Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Young audience members write touching letters to the Herzfeld Foundation

By Mithra Ballesteros, First Stage Children's Theater

Last week, busloads of elementary students from the Milwaukee area arrived at First Stage Children's Theater for the production, ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.  Following the performance, they participated in an interactive classroom workshop, exploring themes from the play.  All of this was made possible with a grant from the Herzfeld Foundation, which funded the cost of the buses, the tickets, and the workshops. 

Many of these students have very limited access to the arts.  They rely on their schools to provide exposure to music, theater, and art.  Yet as the Milwaukee Public Schools struggle to find financing for arts and music education, the potential for these children to be excluded from any arts experience grows.  Research has shown that arts education boosts reading scores, enhances abilities to problem-solve, extends attention spans, and increases the odds that a student will go on to graduate school.  (Links below to these studies.)  Yet more and more districts are narrowing their curriculum at the expense of arts education.

The Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation's Arts in Education grant assuages the negative effect of budget deficits.  It knits together lower-income students who need arts education, and First Stage Children's Theater, who needs audiences.  The hidden benefit, that is really not so hidden, at least not to the children whose notes are included here, is that the Herzfeld grant represents the best kind of community-building. It provides the means for students to take advantage of Milwaukee arts and culture organizations.  We at First Stage are grateful for the support.  And we take pleasure in sharing some of the thank you notes written by these children to the Herzfeld Foundation.
"Thanks for letting my class and I see you guys act.  I liked when Alexander steps in the drum and tries doing kung fu.  And the copying machine shooting out blank papers."










"I liked the part when Alexander didn't wake up and his brothers said Peter Pan took him to Neverland."
"Dear the members of the play, I enjoyed the play very much.  I hope you enjoyed acting.  I liked the parts when you start singing.  It was one of the best plays I ever went to."
"Thank you for the play that you showed us about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and thank you for inviting us to the play and thanks for helping pay for us to see the play and I like when Alexander got gum in his hair."
"I liked everything when they were singing and when Alex almost falls.  I like the part when they danced.  When Alex tried to fight.  I like the part when his dad gave his son high fives. I like when the dentist said 1. no cavities, 2. no cavities, 3. cavity."
"Thank you for the play.  So if you have another one, can you n-vite us.  So if you have a new play that you want to show us then give us a call if you know our number."
"Dear Alexander and the other characters and the people who create this play, thank you for letting us watch.  The play was funny and cool.  I like when Alexander kicks his dad's books and when he drops his towel in the bathroom sink.  Hope you guys create another play."
"Dear people of the play, thank you for inviting us to the place.  It was gorgeous there.  The mom has a wonderful voice.  Alexander is so funny.  P.S.  I'm going to sign up for choir."




To read more about the importance of arts education, check out these links:

http://www.nasaa-arts.org/nasaanews/ArtsIssuesUnifiedStatementArtsEd2010.pdf

http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

http://blog.coreknowledge.org/category/research/

http://www.edutopia.org/arts-education-humanities-creativity

http://ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/08/08182009a.html

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