The John Lennon Peace Wall | Prague 2010

The John Lennon Peace Wall | Prague 2010
John Lennon Peace Wall | Prague 2010 | Photo by Deborah S. Greenhut

About Me

United States
Deborah S. Greenhut, PhD, is a playwright, arts documentarian, and educator who began teaching in a one-room school house in rural New England during 1970. These days you can find me collaborating with urban educators and students, seeking new ways to make education artful. I have consulted on management skills and communication arts in 44 of the United States and 5 provinces in Canada. I believe that people learn more effectively through drama-assisted instruction, and I exploit the Internet to deliver it. The views expressed here are entirely mine and not those of any other institution or organization.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Women Playwrights International Conference

"Ordinaries at the Revolution" has advanced to the final round of consideration for the Women Playwrights International Conference in Stockholm next summer. Read more about the play at this link or at Howards Frog if your Swedish translator is not working!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Audra Carabetta' "Roots" at The HATCH Presenting Series

Last week, Audra Carabetta showed her lyrical choreography in New York at Jennifer Muller | The Works' HATCH presenting series for Emerging Choreographers. A group of dancers connected with Across the Ages Dance in Cambridge delighted the audience with this piece that premiered last June. A documentary on this group is in the works by Howards Frog Productions.

Review of Austin Flint's Prison Light Featured at Suite101

Take a look at the Modern World Theatre home topic page for a review of this interesting, lyrical play at HERE Arts Center in NYC.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Uncle Pirate Sails the Seven Seas for Vital Children's Theatre

Looking for a fun children's play that can make a parent glad they bought a ticket? Vital Children's Theatre's Uncle Pirate fills the bill for children of all ages.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Keeping up with Kelley Donovan and Dancers

Kelley Donovan, joined by guest choreographers Sharon Montello, David Parker, Jessica Parks, and Stephanie Booth, presented a strong program last weekend. Read about their work at this link. To find out more about the Company, take a look at their blog.

Next spring, Kelley will return to Boston to work on performing with Across the Ages Dance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

jennifer Muller The Works at Bryant Park

last night Jennifer Muller The Works performed live at Bryant Park, NYC, for a crowd of more than 1,000 New York spectators. The welcome was warm as the  company highlighted its 38 year repertory, reprising excerpts from the recently premiered full evening The White Room and the gorgeous Hymn for Her and Aria pieces along with the popular closer Momentum. Jennifer just returned from a project in China. Find them on Facebook to see what's happening next! Thank you Bryant Park!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Invasion! by Jonas Hassen Khemiri Takes over The Flea

On this tenth anniversary of 9-11-2011, we can continue to wring our hands in despair, or we can go see a play that takes us by the lapels and rages, "what are you going to do about it?" You will laugh more than you've laughed in a long time, and then it will make you weep. More than once. You will understand a story in Arabic better than you understand the interpreter. You will say, "never again," to scapegoating, and you might just mean it. That is, if your heart hasn't left your body. But you will be left to figure out who is your Abulkasem.

It's taken a Swedish Arab to make the world look in the mirror. Like a good teacher, Jonas Hassen Khemeri offers us humorous examples, and then he yanks out the rug. Every word contains a meta message, and this bounding word-loving dark comedy is full of them.

The play won an Obie in February, and The Play Company has brought it back with a director Erica Schmidt, and the deeply affecting performances of Francis Benhamou, Nick Choski, Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte, and Bobby Moreno.

Go see Invasion! before the job creators move it to a higher-priced theater.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lessons about Freedom: Box by Fred Shahadi

What do a slave named Box and four modern  stowaways from Haiti have in common? Think out of the box and go Off-Broadway to see the play, Box, no playing at the Midtown Theater at 163 West 46th St., NYC to understand how the imagination feeds our desire for freedom.

Excellent acting by Kevin "Dot Com" Brown of 30 Rock, Lawrence Saint-Victor, Remy on Guiding Light, Brandon Alexander as Box, Ayinde Howell, of the web series, "Status Kill," and Rashad Sensai Edwards, who just wrapped three films and makes his Off-Broadway debut in Box. Produced by Stuart Films, LLC, and Browntown Entertainment Inc., this play is an excellent, filling evening. An excellent reflection on the meaning of freedom.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Talk to Your Kids About Galileo

Sure, science can be confusing. Reducing it to soundbites won't help to clear it up. Want to learn more about the voting down of Galileo? Try these links:

PBS , Wikipedia, The New Yorker.

The Inquisition is over. We need to listen to the scientists. Your teacher serves a purpose.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ann Coulter says teachers are useless--Was that balanced coverage by Fox News?

Perhaps Fox News and Friends will need to rethink its "balanced coverage" motto if they don't invite a school teacher to rebut Coulter's remarks about kindergarten teachers. See the video. Or perhaps Coulter will volunteer to spend a day managing a kindergarten class according to the rules. Most of us learned in kindergarten that we shouldn't, uh, demonize people just to win an argument.

Give Gretchen her due this morning. She didn't let the malignant remark slide, but it still might be a good idea to check in with a person who does the job.

Even Thomas Jefferson thought an educated citizenry was important.

New Photos for Across the Ages: Audra Carabetta

See stills for a beautiful dance called, "Roots," as performed in Cambridge, Massacusetts last fall by ATAD as choreographed by Audra Carabetta.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pinkalicious: The Musical--Pink is not just for girls!

You might think that a play that obsesses about pink would be a princess-only event, but you'd be wrong. Vital Children's Theatre gets it right in New York City with the musical production, Pinkalicious,  which argues in bodacious fashion that everyone--including Dads and Brothers--can love the color! This production deserves its (so far) three-year run. Great production values and choreography compliment the stereotype-busting story. Pink is in--Just in time for the start of school at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center on 60th Street in New York City.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Elder Women Stay Strong

Cheers to Diana Nyad and the many women returning to professional challenges after 50--
A website for the prime of your life: BravaBody !

