PEACE OUT. Shannon OUT!

The irony is that some of my closest friends from growing up, still to this day pick on me for being a “fraidy cat” and not being able to handle horror movies.  Even as adults, at a movie outing together they’ll say “Girls, we can’t see a horror movie, cuz Shannon can’t handle it!”  My response to that is “Kiss my grits!” Y’all will have to forgive me for not wanting to pay good money to see something that will totally haunt and horrify me. To each her own – so I’ll pass!

Maybe it’s the logic in me. Maybe it’s the prude in me. I don’t care what you call it, but I have no desire to pay to be scared, much less horrified. To me, the whole concept of that is simply idiotic.

As an entertainer though, I do value the premise and concept of scaring the heck out of people, leaving them on the edge of their seats and in turn making money off the experience. It’s a lot easier being the scare-er than the scare-e! Again, to each her own! If you want to be horrified by gory, horrid drama, go for it! But I personally have no desire to watch disgusting zombies with decaying flesh or characters with body parts cut off or bitten off by some psychotic clown. I have enough drama in my real life. I don’t need some ridiculous horror movie creating trauma and plaguing my sleep because I can’t get visions of the goriness out of my mind. I apparently have too vivid of an imagination. While I might forget a simple task or someone’s name, I’ll forever remember a horrific scene from a movie. It’s a curse. I’ll literally never forget it.

I’d watch a mysterious vampire any day rather than a zombie with decaying flesh! It’s just plain gross! I joke with my zombie-loving friends that when the day comes, and there is a zombie apocalypse, while they’re all screaming their heads off and frozen with fear, I’ll be the one jumping into action, battling the evil and saving the day.

So, to all my fellow fraidy cats, may we always avoid the blood and guts and in turn, save our souls and maybe actually sleep tight at night!  I’m going to go watch a lovely, fun, romantic comedy now and fill my heart and mind with joy, not gore. 😉

My Muse, My Mina

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently created a big production with my honors drama students. Typically, in my creative process, music is the inspiration behind my works. But in the case of my Land of Stories show, it was my amazing daughter, my Mina, that was the absolute driving force of my inspiration.

This incredible child of mine was positively smitten by Chris Colfer’s beautiful, fairytale treasure of creative genius, “The Land of Stories” books series. She would read passages and chapters from the books to me out loud with such excitement – saying “Mama, I wish I could just dive into the book and live in the story!” She would hand me the book and demand that I read certain pages. She was absolutely taken with this opportunity to escape into this awesome world with fabulous characters and great adventures. What a beautiful thing storytelling is!

Naturally, we had to have the entire book series, making sure to get the next book as soon as it came out. For her birthday back in December, we even framed the book covers to hang in her room. I wish I could personally share with Chris Colfer the joy he helped to create for this precious girl. I just know that he’d be proud and that he’d adore my Mina and her zeal for his fabulous stories!

I have learned to listen to that voice of inspiration, that lightning strike that demands my attention. When a vision repeatedly creeps into my mind and heart, I know I’m supposed to listen and take action. In the case of my recent big production with my honors drama students, I am so thankful that I allowed myself to be guided by my inspiration and let my little muse, my Mina, capture my attention and fill my heart with her excitement. Thanks to her joy for this incredible book series, I let my passion for writing, producing, and directing mold this special creation. I’m ever thankful for my brilliant girl’s love for fabulous stories and for sharing her passions. And I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude at the outcome: the gift of working with such fabulous people and young stars to make my product a successful reality.

All that being said, if you ever feel that glorious wave of inspiration and it overwhelms your heart and mind, go with it! Follow that road of inspiration and let it take you places and make great things happen! Every time I have followed the lead of my inspirations, I’m always thankful that I did.

My prayer, hope and wish for my own children is that they never lose that ability to be taken by something positive and wonderful, and are never fearful to share their joys and inspirations. And I will certainly be forever thankful to my angel girl, Mina, for sharing her passion for Chris Colfer’s awesome books. I hope and pray that she never loses that twinkle in her eyes and her love for great stories!

Sharing Your Talents

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across a very inspirational video on Facebook. It happens to all us Facebook users from time to time and we’re actually happy that we clicked the “watch” button.  This particular video really tugged at my heart strings, totally produced tears and made me do some deep thinking. Some of you may have seen it, too. It’s a video of a precious, most talented young lady on Romania’s Got Talent.

I didn’t realize how many countries have these types of talent television shows! In this particular clip, although the song is sung in English, not a bit of the spoken dialogue is in English, yet you’re still able to totally get the intensity of the specialness of the moment.  This amazing young lady has no arms or legs, but proved herself a total superstar. What an all-around beauty! I honestly still don’t know the history to this young talent’s story. I still need to research it because I’m curious how she got to the point in her life to be on the television show, as well as what she is doing now.

