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By Eric Emch

As the Marketing Director of Jaradoa Theater, I have a lot of unique responsibilities. I adopt the “voice” of Jaradoa and create facebook status updates; I take photos from Play On! and meticulously cut out the students from the background; I have a weekly meeting with April that usually ends in beer drinking/life evaluation. But never before have I had the responsibility of being on stage.

When Anika asked me to participate in last Saturday’s Radio Play, my first reaction was “absolutely not.” I’m not an actor — I don’t want to be an actor. However, I hadn’t seen Anika in a while, nor had I ever seen a Radio Play, so I nervously agreed. I received the script and was assigned a role (Announcer 2 – holla!), and even practiced out loud in my apartment which loud/zany accent I would use (Radio Plays sound better with bold vocal choices, apparently).

The day of the Radio Play, everyone showed up at Bishop Mugavero Nursing Home in Brooklyn and my fears immediately faded. Everyone was so excited to be there and eager to entertain that I quickly jumped on the fun-times bandwagon. Not to mention our audience (the elderly folk of the nursing home) was lively and completely ready for our performance. And the performance was a hoot and a half! I read my lines with the only accent I’m confident in (a Palin-esque Midwestern accent — I’m from Ohio, what can I say?) and mostly shouted my lines. Everyone else was HI-larious and our singing talent was out-of-control good. When I wasn’t laughing hysterically my jaw was dropped hearing Anika sing her face off or watching Telly epitomize a “triple threat.”

While the actual play was such fun to be a part of, the hands down best part of the day was the post-show sing along with the residents and the conversations that followed. The two women I sang by for the sing along were not shy by any means, and performed (mostly to themselves) a stirring rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Mary and Gladys had both sung for their church choirs — and both women were full of stories and anecdotes that were yearning to be told. And I couldn’t get enough! Looking around the room at all the story-swapping, I felt such pride to be a part of Jaradoa and such honor that this fascinating and important community was so willing and eager to share their lives with us.

I think I’m still on a high from the hilarity and good times that ensued at Saturday’s Radio Play. If any of you ever get a chance to participate (whether you’re an actor or not), do it! If all else fails, you can just yell the lines using your best Sarah Palin accent.

by Anika Larsen

Last week, Jaradoa hosted its first ever Radio Playaz ‘Sup Party!

What in tarnation is that, you ask?
Well, Radio Playaz are our most faithful Jaradoa Radio Theater volunteers, the folks we can rely on to be there to perform for the old folks, to listen to and love on the elderly, to get their intergenerational relationships on til the briggity break o’ dawn.

But still, you may ask, what in heckfire is a ‘Sup Party?
That’s a “Script Unveiling Pizza & beer” Party. (Do you like how “Pizza and beer” all squeezes into the “P” of the acronym? If linguistic gymnastics were an Olympic event, we would totally podium.) It’s a party to read the latest radio play script, the one we’re next going to be bringing to the 6 nursing homes we visit. But it’s really an excuse for us to hang with our volunteers, for us all to get the time to fraternize that we don’t have at the radio plays themselves.

We had the ‘Sup Party in a swanky Tribeca loft, generously made available to us by a friend of mine named Allen. Allen has gorgeous hardwood and leather floors, so no shoes are allowed, which means I warned people to wear nice socks, and they showed up rockin’ some beauts! Of course, there was pizza, really delicious thin crust pizza, so delicious we did not have the leftovers I was hoping to leave in the fridge as a thanks to Allen for use of his pad. And there was beer. Heinekin, which had a few takers. But far more popular was the case of Coronitas, which are adorable little 7 oz. Coronas. Put a wedge of lime in the top, and you’ve got yourself a mini-fiesta! I myself may have had five or six. Or seven–don’t judge me, they’re teeny!