Whatever Happened to Positive Images for Girls?

Well, at least the "I'm too Pretty T-shirt" is coming off the racks at J.C. Penney, but--CLICK!--it's more than a little troubling that the retailers' buyers did not figure this out until people complained:
For those of you who think it's too supid to focus on these incidents, please do your homework. The long-term consequences of ignoring the women's movement for equity have cost us a presidential candidate and equal pay. Women need to collaborate more and keep doing their homework--Intergenerate!--We need to watch what's happening to the generations that follow and do something about it.

Don't be part of the backlash that discourages women from going to school. Did you miss the Gloria Steinem bio, In Her Own Words, on HBO? Do we all need to become bunnies again to get the point?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DeSiCiTi Featured Article on suite101

Take a look at my article on DeSiCiTi, at suite101. This is quality television for women that takes a humorous and sensitive look at how to assimilate in America without forfeiting your birth culture. Look for their info on Facebook, too!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DeSiCiTi Nominated for Best TV Pilot at the New York City International Film Fest

DeSiCiTi's Leading Ladies
Nominated for Best TV Pilot at the NYC International Film Fest, DeSiCi is a commendable TV pilot from Little Brown Girl Productions. It's Sex and the City with a sensitive cultural upgrade. Four South Asian women navigate the New York City roles they can play in this Bollywood-on-the-Hudson plus sitcom. The Desi aspect is poignant, laced with hilarious plot overturns that update the tried and true "That Girl" formula. Somebody give this pilot a greenlight, please?

Things for families to do at Bryant Park

It's educational and fun! Enjoy Bryant Park on the beautiful last days of summer vacation!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Really? Award to Lego City

Is it me or are there no female people in Lego City? I found a nurse, a woman with a baby as the only likely urban dwellers in their catalog, and, oh, yes, there's a cowgirl named Jessie, but she seems to be the rural kind.

No wonder boys are busy smashing up the houses in Lego world. Somebody send them a copy of Gloria: In Her Own Words, please! Where did all the equal opportunities go?

Facebook Me: The Play at FringeNYC -- Go see it!

Curious about what your teen is doing on Facebook. This play won't make you happy, but it will help you start the conversation. See my review.  By tickets for the weekend here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Featured Article on Travel in the Czech Republic

 For "Learning to Love the Wall" to read about the John Lennon Peace Wall in Prague, click here. This article is featured in the Czech Republic section at

Monday, July 4, 2011

NYC High Line Gets it Right for Visitors of All Ages

The High Line is educational and a valuable life lesson about community
management of natural settings. Here are some ideas about how to spend
your day:  High Line Article.
June 20 on The High Line

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How Puppets Get Real in War Horse at Lincoln Center

War HorseThe transplanted production values of the National Theatre of Britain's War Horse, now a multiple Tony Award winner playing at Lincoln Center Theater, are so extraordinary that some of them should be marked adults only. Not that the production offers nothing to children. It offers quite a lot. But the vivid reality of early twentieth century war, as created by Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, may be frightening to younger children. So, pack up your less easily frightened 'tweens and teens, and visit this production. You will fall in love with beautiful horses all over again. Though the outlines of the endearing story of the equine sacrifice during World War I continues to stir the heart as it did in Michael Morpurgo's original short book, the fiery horrors of the battlefield feel more than a little close for comfort in the intimate surround of the Vivian Beaumont Theater. It's riveting theater and much larger than the original story. Better than virtual reality, the play borrows techniques from film to absorb you in its world. The horses are watching you, and they will respond. Get off the couch.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Across the Ages Dance Performance--June 17-18 Cambridge

Here's a link to a slideshow for the runthrough of this intergenerational dance group in Cambridge:

The documentary is progressing. A short article on Intergenerational Dance in Cambridge can be found here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Photos from the Across the Ages Dance Project

Dancers Gather to Rehearse for ATAD in May
cc by Deborah S. Greenhut 2011

Scenes from Daniel McCusker's rehearsal process last month are available at: Defining The Capture.

The technical rehearsal was completed yesterday, and the production week is generating tremendous excitement. Scenes from the development process will be available this week at the DTC blog, in and around our filming of the final week.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Producer Focus: Marcie Mitler for Across the Ages Dance

Some people sit around and complain that there are no opportunities for them to be creative. Other people go out an invent them. Here's a link to my posting about Marcie Mitler, who is co-producing Across the Ages Dance with Eliza Mallouk. Their program will open next week, and they are achieving their goals. No, there may not be that many opportunities for people over fifty or under twenty to dance professionally--unless we keep making new ones. Cheers, ladies. We can all borrow a page from your playbook!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Choreographer Focus #5: Daniel McCusker

Choreographer Daniel McCusker has nurtured a movement in the Cambridge dance community. Two of his students, Marcie Mitler and Eliza Mallouk, are producing Across the Ages Dance, and he has choreographed a piece for the group. He's committed to the idea that artists must contribute to their communities in order to sustain them, and it is clear that what goes around comes around in this intergenerational project. I met Daniel just as he was starting to work on his piece. Excerpts from an October interview appear here.

