Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy November, Friends! 

So much has happened since we last chatted! 
  • the Red Sox won the World Series
  • Rachael had her baby
  • Veronique had her baby
  • Morgan had her baby
  • the Red Sox won the World Series!
  • Dan and Justine closed on their first house
  • oh, and the Red Sox won the World Series!
October was a good month for Bay Staters!

I recently had the honor to help at an event at The Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT. Honestly, I didn’t do much more than decorate, collect raffle tickets, and eat fudge, but the event itself was very exciting. 
WritePros and my friend Lauren Yarger hosted “A Conversation with Dan Lauria” to introduce his new children’s book and to announce the run of A Christmas Story, the Musical (Yes, the one with the Red Rider BBGun, the I-talian leg lamp, and "You'll shoot your eye out, Kid!") at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, CTwith which he is touring for two months. For those of you in my age group, you will remember Mr. Lauria as the father on The Wonder Years. For the cable TV crowd, he is Jack Sullivan on Sullivan & Son
Several of the younger cast members from the show were also in attendance, performing one of the musical numbers and doing a little tap-dancing for their adoring fans.

You can read the dry facts of Mr. Lauria’s theatre career on Wikipedia. But you had to be there to hear the backstage stories of his antics with such friends as Charles Durning, Jack Palance, Joe Montegna, and Jack Klugman. 

Neither does Wikipedia mention Mr. Lauria's  dedication and proactive advocacy for children and single moms. Dan Lauria is the consummate stage actor, but his heart is for encouraging the creativity of children, and here’s the point he made that really hit home with me: it’s at the after-school activities that kids get to be creative.  

During the normal school day, students are shushed and asked to regurgitate what they’ve been told, because Passing the Test, Meeting the Standards, and Making the Percentiles are now more important at the government level than Educating and Equipping for Life. Hence, MCAS, Common Core, and other government-imposed motivations for teachers to Teach to the Test. Education standards are further lowered when a student has only to push a few keys on his/her phone to find the instant answer to any question! 

Where is the funding for extra-curricular activities going? In some cases, just away, and in others, to such tragic priorities as metal-detectors and increased police presence. 

Mr. Lauria contends that it’s during the after-school activities that the kids learn to communicate and create. Teamwork is learned on the field, on the court, at choir practice, and at play rehearsal. Communication is learned when the team, the cast, or the choir works together for optimum results at their game, their concert, their play. Creativity blossoms when all those communicating components are freed up to encourage and support each other’s efforts, maybe dare to think outside the box and try things that aren’t even in the script, the score, or the playbook. 

So if the schools don't provide opportunities and outlets for creativity, who does? 
You equip your kids to think more than, better than, beyond, and above the school standards
What does Dan Lauria, star of stage and screen, do?
He tells stories, 
and has his godson tell him stories of his own. 

“OK, so when i see you later, I want you to tell me the story of the Boy Who Chased the Squirrel Up a Tree.”
“But I don’t know that story!”
“Well, if you haven’t figured it out by dinner, I’ll tell it to you.” 
And off to school his godson goes, thinking about how he ... might chase a squirrel ... up a tree... creating all the way. 

When I directed the drama team at the private school, we designed a dinner theatre program for a fund-raiser. Besides waiting on tables, the students MC'd the evening and shared their various talents. But they wanted to do more.  They decided to run ‘commercials’ between the acts. They “advertized” everything from Party Pants to Animal Belts to Smart Hats. 
At the next dinner theatre, they decided to clean the stage between acts. Out came Tim to sweep, vacuum, leaf-blow, and finally run a “Zamboni” (made out of a large appliance carton) across the stage. That was one hilariously clean stage! 

Kids can and will meet high expectations, because high expectations of the kids translate into high confidence in them, whether they are touring with a Broadway play, or singing in the chorus of the junior high play, whether they are running plays for the big game on Saturday, or running lines to under-study the lead in the school play tonight. They can do all that and more - if we just give them the opportunity, provide the safe venue, and support them with loving guidance.

At the end of the "Conversation", Mr. Lauria graciously autographed his books and posed for pictures with his decades of fans. The Blue Hair Club & Other Stories is Volume One of The Godfather Series... written by a godfather for his godson, with his godson and his godson’s mom. It’s a collection of short stories he and his godson told each other... after school. 

Yes, there will be many more where these came from... because the creativity is still flowing! 

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