Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Virtual Storytelling Experience connects MPS students and First Stage, MPM.

Published by Danae Davis, Executive Director of Milwaukee Succeeds

By Gaye-Lynn Clyde Milwaukee Public Museum 
Distance Learning Coordinator and Julia Magnasco First Stage Education Director.

Last week, three of Lois Ehlert's most famous stories came to life with a Virtual Storytelling Experience (VSE) for MPS students. A collaboration between Milwaukee Succeeds,The Milwaukee Public Museum and First Stage made it all possible. 

First Stage is a national leader in storytelling, specifically for young people and their families. Having the opportunity to learn from stories, interact and play with stories, and become fully immersed in stories helps students deepen personal connections to the content, strengthen language and comprehension skills, and build empathy. The VSE with MPM and Milwaukee Succeeds has allowed First Stage to explore new ways to engage students in the power of story, and provide teachers and students the chance to actively participate in an arts integrated learning experience together. 

Gaye-Lynn Clyde (MPM), Sheri Williams Pannell
and Julia Magnasco (First Stage)
"Students LOVED the workshop," said one teacher. "They believed that the presenters were talking to them and watching them. It was awesome!"

In Mole’s Hill, students transformed into “teeny, tiny, little seeds” which were cared for by the teachers who “sprinkled” them with soil, water, and just enough sunshine to become big beautiful flowers. In Moon Rope, students got to stomp and sing along as they went on a fox hunt, looking for one particular fox that wanted the moon just for himself. While “swimming” through rivers and using their manners to pass by on a grumpy troll’s bridge, children were engulfed in the story. They were engaged physically through the actions, but also had opportunities to discuss solutions to problems they faced on their “journey.” Finally, Cuckoo embraced the importance of beauty coming from the inside. In between the performances were moments for students to learn about real-world applications of the problems characters faced in the stories. Shown through pictures of the exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Museum, students were given an opportunity to make concrete connections of communities coming together.
First Graders at Hopkins Lloyd Elementary School
enjoy the Virtual Storytelling Experience

Virtual Storytelling Experience supports the Milwaukee Succeeds Transformative Reading Instruction (TRI) model by providing professional development and support to teachers in the art of engagement through creative interactivity and play, while their students receive amazing experiential opportunities that increase vocabulary and comprehension through authentic stories. Because the Virtual Storytelling Experience connects directly to each classroom via video streaming it allows for many classes to participate simultaneously. The teachers facilitate activities within their own classes, providing everyone the opportunity to be engaged at the same time. And, Milwaukee Succeeds experiential network group can bring rich content to many more teachers and students to help improve literacy in Milwaukee through the TRI model!

The Virtual Storytelling Experience provides students and schools an opportunity to engage in valuable experiences that may not have been possible otherwise. Field trips to the museum or theater may be costly or difficult for schools. This budget-friendly alternative doesn’t skimp on the fun. The VSE served  28 teachers and more than 1,003 students. With this collaboration, still in its early stages, with positive feedback and continuous improvement we hope to continue expanding this great opportunity, providing as many children access to theater arts and living history as possible.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Meet Kalin - Academy Student of the Month!

Kalin Beamon has been taking Academy classes since first grade and loves everything about First Stage, especially singing, making new friends and interning. Kalin even auditioned for the first time this past summer for our mainstage productions and is anxiously awaiting the results. When Academy is not in session, you can find Kalin playing drums with the MYSO Jazz Ensemble. Future plans for Kalin include attending Julliard in New York, making enough money so Mom can retire early and playing drums...forever. 
Outside of acting and drumming, Kalin enjoys playing rugby and sees nothing but a bright future ahead!

Congrats on being the Academy Student of the Month Kalin!

Friday, October 28, 2016

First Stage Spotlight: Meet a Kluge student who has been cast in a production

We caught up with Erianna Ashmore-Purifoy—a bubbly fourth grader who attends Parkview Elementary on Milwaukee’s Northwest side. It is hard to believe that Erianna’s family would ever describe her as shy and reserved.

Erianna discovered her love for acting this past summer at First Stage’s Community Learning Center (CLC) summer school programming at Kluge Elementary School—the continuation of our regular school year CLC programming for which we serve as the lead agency.

“I learned this summer that I am a hard worker and that I can do anything I set my mind to… that I can have fun with what I do and I don’t need to get down when I make mistakes.”