Young Choreographer

Cat Wagner is a young choreographer who is working on an intense and technically interesting piece for the Across the Ages Dance Project in Cambridge. Read about her plans for the June concert at Defining The Capture, here. It's less than a week to the opening. Cat's dance includes some of the youngest participants in the concert. Truly intergenerational!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thinking about Child Prodigies: Viewing Aelita Andre's Paintings

"Africa," by Aelita Andre
30" x 20" x 5"
Photo by Deborah S. Greenhut cc some rights reserved

Yesterday I paid a visit to Agora Gallery to see the Exhibit, "The Prodigy of Color: Aelita Andre/ a Solo Exhibition," which runs through June 25. I went out of curiosity after noticing a hefty number of comments doubting that the 4-year-old had created the paintings. Despite some people's disbelief, Ms. Andre has captured five-figure fees for some of her works, and in shows from Hong Kong to Italy and now New York, art buyers have snapped them up. Agora has supplied a video that shows Aelita painting. Here's a link to a more extended review with more illustrations that I posted today.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Dance Opportunities from Cradle to Elder

New article published at Suite101 describing intergenerational dance opportunities in Boston and elsewhere, featuring Across the Ages Dance and the role of Prometheus Elders in this new group.

Friday, June 3, 2011

ATAD Choreographer Focus #2: Melody Ruffin Ward

Melody Ruffin Ward is working on her piece for the Across the Ages Dance Project, an intergenerational work that will premier in Cambridge this month. I interviewed Melody for a film documentary in October 2010. Here's a link to some excerpts from that interview at Defining The Capture.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Across the Ages Dance Update

New on Defining The Capture Blog:
Meet Audra Carabetta, who works with students from 3 to 70. Her own choreography will be featured in Across the Ages Dance in Cambridge later this month. Intergenerational Dance is cool this summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Across the Ages Dance: Interview Excerpt Eliza Mallouk

Background for the documentary on Across the Ages Dance at this link. Performances in Cambridge June 17 and 18.

Discrepancies: The Teaching Life & School Safety

A video offers a caveat to those who think that teachers or children have an easy life:

Mexican Teacher of a kindergarten calms her young students in the middle of a shootout.

When interviewed, the teacher explained that all teachers receive training in how to handle these incidents. So, it's just part of the day, right?

We can soothe ourselves by saying it's not in our country, but our schools offer similar training and there are requirements or wishes for school safety, as reported, for example, in New York...New Jersey...California...Arizona, too. Managing weapons is very much a part of the school day. But that doesn't mean that it's all good. According to School Safety News, "Most schools have a lockdown plan. However not many schools have a good lockdown plan."

This is just one issue in a teacher's day. Try singing these lyrics the next time you're in lockdown, and do the math for school and teacher budgets while you go through the motions.

Everyone wants to feel safe. It's interesting that we put this burden on teachers and students with so few resources to support them. She was just doing her job, she said. "War, children, it's just a shot away" ...What is our job?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Article Posted for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Just posted a review essay at suite101 on Rajiv Joseph's play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.
After a good night's sleep, it gets better and better. Robin Williams must be seen!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eyeing the Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Fair warning if you haven't spent a lot of time with American drama lately. There's a new kid in town at New York's Richard Rogers Theatre. We are not in Our Town anymore, and we are sinking lower than even Willy could imagine in our own horrific Zoo Story. Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo  will push you around and take away your god no matter how powerful you thought he, she, or it was. If a tiger bites off a man's hand, he should be shot and killed, right? Religion is so over in the estranged world of Baghdad after the U.S. mission was, uh, accomplished. But there are some lingering questions about morality.

Evil, it seems, is omnipotent. Luckily for us, actor Robin Williams is, too. Understated, lonely as a dead tiger talking trash, the fantastic conceit of man as beast works in his interpretation, and poignantly well, with a full spectrum of humor to accompany the animal's acquisition of knowledge after he falls into the afterlife. The audience may egg him on, but Williams will not mug. In this production, Kaufman allows the two American marines and Uday Hussein to overact a bit, and that is too bad. Joseph's scripting of the character of Uday, in particular, is so painstakingly cruel that it isn't necessary. The torment by Uday of the well-acted character Musa and his innocent sister, Hadia, is unspeakable, and we cannot stop watching it.

This is a play about the utter demeaning of words and The Word. Hats off to the writer who can compel us to listen to animals speaking as men and deliver a significant portion of the plot in Arabic, often the language of women, with very little need of translation, which often fails anyway. We cannot mistake what is going on here. The knowledge this play brings to a ruined topiary garden in the afterlife on this extraordinary set is not what we want to know. But we have to do something about it. Fast.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Science Field Trip: The World's Largest Dinosaurs and the Hayden Planetarium

We're talking about those long-necked, long tailed sauropods that give new meaning to the idea of large. The American Museum of Natural History has an engaging exhibit set up about how they might have lived, beginning during the Triassic period. They survived that extinction through the Jurassic, and into the Cretaceous period, which ended with a huge extinction.

If you haven't been to this Museum for a long time, you might be surprised by the changes in the visitor-exhibit dynamic. When I recall my earliest visits there, I'm thinking of dimly lit glass cases that kept everyone at a respectful distance while sending back your awed reflection to your ever-widening eyes. Now, thanks to the short-attention span that rules everything, exhibits are made to be run through, and there's a lot of touching going on. The latter is a good thing, so please don't misunderstand. However...

 It's the sidebar-style chunking of information in disconnected ways that worries me. While the designers do a lovely presentation of sizes of various creatures, the context for each succeeding example shifts so rapidly (for me, anyway), that it's difficult to adjust your train of thought as the frame of reference for scale keeps shifting. This same behavior is noted in contemporary textbooks where narrative has all but disappeared. This Museum used to be a very grown-up place to go, The animated features in the Dinosaur exhibit, such as the cartoon of the sauropod's likely digestive system, below--Gingko leaves and all--

Did they me help me to learn as much as I wanted to learn? There's also a large glass bin of foliage, including the fan-shaped leaves to help reinforce the point. Museums have a difficult line to manage in all of this--people seem to be big on paying attention at the beginning, and wanting big things at that point, and their interest picks up again at the end. This one has a dig simulation, and some people stop to try it. There's a lot of amazing material in the exhibit and, of course, elsewhere in the museum, so you will be thrilled if you want to spend more time.

