Behind the Scenes Month

Music in the Schools, Minnesota Sinfonia — Spotlight Worthy

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I am honored today to be interviewing Jay Fishman, Executive and Artistic Director of the Minnesota Sinfonia. Jay was the founder of the Sinfonia, which is a professional orchestra offering all its concerts free to all who want to have access to their music. This policy was inaugurated under his leadership, as was the policy of making children welcome at all concerts. Today, Jay and I will focus on the Sinfonia’s program for inner-city schools, Music in the Schools.

The Arts and Learning — In the Spotlight

One of my favorite quotes about the arts is one from an interview with Katherine Anne Porter in The Paris Review. It is about the influence and impact of the arts in general, but also, I believe, speaks to the importance of the arts in children’s lives as well as the lives of adults. “Human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem to be irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning.” The arts can help children take the many things they are learning, and give them a framework. The arts have even been proven to help children learn in other areas of their lives as well. An article at “edutopia” entitled Why Arts Education is Crucial, and Who’s Doing it Best states that “Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.” If I needed a further reason to champion the arts, this would do it. For this In the Spotlight week, as Behind the Scenes month concludes, we’re going behind the scenes of some symphony orchestras — not to see how they tune their instruments, or how long they rehearse, but to see how they are working to enhance the educational experience of children who otherwise would have very little exposure to symphony music.

Blake Edwards, Director — Wednesday Worthy

There are 28 Blake Edwards DVDs on my shelf. 27 of those are productions he directed. For many of them, he wrote the screenplay. He acted in one, at the beginning of his career. Those DVDs represent only two-thirds of the movies Blake Edwards directed over the course of his amazingly diverse career. (Someday, I hope to have a complete collection!) Most people know this man for his Pink Panther movies, and, like most people, that’s where I first came to know his brand of dark humor and hilarious slapstick. (Note that I don’t, as a rule, enjoy slapstick. His take on the genre makes me laugh no matter how many times I’ve seen the film.) The Pink Panther movies were, for the most part, a delight — but there is so much more to the directing talent of Blake Edwards. In fact, writing this post made me feel I could write a book about this multi-talented man and his contributions to our world. Perhaps some day I will.

“Notes on Directing” for Writers

Just before I get into the subject at hand, I want to let you know that my blog is being critiqued today by Laura of Laura B. Writer. (Thanks, Laura!) Pop over there and see what she has to say about By Word of Beth, leave a comment if there’s something you’d like to praise or pan, then come back to read some of my thoughts on the relation between writing and directing. This week, as Behind the Scenes Month continues, we’re looking at directing — for stage and screen. I thought of titling this post “Why is a writer like a director?” but that sounded too much like Lewis Carroll’s “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” and I didn’t want you to consider my question the same sort of unanswerable conundrum. In fact, there are many similarities between directors and writers. (Not including the fact that some screenwriters and playwrights direct their own work.) I’ll share just a couple that come immediately to my mind. Directors work with character, setting, dialogue, to tell a story — story is the end purpose of film and play. Directors must be imaginative and creative in finding the right way to tell the story, and must be prepared to edit or excise scenes which do not adequately contribute to the story. The book Notes on Directing by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich may have been intended for directors, but I have found some invaluable advice for my writing journey within its pages.

William at Stages Theatre — for the First Time!

I am honored to have another guest today. You had a teaser for this story yesterday, in Jennifer Kirkeby’s post about adapting Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama as a stage musical. Today you get to read the story in its entirety. Nora Davis writes for the Hopkins, Minnesota Business & Civic Association newsletter. She has graciously given me permission to reprint her post from that newsletter telling the story of William’s first visit to Stages Theatre to see Llama Llama Red Pajama come to life. Click for more…

Jennifer Kirkeby — Wednesday Worthy

It is an absolute joy to me to have a guest post today from Jennifer Kirkeby. Jennifer is a fellow member of the 12 x 12 picture book challenge, and the Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group, and I am so grateful that because of these groups I have come to know Jennifer, at least a bit. She’s a multi-faceted person, an actress, playwright, dancer, choreographer, director… the list goes on. Most recently, she brought the wonderful picture book Llama, Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney to the stage. It had a successful run at Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins, Minnesota, and has been on the road, as well. In their four-week run they played to about 22,000 people!   Yesterday, you had a sneak preview of the production through photographs. Today you get to read the story of how the book went from page to stage, straight from the llama’s mouth. Click for more…

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