What’s your most memorable experience from the summer?
“When the student who was originally cast as Timon in our concert version of THE LION KING Kids dropped out, I stepped in—with only two days to learn my part! I was a little scared but mostly excited.”

“Excited” was a word Erianna used a lot as we talked. And, rightly so—exciting things have been happening for her. After seeing THE LION KING Kids performance, Artistic Director Jeff Frank invited ten students—including Erianna—to audition for First Stage’s 2016/2017 season.

Erianna was called in to audition for the role of Grace in JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK. When the phone rang with the good news, she and her mom almost cried tears of happiness.

What are you looking forward to the most about playing Grace?

“I’m looking forward to being on stage and having fun. I’m excited to be somebody who I normally wouldn’t be.”

When asked what advice she’d give others her age, without hesitation she said: “Whatever you want to do—go hard and don’t let nobody tell you: you can’t do it or try it. Try and try again!”

We also talked with Erianna’s mom—who is no stranger to First Stage. She works for Milwaukee Public Schools and has been at the schools in which we’ve provided programming. She shared: “with all of the bad news we hear today, it’s good to see our young people doing something positive. It’s inspiring.”

She also shared how happy it makes her to see Erianna so excited to be more involved with First Stage: “First Stage is like her last name. She’s so proud to be a part of this organization.”

And, we’re proud to have Erianna as a part of our First Stage family.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Students share their voices in the Student Advisory Board

Brenna Kempf
By Bridget Mountain

We had the chance to sit down with Associate Academy Director Brenna Kempf to talk about the Student Advisory Board and what it means to her and her students.

What is the Student Advisory Board?
The Student Advisory Board is composed of student leaders who want to learn more about how First Stage and other professional theaters work. Members have the opportunity to bring a student perspective to Academy programming and policies, serve as a First Stage newscaster on our social media channels, volunteer, attend events to tell others what First Stage means to them, and more!

How many students are involved with the SAB? The SAB began in 2013 with 14 members, and it has grown each year. We're now up to 35 students - our biggest group so far!

Why does First Stage have a Student Advisory Board? Why is it important?Through the SAB First Stage is helping to raise new generations of leaders, ensuring that our students have a place to express their ideas, thoughts, and wishes about the Academy and First Stage as a whole. SAB members are ambassadors for the Theater Academy, exemplifying the confidence and empathy that we teach in our classrooms. The SAB gives our students ownership and responsibility, which is vital for the continuance of the community of young people at First Stage.

What are some of the goals of the SAB this year?The SAB is student-driven, so I want them to accomplish whatever they set their minds to! At our initial meeting, we shared our interests and curiosities. It looks like this year we will focus on learning more about the “inner workings” of First Stage and its departments, giving back to the Academy students and Milwaukee at large, and finally, growing closer together as a group with social events and bonding activities.

What is your favorite thing about First Stage?  I am so proud to work at a place that encourages young people to be simultaneously empowered and empathetic. These are key Life Skills that, personally, I feel have the ability to heal, inspire, and grow our community.

First Stage Student Advisory Board, 2016
What are you currently working on with the SAB? The SAB members just finished their “First Stage 101” course and are working on creating their own elevator speeches. An elevator speech allows them to talk with others (friends, family members, anyone) about First Stage in a clear, concise, and personalized way. We also kicked off our year together with a Socktober drive! With a goal of collecting 175 pairs of socks, we are assembling donations of new and gently used socks to donate to a local shelter. We are hoping to spread the First Stage love and warmth and we think that gifting socks to those in need is a great way to support our community!  

We chatted with some of the students in SAB and here is what they have to say about First Stage, 

“Since the first day of my first Academy class – which was in first grade – I fell in love. I took a break from it for a while, but I missed it so much. I came back and I want to be a part of the bigger picture.” – Nathan (8th grade)

“I took my first First Stage class this summer. It was a great experience with a very friendly environment. I was welcomed in as if I’d been here since kindergarten! First Stage is a great place to be – especially if you don’t have 'a place.'” – Kelsey (11th grade)

First Stage is an acting camp or theater camp, but it’s actually more like an empathy camp. Everyone is friendly, and nice to everyone around you. This is a fun place where you get to be yourself. Where you are accepted. … I am jumping at the invitation to be on the SAB. I want to develop my self-management and leadership skills, and I think I can do that here.” – Celeste (10th grade)