In the aftermath, I'm feeling nostalgic for the older parts of the museum. There's a beautiful tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, to whom we owe our natural park system, and the elegantly informative, purposefully quiet, Audubon Gallery. But the old Hayden Planetarium, now new--where Tom Hanks' narrative has succeeded to Whoopi Goldberg's amid the loud soundtrack of the universe evolvin-- that is where I feel most bereft. My favorite part of those long-ago visits was the live show by the planetarium operator. He was strict with us. No talking. The reward was losing yourself in the dark only to find yourself floating in the Milky Way. It was Paradise, slow-moving, and enchanting. If you download the Museum's video The Known Universe, but mute the sound, you might recall some of that feeling. So this next  moment of quiet is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Fred C. Hess, planetarium lecturer extraordinaire, and Helmut K. Wimmer, astronomical art wizard. These are the people who helped us believe we could reach the moon one day. Tonight, I'm wishing for a dark sky so we can hush and find ourselves again in the stars.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Launching The White Room

Last night marked the launch of Jennifer Muller's The White Room at Michael Namer's Gallery 151 in NYC. Muller offered selections from the second act of this full-length work, and the dancers were in beautiful form. The company's season opens with a preview night on June 22. Come see this intense elaboration of innocence and experience at Cedar Lake.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

HATCHed Sequel Series: Happening Choreographers at Jennifer Muller|The Works Studio

Last evening, three up-and-coming creators received a second gift of cost-free space to present their work before a live audience at the Jennifer Muller|The Works studio in Chelsea. The Works' Studio has incubated numerous up-and-coming performers, and this HATCHed Sequel performance offers a return-engagement to support the development of the next generation of dancers in New York. Pascal Rekoert, a member of The Works, curates this nurturing project, and he emceed with his usual wit, clad in bermuda shorts owing to the suddenly summer climate of the evening, and three choreographers' communities came together to support each other's art.An eclectic experience, ranging from the theatrical to the cool to the clown, the sequel evening was full and provocative. Experiments alternated with classical allusions to the history of dance in the works of three: Koryn Wicks, Kensaku Shinohara, and Kendall Cornell/Clowns Ex Machina. All three pushed the boundaries of integrating sound and movement.

Two works by Koryn Wicks stood out as the most fully formed in this evening of dances in various stages of progress. Op.117, danced by Wicks and Yue Tong Kwan exhibited the polish of a careful study that transcended the poignent Brahms score. They were graceful and technical proficient, and the dance is beautiful and full. A standout performance was offered in a second electrically theatrical piece about heading home intoxicated, It's a Long Walk Home, performed by Kudzaishe Geti, Malik Kitchen (both trained byAiley) and Jessie Niemiec (former Muller apprentice).  Wicks' company included Sarah Molczan, Hildur Olafsdottir, Tommy Sutter, Lindsay Hall, Matthew Manix, Natalia Messa, Kassi Narcisse-Cousar, Tatiana Sanchez, and Jane Sawyer. There's an epic effort going on here, and they will be seen!

Kensaku Shinohara's Third Supper, a spirited and fun take on urban experience, incorporating spoken word and a range of sounds, opening with barking dogs. Kuan Yu Chen, Mei Yamanaka, and Shinohara collaborate well together. The dance is more than its sound track, and it will be interesting to see how the work progresses.

Clowns Full-Tilt is an ambitious workby Kendall Cornell and the Ensemble exploring the female universe through the eyes of woman clowns: Carla, Bosnjak, Julie Kinkle, Michaela Lind, Diana Lovrin, Clare O'Sheeran, Aly Perry, and Lucia Rich. There are witty moments and good questions posed in this fusion of spoken voice and clown movements. The amusing appearance allows them to tackle otherwise tabu, intimate topics under the cover of a lot of laughter. Cornell opened with a wry sketch on de-whitening the walls of the Muller Studio, and the piece proceded sometimes with the hilarity of an imaginary overstuffed car, and other times looking at subjects like depression with all the sadness a clown can bring. Heading to LaMaMa where a number of Cornell's pieces have appeared, this effort, as they say, has legs!

Side note: Jennifer Muller's newest work, a full-length dance The White Room opens on June 22 at Cedar Lake. It takes a village to nurture the next generation of artists, and Jennifer has been supporting this effort since 1974. Tickets.

Friday, May 20, 2011

No Limit Dancers with Disabilities

 Just completed a brief exploration of this topic. Read it here. Integrated dance ranges from the recreational to the artistic. A common feature concerns the perceptions of differently abled bodies in motion. This article is related to The Estate Project piece I contributed earlier this month.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meet The Artists Through Their Spoken Words at Lincoln Center

Search for teaching poetry to middle schoolYesterday began with a challenging commute for me. The traffic on the Turnpike was so bad that the Port of NY Authority was actually offering apologies for the delays in the bus terminal when I arrived. I was rushing to Lincoln Center for a school program called Meet the Artists.