Now I’m not gonna lie to ya, we didn’t actually know how the ‘Sup Party was going to turn out, because we’d never done it before. Turns out they are hecka fun! First of all, it’s a fabulous excuse to say “‘Sup” to everyone you greet there (I tried to get the doorman of the swanky Tribeca loft building to say “Sup” to all who came, but apparently he did it once to someone who didn’t get it and then he gave up).

People arrived, un-shoed, grabbed a beer and a slice and mingled. (Some folks, i.e., our Marketing Director Eric Emch, were not afraid to double fist – see the bottom photo.) It was a really diverse group of Jaradoa peeps: Members, Allies, Radio Playaz, staff and interns. Folks were having such a fun time socializing that I had to be reminded to get the actual reading of the radio play started. I passed out scripts, assigned parts, and away we went.

Radio plays work best if you make a big vocal choice, like a crazy accent or a silly voice. Daryl Ray Carliles whipped out a delightful Irish accent to play the detective, which felt appropriate considering it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. He made it seem like the detective was after both a murderer and his Lucky Charms. Brandon Giles was brow-beaten by yours truly into doing an accent for the butler (butlers should always have accent, am I right, people?), but the only accent in his arsenal was southern, so we had an intermittently Texan butler. April Nickell was reading Announcer 2, and she ambitiously started out with a lateral lisp, but learned that they are not for the faint of heart, and abandoned it shortly thereafter.

Tommy Labanaris was incredibly, hilariously earnest as the leading man, and showed us all that if cold reading were an Olympic event, he would totally podium. Stephanie Martinez was more masculine than any of us would ever have imagined possible as the dead man’s brother. And Patryce Williams was the sassiest secretary I’ve ever known – until she got killed.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the evening was the music. When we got to the places in the script that called for a song, we played our beer bottles. And friends, Coronitas make sweet, sweet music, no matter how much beer might be in them.

What did we learn from this day? We learned that we should drink beer before every radio play, even the real ones in front of audiences. We’re a lot funnier Radio Playaz after a Coronita or seven.

I thought I would share this reflection I wrote on the way home from our final day of Play On! at MS 22.
Sometimes I am struck by the beauty in the world. I see it in human connections, or when people are kind, when they face their fear, or when someone is strong enough to be honest about their life experiences. Today we finished a cycle at MS 22 and I heard a kid say to another: “Thanks for working with me on that. It was fun.” It was so simple and struck me as truly beautiful.

There was one girl who seems to carry a lot of anger and was difficult to manage in the classroom. At one point she was standing face to face with her teacher yelling at him to shut up and she refused to leave the classroom. But how beautiful was the smile she gave me when I pulled her aside the other day and told her how smart and clever her ideas were and that she was a leader — that I was excited to see all that she could become if she could learn to process her anger. She partly looked at me like I was an alien but she also grinned from ear to ear and it was breathtaking.

Another student wrote a hilarious play – yes it was about a guy with a mental illness that made him think his butt was on fire, but hilarious nonetheless! When his peers performed his play, the pride and joy in his eyes was one of the most beautiful things I saw today.
Jeremy was a student that refused to participate and was constantly interrupting our first few sessions but one day after I asked him to control himself yet again, he ripped off his name tag and threw it and his notebook to the ground. So on my way out that day, I was so happy to run into him and let him know I saw his reaction to my scolding and that I was really sorry I hurt his feelings, that I hoped he knew how much I cared about him and that I hoped he would try participating again next time. Once Again, I received a look like I had two heads BUT he started to participate, co-wrote a nice play and ended up being a rock star today, acting in about 3 plays! We voted him Most Improved Player, a title which he was proud to own. It makes all of the struggle worth it.

I guess we sometimes have a hard time expressing what mercy, beauty and truth really means to us, but today I knew that if all Jaradoa ever did was see the beauty in students who rarely recognize their own beauty…it would be enough!

We couldn’t do any of this at MS 22 without all the donations we received in December. Thank you to all those who participate in Jaradoa – donors, members, volunteers, allies! This work matters. Thank You!