Upon watching the video though, I immediately knew that I wanted to use it as a teaching tool for my honors drama students. I knew I should take the opportunity to give them some inspiration and a good reminder that life is too short not to follow your dreams. Interestingly enough, the topic of this singing, keyboard-playing talent’s song is about following your dreams. It’s emotional to see grown men crying as they hear this young lady perform. If watching the video is so incredibly moving, I can only imagine how touching it is to see her perform in person.

For me, this performance served as a reminder that we should share our talents. Too many of us do things that we love, whether it’s something with the arts or any other interesting talent, and we tend to not share it. We get joy from doing whatever it is, yet most of us are too insecure, shy or scared to share our talent with others. I told my students to imagine if this special girl had decided not to take that leap of faith and share her love of music despite her challenges. She could’ve easily given up and not taken the risks, but she decided to share that joy that she gets from music and when she did, WOW! Hundreds, thousands, millions have been inspired thanks to this brave young soul sharing her beautiful musical abilities. How thankful are we that she did!

So the lesson is, if you have a talent that brings you joy, please consider sharing it! It just may bring joy to others too and inspire them as well. 🙂

AirSafe 2016

By: Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

Every 3 years the FAA requires every commercial airport to conduct a full scale emergency exercise involving an aircraft accident with “victims.” This event, called AirSafe, provides priceless training for first responders and officials, and serves as a test to make sure all involved know exactly what is expected of them in order to help others and save lives.

AirSafe

My 8th Grade Honors Drama students at Chapin Middle School were invited to participate in this incredible event. Talk about a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids! When my old friend, Fire Chief Glenn Williams, reached out to me about the event and invited my students and I, once I understood more of what the event was about, all I could think was…Wow! What an amazing experience this could be for my students and at this time of year as we remember 9/11. Glenn put me in touch with Captain Daniel J. Ruggiero, who was in charge of the entire event at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. As I learned more about the event and the roles my students would get to play, I knew I had to do whatever I could to make this happen and allow my students to partake in this unique experience.

AirSafe

With full support from the school district and my administration, on September 14th, 2016, 38 of my honors students participated in the full scale mock disaster drill. Their role was to portray plane crash victims. When they arrived they were given an actor symptomatology tag which displayed their symptoms, each being given specific injuries to act out – fake blood and all! Which naturally the kids thought was especially cool, as it added an element of reality for them and everyone involved. Once the disaster drill began, first responders came to the scene, rescued all the passengers and begin triage to determine their priority.

AirSafe

For my Honors Drama students to have this opportunity to create and portray very unique roles that provided valuable training for fire rescue and EMS personnel, well, there’s no denying it was a priceless experience for these young actors. Not only was it a super cool acting gig for these students, but it was also an eye-opening experience that allowed them to recognize, understand and appreciate the crucial role of our first responders and all that they do to keep us safe.

AirSafe

As a teacher and director of the arts, I am ever thankful for this opportunity that my students were able to experience. I am also thankful that myself and my chaperones had the opportunity to deepen our appreciation for our awesome first responders. A huge thank you to my friends, Fire Chief Williams and Captain Ruggiero, for the invite!! And here’s to all the first responders – your dedication to keeping us safe are appreciated beyond words!

Why Drama Should Be Taught in Every School

By: Shannon Boatwright

Any time I hear of a school that does not have a drama department, my heart aches. Literally. In a lot of cases, school districts do not recognize the incredible benefits of the arts OR they simply do not have the funding to hire a drama teacher OR, to be honest, they don’t have enough sense to hire the “right” professional for the job. Being a drama teacher, arts integration teaching artist, performer, producer, director and huge drama-312318_1280supporter/lover of the arts, this is a hot button for me. Research has proven that the arts are a huge asset to ANY student, no matter what age. And drama, in particular, covers such a priceless span of subjects that any and every one can benefit from its riches. Meaning, the span of knowledge and experience that comes with the world of drama can truly improve any individual’s life, no matter what they want to be when they grow up or what profession they’re already engaged in.

I’ve done a lot of research on this; not to mention, every day that I teach, I see firsthand the benefits of drama being experienced and soaked up by my students. I’ll let the documents and quotes speak for themselves. Please take the time to read them, share them with your schools, your peers, and the leaders in your communities. Take note of the schools and organizations that do provide the arts on some level and see how those involved benefit from it. With the right teachers, instructors and leaders, all those involved with the arts will benefit, grow, and expand their minds and their hearts on some level! (Key word being the “right” teachers, instructors and leaders; those who are actually educated, trained and qualified to teach drama or any of the fine arts.)

This fabulous article on What Drama Education Can Teach Your Child touches on some fabulous points!

Some highlights include:

 

Gai Jones’, a theater educator with over forty years of experience, work has been recognized by the American Alliance for Theater and Education, the Educational Theater Association, and the California State Senate (among others).

According to Jones, Theater addresses the skills which benefit children’s education and development in five general areas: physical development/kinesthetic skills, artistic development /drama and theater skills, mental development/thinking skills, personal development/intra-personal skills, and social development/interpersonal skills.”