Middle School is often a challenging age group, with its mix of growth spurts and interests. I say this because it’s sometimes a rough room even for the best performers. So the fact that Cecilia Rubino’s
Poetry Slam 102: Verbal Velocity players could generate enough excitement to get the whole room of students to raise their pencils in the air and write, and then, on the big stage of The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, compete to volunteer to read aloud…Well! What teacher doesn’t dream of that kind of class participation? This program in the Meet the Artists Series delivers.
Their secret is an effective mix of accoustic cool, sound effects, music, and the keepin'-it-real poetry of Darian Dauchan, Erik "the advocate of wordz" Maldonado, and Shanelle Gabriel, who spit rhymes so compellingly you've just got to write when they tell you to. The show opens with the roar of a race car and does not quit humming until the end after the students applaud and cheer. Creative writing is sometimes a scary curriculum area, but this program goes a long way toward making the experience open and welcoming for everyone. While poetry slam is a fast-paced competitive sport with points and judging for the slam actors' stage efforts, they emphasize repeatedly that the students should applaud the poet not the scores. This duality works well to encourage the shy while offering some juiced literary combat for the extrovert.
Darian, Erik, and Shanelle wear many hats in this performance, alternately hosting a round of competition--with Darian donning a top hat and affecting a British accent, Shanelle, the guise of Sister Yvonne on her way to church, and Erik, the outfit of Ricky Rock 'n Roll--then spitting rhymes as the slam experts they are. The first round included puzzle poems about unnamed objects--Ink, from Erik, A Fast-Food Favorite, served up by Shanelle, and the Iphone, emceed by Darian. During the Breakdown moment, the poets explained personification--"I feel so personified"--and gave the audience 3 minutes to write to music. Rubino and the emcees circulated to help anyone who was stuck. There were volunteers aplenty, and one student came up on crutches to share his piece on “headphones.” He was generously rewarded with urban cool, and the audience loved how “dope” it was.
Round two featured highly personal tributes to favorite music—Darian to Coltrane’s sax, the Church of St. Hipness, Eric, to Salsa, el cantata, yo soy Boricua, and Shanelle brought down the house with her paean to Hiphop, “writing from the heart, spit trith…the power is ours!”  Erik provided a comic interlude by attempting an 8-minute air guitar tribute to Led Zeppelin, but he was interrupted for the second Breakdown, where this program’s high-falutin’ curriculum moment concerned the  Ekphrastic poem, which they quickly brought down to earth, Say wha? Hint: It’s inspired by art. This writing sequence figured a brainstorming freewrite accompanied by Lady Gaga for musical inspiration. Highly energizing.
Students were instructed to let this piece “marinate” and work on it another time, and Shanelle arrived as Sister Yvonne  to introduce a particularly poignant segment where the narrative poems concerned highly personal bittersweet moments about the girl Erik teased, the love Darian wanted to reach out for, and Shanelle’s struggle to understand and please her foster mother, to “Be the kind of woman you wished I’d be.” The last Breakdown encouraged students to affirm themselves through their words, and the students quickly composed sentences of their own, which many read aloud with great pride: “Hold your  ground because life is coming.”
Shanelle was the ultimate slam winner, but, as they say, "the point is not the points." At the end of the show, Heather from Lincoln Center told the students they could donate their poems to Lincoln Center. My turn to be amazed and a little jealous. What a great thing for the students and the arts! Cecilia Rubino's amazing slam poets make it look so easy. Behind this performance lurks a lot of energy and talent. If you are a teacher who wants to attend it, know that your students will go home inspired, and you can pick up a few tricks about turning that freewrite into a piece of cake. Word.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just Published: New Article on Jennifer Muller | The Works

Take a look at this new article, "Innocence and Harsh Realities in Jennifer Muller's The White Room, featuring Muller's newest work. Think about getting tickets, and then go to Smarttix to reserve a good seat at a performance in June. Artistic Director, Jennifer Muller; Associate Artistic Director, John Brooks. Executive Director, John Louis Bryant. General Manager, Christie Zummo. Administrative Assistant, Elise King.

Company members in 2011 include Susanna Bozzetti, Mariana Cardenas, Elizabeth Disharoon, Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Seiko Fujita, Duane Gosa, Gen Hashimoto, Abdul Latif, Jen Peters, Pascal Roeckert, and Apprentices, Mario Bermudez Gil, Katherine Hozier, and Husing-Hua Wang, collaborating to deliver The White Room.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laurie Riccadonna Fine Artist and Educator

Beautiful paintings by an optimist and commited urban educator.

Take a look at this preview of Laurie Riccadonna's upcoming show. It's worth a trip
to Jersey City.

The White Room Choreographed by Jennifer Muller for JM|TW

Gala Pre Launch May 23

Jennifer Muller | The Works focuses their Cedar Lake Season on The White Room, June 22-26. Here is a video link to a description of the development of the piece through the eyes of the dancers and the choreographer. If you care about how we find our way in the world, you will want to see this dance. It begins with the story of a young girl, and it enlarges to include all of us.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

AIDA by Washington Irving and Chelsea CTE High School New York City

Erin Woodward Introducing Aida at WIHS last night

Spring arrives, and long after lunch has been multiply videotaped by security cameras and food police cams in the lunch room, students stay after school and come in on the weekends to create the annual high school musical. Yesterday, it was my honor to attend the closing performance of Tim Rice and Elton John's Aidaa story of love and war, directed by Ms. Erin Woodward, produced with the combined efforts of principals, teachers, and students at two New York City High Schools: Washington Irving and Chelsea Technical Education. More than 40 students developed 80 roles and participated in the development this exciting and crowd-pleasing play, including live music, a beautiful modern set, designed in the style of periaktoi and built by Seung Lee's art club, all compelemented by the inspiring classic setting of the Washington Irving Theater.  Taking excellent advantage of the talent pool, Woodward cast two students each as Amneris (Amanda Castro, Samantha Lee Rivera), two as Ramades (Jonathan Catala, Victor Ramirez), and two Aidas (Johaira Nieves, Justine Bishop), and delivered a witty switchover two the second cast during the musical number, "Not Me," at approximately the halfway point in the show.