April Nickell

Let me come right out and say that possibly the most excited I have been all year was when I was nominated captain of Jaradoa’s bowling team. I quickly grabbed the nickname “Thunder Strike” and the rest is history.

One of the other sides of this pretty sweet theater company I take part in is teaching our Play On! program at MS 22 in the Bronx. It’s job 10 out of 12 for me… yes, all exaggerations aside, I have 12 jobs at any given time. Anything from organizing and running little Sally’s horse-themed birthday party (with real live plastic horses!), to working for the U.S. Census Bureau, to teaching English to Japanese people via skype, I have a wide spectrum of employment at any given moment.

But still, I don’t really think I could ever be a full-time teacher. It’s hard, reaaaalllyyyy hard, but with MS 22, we just go in two days a week and help 6th, 7th and 8th graders conquer their fears of writing a play and acting. We explore different and more theatrical ways to listen and respond to texts and I think most importantly, we give them a truly safe environment to be creative, where our #1 rule is to never, ever laugh at anyone’s ideas.

Middle school kids are tough. You have to earn their trust, and they may resist you for weeks, but the second you are “in” with them, you’re in for life. These kids have tremendous stories, and without a program like this, how else would they get to tell them?

Find out how performers like you have turned their talents into service
with Jaradoa Theater! Check out this self-proclaimed hilarious video to find out what it means to be a  Guest Artist with our Play On! program.
Warning: this video may or may not contain chicken wings.

But what is Play On!, you might ask?
Play On! is a Jaradoa program that uses theater to teach literacy by turning classrooms into theater companies where students become actors and playwrights.

And how does this pertain to you?
One of Jaradoa’s goals is to help artists serve their community by using the theater skills they possess.  So if you’re a performer, you can come act or sing for 6th-8th graders, help them grow as people, and help them read and write better at the same time!

And what does a Guest Artist do?
Guest Artists present a song or monologue to a class which is analyzed and unpacked by students to improve their reading comprehension skills.  Then the Guest Artist helps out with the rest of the session, following the main instructor’s lead, which generally includes improv, games, and cold readings or small group discussions of students’ plays in progress.

So, you wanna come play with us?

We are currently recruiting artists for

Middle School 22 from Feb 9 – Mar 12th. If you can’t do these dates but want to be a Guest Artist in  April or May, let us know!

Email Anika, our volunteer coordinator, at info@jaradoatheater.org

And hey, if you think you’re interested, but you’re a little nervous or unsure what would be expected of you, just ask!  Lots of folks have volunteered with us and would be happy to share their experience with you.

WE DID IT! Our goal was to raise $14,000 to take our Play On! program to 2 middle schools in the South Bronx, and thanks to viewers like you, we raised $16,175! This money was donated by 99 different people in sums large and small. So now we’ll be at MS 223 in February, and MS 22 in May. Thank you so much!

Here’s our Member Telly’s firsthand account of doing Play On! in a school last semester:

Play On!
By TELLY LEUNG

I’ve been away from my Jaradoa family for a while. Since January, I’ve been on tour with the national company of Rent, traveling the country (and the world – with stops in Tokyo and Seoul) with a show I love. But, I really missed my Jaradoa peeps and all the fun things we do with the company.

So as soon as I got home, I jumped back into Play On!, an innovative program created by Jaradoa that uses acting and playwriting to improve reading and writing skills in the classroom.

April, Daryl and I got to work with four enthusiastic 5th grade classes — first by putting on our imaginary costumes to transport the kids from the classroom setting to a collaborative, theater environment where creativity is encouraged, and ideas are safe for sharing. We taught them how to play “Zip Zap Zop”, a popular theater
game used to warm up the senses. Then, we dove right into the lesson.

