Thanks and Happy New Year from John Rambo, Managing Director

The year is winding down, with just a couple of days left before we usher in 2017. It’s always a time for looking back. Critics offer up their lists of the best in books, movies and music; and news programs catalog the most noteworthy events of the past year. Individually we also review the year past and that’s what I find myself doing today.

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Longview students interacting with Rosa Parks

When I consider our accomplishments here at the Theatre, one project that I think is particularly special is the “Theatre by Me” program we did with the second graders at Longview and Southwest elementary schools. Vanessa Adams-Harris, who was here as guest director for Ain’t Misbehavin’, worked with the kids at both schools for six weeks to create their own plays about themselves, The Best Second Grade Class Ever, a Play by Us. Besides being fun, and advancing literacy, this creative exercise had some serious benefits for the students’ emotional and social development. At this age, children are entering a phase where they are able to really perceive

differences between themselves and others, and creating this play helped them along the way to better understanding, and having empathy for, one another. The program started with them coming as a group to see a play at the theatre. In the second session Vanessa performed for them in a one person show as Rosa Parks where they could interact with Ms. Parks to learn more about her story and her struggle. Their reactions to learning this important part of history were both humorous and touching, demonstrating their budding empathy and understanding of fairness. Over the next four weeks, as they worked on their own play, they learned to support rather than criticize each other’s ideas and worked together to form and

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Southwest students work on staging their play.

tell their story. They performed the play their families and other students at the school.

Jenny White, the Principal at Southwest, had this to say about our program. “This gave elementary-age students an opportunity to experience theatrics when they wouldn’t have had otherwise and gave them a chance for practical application of their literacy skills, which showed that what they’re learning in the classroom has a real purpose.” The project wouldn’t have got off the ground without Ms. White’s enthusiastic support. Drama is not currently part of the district curriculum but she and her teachers helped us fit this in.

The project was funded through the NC Arts Council’s “Arts in Education” program, with matching funds from the Beaver Family Foundation, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and the Theatre’s general operating fund. It’s a terrific example of what the Theatre can accomplish with the support of foundations and donors like you. Together we make our community a better place. CLICK HERE to see the progress of our annual campaign.

I wish you all the best for the New Year.

Sincerely,

JOHN

 

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