The production was sophisticated, requiring the services of a fight choreographer (Christian Kelly-Sordelet), vocal coach (Rosemarie Bray), lighting design (Jonathan Deutsch), scenic design (Seung Lee), and costume design (Emily Snyder). Rosemarie Bray was the Producer, and Stephen Rodriguez provided Musical Direction. The set was particularly ingenious, three flats, which were actually painted cubes, allowed for the visual depiction of multiple identities and secrets so crucial to the story. Choreography was developed by Suzanne Lamberg, with additional work by Alejandro Garcia, who also photographed the performance.  Principals Bernardo Ascona (WIHS) and Brian Rosenbloom (Chelsea CTE HS) have lent their generous support to the second year of this collaboration. (Last year: "Grease.")

From the "Director's Note," we learn that "This production was created during 40 days, with students...traveling to an unfamiliar school to work with unfamiliar students and teacher...juggling SAT, AP, and placement tests...coming in during Saturday and Spring Break...battling cast and family illness...singing for the first time and/or...dancing for the first time and/or...acting for the first time and/or...working backstage for the first time. This is an ensemble of funny, frank, and fierce warriors, and I am honored to work with them."

As an interesting sidelight, school ties are strong among this group of collaborators: Sarah Ickan (Guest Drummer) Christian (fight choreographer), and Jackie Deniz Young (technical and lighting assistance) attended the same high school as Woodward, and all carried their Arts Program affiliations forward. Alejandro (additional choreography) is an alum of the Washington Irving Arts Program.

The cast and crew honored Woodward with rousing cheers and applause at the conclusion of the production. This is the teacher you remember. This is the part of school that teaches you what to value. Spend the money better, America. Tear yourself away from TV news depictions of attacks on teachers and students. Be a community again. Go to a high school play and remember what was fine about school.

Curtain Call, AIDA

Director Woodward distributes flowers to the Cast & Musicians

Final touches to the set before the Show Opens

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tune In, Drop Out--The School Lunch Conundrum

So, the USDA has two million dollars to videotape what Texas children are (not) eating for lunch. If intimidation worked to change dietary habits, high school would be a significantly different experience for the student who has poor dietary habits.

Astounding, given the disrepair of much of our educational system, that the government can rub more than two nickles together to make this happen. Who will be minding these films? What will happen to everyone's privacy after they are all posted on the Internet? You have to wonder what human subjects research board dreamed it up. Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy landing. Imagine what else $2M might pay for! Iceberg, anyone?

How would it be if they used those same cameras to tape students performing a play or playing soccer. A little self-esteem goes a lot further than constant nagging or criticism. It's odd that no one seems to know that a simple request to a cafeteria worker could summarize what students leave behind on their trays. Health benefits, anyone?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thinking of F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Shadow of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg Hovers at Sunset

Scribners, NYC 5/9/2011 Photo by D. S. Greenhut

The twilight of the reading world. The kind of beautiful day in New York that beckons a rereading of The Great Gatsby.

I know it's not West Egg, but there's something about that profile.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Estate Project: Preserving Communities of Choreographers

Just posted: a new piece on the dance and choreographers' archive,  The Estate Project,  at Suite101, "The Estate Project: Choreographers Dealing with AIDS."

The Estate Project documents the careers of artists with AIDS. Uniquely, the choreographers' listings integrate dancers who support HIV-positive colleagues as well. The section of the site concerning dancers contains the most extensive information. It is a sad lineage from Rudolf Nureyev to (mostly) men in their 30s, many of whom died in the waning days of the twentieth century. There, too, you can find the works of several women choreographers who concerned themselves with making art about the victims of the epidemic, Heidi Latsky, Marguerite Pomerhn Derricks, and Ellen Webb among them.

Across the Ages Dance Project

Cambridge May 1, 2011 - Android Camera
Began documentary filming of rehearsals for Across the Ages Dance Project, produced by Eliza Mallouk and Marcie Mitler in Cambridge. Participants range from age 4 to the eighth decade of their lives. It is a wonderful group project where everyone is teaching everyone else. Choreographers Audra Carabetta, Joan Green, Daniel McCusker, Catherine Wagner, and Melody Ruffin Ward. High Def cinematography by James McCalmont.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rien de Rien: Living La Vita Meta

Hey-ho. Back from a long day at the SEO salt mines, I can tell you that it is difficult to write for optimization.  I am worried about Newspeakish behaviors. The search for words and ideas now depends so much on our laziness. So does our acceptance of the news. If we agree to stop at the first page of results, or to simply absorb uncritically everything that is broadcast, then not only is the search for information is not so much fun as it used to be, we limit our proficiency in finding the truth through words, and we accept print results even if they are inaccurate or wrong. As the focus shifts aggressively from informing to selling, we need to become more creative about how we look for knowledge and the truth.

Optimizers depend on generics and key word carelessness. They talk about providing “content,” when many are actually providing word fill, a verbal  equivalent to landfill. The meaning of a word is often obscured by these practices. The trick is to draw people to a website by means of word bait. And it works.

Take the word, “theory,” which is a useful scientific term that refers to a verified hypothesis or set of hypotheses that have become accepted as true. In careless modern practice, though, “theory” is a term that has better search results as an Adsense keyword term than “hypothesis,” so in the game of optimized key words, “theory” wins, even when it’s not an accurate description. Today, I googled “theory,” and, apart from links to definitions, what I found was that Donald Trump is said to have a “theory” about President Obama’s birth certificate. According to the Daily Beast, yesterday, however, perhaps upon learning that the White House was going to publish a copy of the real birth certificate after all, Mr. Trump appears to have moved on to a “theory” about the President’s college transcript.