I was the Guest Artist of the day. The day before, Amanda was the Guest Artist and performed a monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the students. (You heard me. Shakespeare for 5th graders. And they totally dug it!) It was their job to observe, listen, analyze the text and find clues to answer questions about the dramatic action: Who’s talking? When? Where? What’s the conflict? I had picked a song that was also challenging for the kiddies: “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd. (Yes. Sondheim for 5th graders. And they totally dug it!) Most of the students had never heard of Shakespeare or Sondheim, but they had NO problem analyzing the text and making very educated guesses about the dramatic action and characters in the pieces. Afterwards, I revealed to them the
actual scenario of my song in the show (minus the blood, gore, and guts of a murderous street barber who cuts up his victims and bakes them into pies! They are, after all, 5th graders.)

Now, to the real work… April asked for volunteers to come in front of the class to talk about the characters they’d created. She led them in the creative process of deepening the first character, developing a second character, and creating a conflict for the two-person scene. After the students gave a summary, Daryl or I would do a short improvisational scene with the students to get them started on the actual dialogue.

The imagination of a 5th grader is astounding. Characters have ranged from talking mice trapped in refrigerators to grumpy people who live in giant noses. One student’s play was of particular note. He was reluctant to get up and tell us about his controversial character in front of the class because it was a Nazi. He said it was a “bad” character, and we told him that characters, like people, aren’t inherently “good” or “bad.” Characters (and people) are three-dimensional with justifiable wants and desires, and it is our job as actors and playwrights to understand them better. After the Jaradoans and the classmates encouraged him to dig deeper into this character, he developed a play about a Nazi doctor who truly didn’t want to fight for Hitler, encountering an injured American soldier on the battlefield at the famous D-day battle. The student went from not wanting to share his idea with the class to creating the beginning of what could be a meaningful, deeply moving play, all with the encouragement of his classmates and the guidance of artists asking the right dramatic questions! And no doubt he will use the reading comprehension skills he learned in creating his play the next time he reads a book or writes a short story! Theater and literacy — working hand in hand. Play On!

Want to get involved this summer?
If you’d like to participate in or learn more about any of this stuff, please email info@jaradoatheater.org.

• Jaradoa Radio Theater •
Come perform for, chat with, and love on some old folks!

– Thursday, June 11th from 1:30-3:00 – Brooklyn

– Wednesday, June 24th from 1:30-3:00 – Astoria

– Wednesday, July 15th from 1:30-3:00 – Washington Heights

– Saturday, July 25th from 1:00-2:30 – Midtown

• Play On! •
Our playwriting and acting course for kids!
– At an afterschool program in the Bronx:
May 5, 14, 21, 28 and June 4 from 4:00-5:30.

• Shafrika, The White Girl •
Our next production will rehearse in May and run in June, and we’ll need volunteers for load in and load out, ushering, running crew, board ops, and much more!  If you’re interested in helping out on the production in some way, drop us a line at info@jaradoatheater.org!

• Play Club •
Once a month, we read a play together.  Just for fun!
May 20, 5:00-7:00; June 17, 5:00-7:00; July 22, 5:00-7:00

www.jaradoatheater.org

Want to get involved in March, April or May?
If you’d like to participate in or learn more about any of this stuff, please email info@jaradoatheater.org

Jaradoa Radio Theater – Come perform for, chat with, and love on some old folks!
– Tuesday, April 7, 1:30-3:00 in Washington Heights
– Saturday, April 25, 1:00-2:30 in midtown

Play On! – Our playwriting and acting course for kids at an afterschool program in the Bronx.
April 7, 9, 23, or 28; May 14, 21, or 28; 4:00-5:30.

Scene Study Classes – Tuesdays from 7:00-9:30, February 10 – March 24.
$15 per class. Next round starts April 7th.

Play Club – Once a month, we read a play together. Just for fun!
March 18, 4:00-7:00; April 15, 5:00-7:00; May 20, 5:00-7:00.

Shafrika, The White Girl, our next production, will rehearse in May and run in June. We’ll need volunteers for load in and load out, ushering, running crew, board ops, and much more! If you’re interested in helping out on the production in some way, drop us a line at info@jaradoatheater.org

www.jaradoatheater.org

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