Academic gains aren’t the only benefits. There are the obvious ones: improved self-confidence, better public speaking skills, but Jones says students show other gains as well, such as the “ability to work with an ensemble in cooperative ventures” and the “ability to work through consensus and differences or obstacles to achieve a goal.” She points out that a play requires students to follow a time line, to use self-discipline, and to accept feedback. Studying theater can be a great starting point for careers such as teaching, law, and politics, not to mention broadcasting and performing. And the ability to speak confidently in front of a group is a boon for any career.

 

As a middle school drama teacher, I personally have had students start my class, come to me the first day and say, “Mrs. Shannon, I’m not comfortable getting in front of people, I’m shy and I don’t want to have to do anything in front of the class!” I always respond by telling the student not to worry, that I’ll never make them do something they don’t want to and that we’ll work together as we move forward. This relieves that intense stress they have and helps to lessen their fears. By the end of the first week or two, that same student is participating and doing things in front of the class. It never fails. Seriously. And I’ve had just about every kind of student, from a wide range of special needs students to the severely shy. Due to the way I set up and lead my classes, the students start to feel comfortable with each other, loosen up and then start having so much fun that they don’t realize how much they’re learning and that they’re conquering their fear of being in front of others. It’s a lovely thing to witness and be a part of. My number one goal with my classes is to help instill confidence in my students. And because I teach drama, I can do this.

The following link is a one-page list of the benefits of drama education. It says, “Research reveals the positive impact of drama on a student’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.” http://www.dramaed.net/benefits.pdf

Why drama? Here’s another fabulous link to check out: http://www.drama.org.nz/nz-curriculum/why-drama/

An incredible document written by Sandra S. Ruppert and published by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in collaboration with the Arts Education Partnership: “How the ARTS Benefit Student Achievement”. http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Publications/critical-evidence.pdf

The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have fine arts programs; and not just chorus, band and visual arts. We need to include drama into the curriculum. In fact, arts integration should be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. A perfect educational world that utilizes the arts may never be possible but we can at least create awareness. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you. 🙂

Enjoy this short video!

In the Middle: A Brave New World

 

Artwork by Madi Ray

Artwork by Madi Ray

The inspiration behind an original piece of work, inspired by middle school students and created by a drama teacher taking a chance on a vision.

A note from that teacher…

“I admit, I’m the kind of person that hears a song and sees the stage – music sometimes affects me in such a way that I will literally produce a whole show in my mind as I’m listening to it. I see the stage and everything happening on it. I become so inspired that the vision takes over. This was the case with this show, except that I was had several sources of inspiration. I was listening to the band 30 Seconds to Mars and I couldn’t stop thinking about the middle school students that I teach at Chapin Middle School.

When some of the songs set my mind and my imagination into high gear, I felt compelled to host conversations with my students about the things they face at this stage in their precious lives. These conversations proved to not only be entertaining, but incredibly eye opening. I realized very quickly how crucial this time in their lives really is. They are literally stuck in the middle of childhood and what I like to call, “teenagedom.” What happens to them at this point in their lives – who they’re influenced by, what inspires them, the confidence and knowledge they gain, among many other things – all help to define who they are as they take this roller coaster ride that is adolescence.”

Ok, yes, that teacher is me. I can, with great relief, say that the show was a big success. Let’s just say that after opening night, I was a crying, overwhelmed, incredibly thankful, exhausted mess. I was so fearful that my vision might not come across to our audience – that they wouldn’t “get it.” I took a big chance and I certainly don’t claim that the show was perfect by any means. However, I can say with confidence that I was overwhelmed with pride that my students and I were able to pull off my vision and were able to truly entertain and touch our audiences.

7th Grade Cast

7th Grade Cast

The show’s promotional description states that it is an intriguing selection of monologues, scenes and videos with quote-worthy narration in between, straight from the hearts and minds of teens. Comedic and dramatic material from middle school teens’ points of view on school, relationships, role models and life ‘in the middle’…from coping with the epidemic boy band fever, fashion blunders and guys trying to look “hot” for picture day, to overcoming adversity – like bullying, cancer and the loss of a loved one, this is war and these kids are experiencing a brave new world!

In the program, I stated that I would let the show speak for itself and hoped that it would touch the audience, warm hearts, make everyone laugh out loud and motivate everyone to applaud the passions and talents of these truly fabulous middle school students. (And, maybe it would help people to remember to have a little more patience for their moments of adolescence insanity!)  🙂

8th Grade Cast

8th Grade Cast

The compliments following the shows were amazing. They still bring tears of joy to my eyes since I was not only able to entertain and touch an audience with our little show, but was able to inspire and provide a positive performance experience for my students; one that I hope they never forget.

I must say, these amazing humans who are currently “stuck in the middle” have certainly inspired me beyond words.  I am honored and privileged to have been in this priceless position to make this vision of mine come to life. Hopefully I’ll be able to share many more experiences with the EveryWomanBlog.com readers!