Neither one of Trump’s pronouncements can be accurately called a “theory.” The risk of allowing him to call his ideas a “theory” is that in our complacency or amusement, we allow his hypothesis to gain both currency and volume views. In this way, if we are complacent about what appears on our screens, and if something is repeated often enough to acquire a hash tag, it may even acquire the status of a “theory,” or even a “law.” What results then is reminiscent of Newspeak, and, here, I am referring to the language advocated in George Orwell’s 1984, rather than a new programming language that is described (wink-wink) as "doubleplusgood."

Why do we allow ourselves to be distracted from any real consideration of issues? We try to teach schoolchildren how to distinguish the truth. Many take lab sciences and are exposed to the difference between a “hypothesis” and a “theory.” Why is that knowledge dropped along the way? Educated citizens need to do better than lazy searching, or they might as well kiss their freedom good-bye. Search results tend to become reflexive, referring back to themselves—that is why I included the word “meta” in the title of today’s entry. In languages derived from Latin, however, “meta” can also mean a “goal.”  If we have a goal in search, we are less likely to be victimized by other people’s goals or pseudo-theories.

“Nothing from nothing leaves nothing,” if you will allow me to join the musical messages of Edith Piaf and Billy Preston with the ancient philosophy ex nihilo, nihil fit.Yet when the words come out of nowhere, we should not allow their entertainment value to distract us from the truth. Indeed, people have accepted for a long time the expression, "Nothing comes from nothing"—and yes, you need to know the rule about double negatives here.  You can spend hours trying to track down the source of this "nothing" in Wikipedia, where various, disparate articles credit the phrase to either Parmenides, or Lucretius, or Empedocles, but, finally, you have to know "something" to evaluate "nothing." Despite all the cross-linking, you won't find  confirmation of the source for that expression among the links I have given you. Knowledge is not a rolling stone. Research, thought, and the truth are a lot more work than standing up in a crowded theater and yelling “theory.”

We can do better in searching for meaning. Try Googling the word “Lazy” and see if you notice that it’s also a town in the Czech Republic.  You know how to Google, doncha? Try the Advanced Search. Stretch your mind. If you dig through enough pages, maybe you’ll even find the lyrics to a delightfully energetic song by David Byrne.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ultimate Fusion? Science meets Dance

Speaking of poetry in motion, here's a dancer alert. All you need is a scientist who wants to compete.

Here's a link to an unusual fusion that takes collaboration to a new level--the 2010 Dance Your Ph.D. Contest.

NPR and The New York Times have profiled the competition, and it looks like a winner for trickle down interdisciplinary possibilities. So, find your favorite scientist and start choreographing for next year.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Check out new article on The Rover Soho

The Rover Soho is a venue of creative opportunity for contemporary dancers and collaborative multi-genre artists. I've just posted a new article on suite101. Click here to go there. 

Here is a link to William Carlos Williams' poem, The Dance, plus a photo of the Brueghel painting, The Kermess, that inspired the writing. Use this link to hear Williams' reading the poem, courtesy of the wonderful Harper's Magazine archive, November 2008.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Westfest Dance Next Weekend!

Check out:  Westfest Dance at the Cunningham Studio next weekend! Twenty-five dance companies, dance films, dancers!

Link the unlinkable; Think the unthinkable

Refreshing reminder from Philip Vassallo this morning...
Peace on this earth? Think the unthinkable...It's time to stop funding the killing.
Short poem for the large ideas of the day:
Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good-bye Grete Waitz

Rest in peace, Grete Waitz, October 1, 1953 - April 19, 2011.

In celebration of the woman athlete, here is a link to Nellie Wong's poem, Resolution.

Another, to Leslie Heywood's poem, For the Women's Cross Country Team, 1983  (Note:scroll down the article when you get to the page; the poem is indented.)

Here's to Grete who ran for the love of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Value of Arts Education for Children

All math and no play-acting may not improve math scores as much as we would like. A combination of instruction might improve the performance of our students in both areas.

Still skeptical about the value of arts education for children? Here is a link to studies that show connections between academic performance, appropriate behavior, and attendance--the areas that address student success in school and in life from Americans for the Arts. Scroll down that page to find research connections for different genres. 

Check out the website River of Words, which teaches ecoliteracy through poetry and art. They put their money where their mouths are and sponsor a yearly competition for kids so we can all see the results. I especially enjoyed the 2010 Grand Prize winner Carolyn Dean's exquisite poem about saying good-bye to a friend, "Snapping Turtles." Tell me it does not give you the chills.

It takes a long time to grow a poetry habit. Honoring nature is a lifetime responsibility. In my opinion, art is never a waste of children's time, and the adults could derive a value or two from considering their work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Poetry in Motion

I had the pleasure of seeing a performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock at Lincoln Center Jazz this weekend. Audio samples of their music can be found at this link:  SHIR

What you really want to do, though, is to go see and hear them live. Shirley Saxton, the founder of Children of Deaf Adults (CODA), who was seen first onstage while the other singers were only heard, makes a beautiful visual pun. She is the loveliest Sign Language interpreter, communicating equally with everyone. Her message is clear, her hands are graceful and brilliant, and her motion adds a layer of dance to the extraordinary singing voices of current members, Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, Nitanju Casel, and Ysaye Barnwell. For this concert, to augment the jazz message of the event, Sweet Honey in the Rock was accompanied by Stacy Wade (musical director who also works with Al Green); Parker McCallister, a young and outrageously talented bassist; Jovol Bell, the versatile percussionist. This engagement comprised their tribute concert to the women's voices we have lost: Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, and Odetta, with an additional tribute to Abby Lincoln. The concert concluded with a richly deserved standing O.

I haven't heard Sweet Honey sing live since the 1970s. I missed an evolution. Before singing Odetta's medley of freedom songs, which is a historical encyclopedia written in song, Barnwell told the audience that it would be a good idea for us to learn them: "You're going to need them," she said. Alas for us. For relief from the fears of the present moment, listen to "Breaths," especially. It will keep you warm on a cold night.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bob Dylan: Musing about Freedom of Speech

Regarding the recent Maureen Dowd high horse about the politics of Bob Dylan allowing his play list to be censored in China, let me just say that I am hoping for a new flash of inspiration on the order of the 1987 rush that delivered the content of Oh Mercy. I refer you specifically to Everything is Broken, and I hope that my favorite lyrical gangster will turn his muse to the issue of the selling and slaughter of Chinese children to sustain the nation's economic miracle. It matters less that Bob Dylan brings his artistry to China than what he does when he returns home. I remain wordlessly  Waiting for the Song, not to mention Waiting on the World to Change.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Freedom of the Press

There's a terrific museum in Washington called Newseum. The second wonderful thing about it concerns its online resources. Today, I reviewed the site's Freedom of the Press map. According to their ranking system, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are most free. The United States ranks 9 out of the countries that appear among the free. The least free? North Korea.

The graphics and factual content are a wonderful teaching tool and easy to navigate.

True to its name, the Newseum holds archives of news photographs and a daily updated link to front pages from 869 newspapers from 89 nations.

This website illustrates the extraordinary potential of the Internet for learning.  If you are headed to Washington for your spring break, see it live!

Link to a poem about The News here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Earth Day: The Day After

If you can stop trying to visualize a trillion for a moment, you may want to check out "A billion acts of Green," and think about what you can add to the movement.

On another note, if you are tempted to blame teachers for the pickle we are in, ask yourself this: "Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither." Check out zeitgeistmovement, among others.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American Dreamers

Program "Live Your Dream!"--Photo by D. S. Greenhut

How do you get to the Radio City Music Hall? Practice, of course. And it doesn't hurt to get a little help from The Garden of Dreams Foundation, Chelsea-born Whoopi Goldberg, and Phoenix Partners Group, in partnership with MSG Entertainment, numerous children's foundations in New York and New Jersey, and their friends. Last night, courtesy of Phoenix partners, I had the privilege of attending the annual "Live Your Dream Talent Show" at Radio City Music Hall. Never mind the free popcorn and soda (the food police were conspicuously absent) for everyone in the hall, let us turn to the hard work of making dreams come true for children who are working against some major personal obstacles. 

Each child had a story to tell, yet the focus was on their dreams and their performing arts talents. Moves were busted. Rhymes were worded. That Michael Jackson remains an inspirational force was hailed in the many spangled glove tributes. Singer Miguel lent a hand to a beautiful rendition of "Pure Imagination" with the Garden of Dreams Choir. The Beastie Boys introduced several acts, and Darryl McDaniels kept everyone pumped for the closing acts. Shades of "Little Miss Sunshine," Radio City Music Hall is a huge stage, and two World Famous Rockettes, Afra Hines and Corrine Tighe, shared their courage, escorting the dreamers on and offstage with their megawatt warm smiles and energy.

The kids worked hard to get to this place. They set aside personal hardships and obstacles to make it happen. My most teary-eyed moment, among many, was the experience of the Kennedy Brothers, James and Michael, who are sons of a 911 Hero firefighter, represented the Uniformed Firefighters Association with a beautiful piano duet, "The Dreamland Tree." Though their sheet music would not stay put, they soldiered on without missing a note, and it melted your heart.

If you have ever had stage fright, you know what it takes to get up there. Imagine connecting with a crowd in Radio City--New York City--for your first big break.

The arts have given these children a sense of purpose and a reason to excel. The youngest performer, Oscar Saltaimacchia, led the opening number with the group by dancing off his five-year old legs, and the surprising skills just continued to the powerful concluding soloists, Faith Brown (accompanied by Isaiah Brown), Mariah Martinez, and the percussionist 3M's. All ages were represented against a beautiful LED backdrop of floating balloons and the moon.

Garden of Dreams keeps the arts a live option. May they keep a good thing going. Let us have more of these nights. The days won't seem so long.
"Live Your Dream" Finale | Photos by D. S. Greenhut

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Howards Frog Produces Film Documentary for Across the Ages Dance Project

Howards Frog Productions is currently working on a film documentary for Across the Ages Dance Project.
You can find them on Facebook. (Click "Facebook" at left for the link!)

Eliza Mallouk and Marcie Mitler are producing this exciting, multigenerational evening of work by New England Choreographers Audra Carabetta, Joan Green, Daniel McCusker, Catherine Wagner, and Melody Ruffin Ward. Across The Ages Dance Project is pleased to announce their first annual concert June 17th & 18th, 2011 at Green Street Studios in Cambridge MA.

From the ATAD Mission Statement:
"Across The Ages Dance Project's Mission is to produce a concert emphasizing an inter-generational ensemble of dances featuring five unique choreographers.

We believe in the rich life experience of this mixed population, which includes dancers of all ages, and wish to create this opportunity for dancers and choreographers to come together and share their art with the larger community.

Our intention is to create one successful concert and in so doing, enhance the possibility of future concerts with an inter-generational theme."

Howards Frog completed interviews with the principals in October and will be filming rehearsals and the performances this spring to assemble a record of the project and create a festival quality film that documents the process.