Thank You, Reba!

 
 
Beauty and the Beast dancing

Emma as Bella and Gabe Walker as the prince in Beauty and the Beast.

Emma Cooper is an actor who first appeared on the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine stage last fall as Bella in Beauty and the Beast. In the past year, she’s spent countless hours here rehearsing and performing with friends and peers under the guidance of our Theatre Artistic Director, Reba Short. Emma wrote this essay for a school assignment this spring and shared it with Reba and the actors in the Youth Voices on Stage project (learn more about it here or here). Reba was very moved and shared it with me, and I wanted to share it with you – Emma writes so eloquently of the very special experience our actors have here. If you or someone you know would like to have an experience like Emma’s, we have an audition workshop this week and auditions for Little Red Riding Hood next Wednesday, June 8.

Emma writes:

When you’re a child magic is everywhere. Things become what they aren’t. A boulder becomes a fortress for a fairy army, a bumble bee a fairy prince’s noble steed. Mermaids frolic in the frothy waves at the beach and terrible monsters lurk in woods. Anything is possible. You can fly, become invisible and even become a cat. It all happens. Then, a strange phenomenon called “growing up” occurs. 

Boulders begin to look like really big rocks. Bumble bees become foul pests who sting. The waves don’t seem that imposing and the mermaids are really just loose pieces of seaweed. Flying, it happens, but it’s expensive. Where does all the magic go? We become cynical and hardened. We don’t stop to smell the flowers and to marvel at the beautiful world we live in. Everything has to be fast, grown-up, scientific and chic. 

Reba with Rabbit cast

Reba (standing, left) with members of the cast of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings.

I get tired of this. This fast moving society we live in. I want to stop and smell the flowers, to marvel at a rock, see the good in a bumble bee! But it’s hard to unravel yourself. To get off of Faceook and sit outside, to stop thinking about your future and be awed by the present. 

I’ve found someone who helps me do this, a grown-up none the less. Her name is Reba Short and she is the director of the Children’s Theater of Maine. When I heard about acting in your shows, I was thrilled. It’s hard to find theaters that do straight shows, non-musicals, for teens in Maine. I remember thinking “I’m so excited; this will look great on college applications! And, I’m getting experience for an acting career!” That IS true and it’s one of the perks of the theater. But when I participated in my first show, Beauty and the Beast, I realized that that wasn’t what I valued the most. I began to marvel again. That childlike wonder came back. I found myself questioning if an angsty prince-turned-Beast really DID live in the woods. Were those mermaids I saw smiling at me? Wait, are those troll tracks?! Smell these flowers! That was the most rewarding thing you could have ever given me Reba.

I remember one time in Beauty and the Beast. Gabe was having a hard time doing the characterization during a scene. You decided that we had to sing our lines out to each other. The combination was one of Phantom of the Opera meets Beauty and the Beast meets a couple of bad singers. It was one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever done and I thank you for it!

Emma in a Youth Voices Onstage workshop at East End Community School

Emma at East End Community School leading a group discussion as part of the Youth Voices Onstage project.

In the Youth Voices project that we’ve been doing it’s such a pleasure to work with you. I know that you’ve taught us all to question our actions. When we go into schools the little kids adore you. They hang on to your every word, mesmerized. I know you’re probably going to say that you’re the one that is supposed to be thanking us, because we’re really the people who do the acting. You’re wrong. Without you this project would have not been possible. You’ve not only helped these little kids to do acts of kindness, you’ve helped us. You’ve made it so that we could all heal from wounds that were inflicted upon us by mean things people have done or said. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that working with you on this has been such a pleasure and honor.

We are so blessed to have you in our lives. You’ve taught us to see the fortress in a boulder, the smiling mermaids in the waves, to stop and smell the flowers. To cherish life and everything in it. To slow down and be awed. To find magic in the world. And most important of all to imagine and hope.

Oh the Places You’ll Go…With a Little Guidance!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

Do you know the Dr. Seuss book Oh the Places You’ll Go? It’s a story many graduating high school students know well, whether they have read the book or not: the struggle to reach goals and go far in life. Sometimes, those long travels start with a step, sometimes with unsure footing. For example, I can clearly remember my college application process during my senior year of high school. I thought I was going to drown underneath the waves of papers that were consuming my desk, my bed, my bedroom floor, and also (much to my parents’ dismay) the living room coffee table.  I was completely overwhelmed. Without a guide, the college admissions process can be a confusing and convoluted path for many high school students. I can’t even tell you the things I would have given for someone to tell me exactly what a college admissions representative would be looking for in my application, or even just to answer the one, big question: which college do I choose?

This week in the Youth Imagine Project, our volunteers received a special visit from Meredith Gadd, an admissions representative from the University of New England. She talked with the students about the things they should consider when choosing a school, so that they would find the best fit. She discussed the growing trend of students getting their two year degree at a local community college before getting into a Bachelor’s program at a four year university. She also talked to students about admissions requirements, such as SAT scores and grades. Meredith then took questions from the students, many of whom plan on furthering their education in nursing programs at local universities and technical schools.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that there is a fine print to Dr. Seuss’s message. Yes, you can go very far. It will be hard, and you can work through it, but sometimes a little help goes a long way.  Contrary to the words of the late, great Dr. Seuss, we are not all alone in our journey for greatness. We were very thankful to have Meredith’s help this Tuesday, and she did a wonderful job! Our volunteers found her information very useful, especially as many of them are juniors and will be starting the college application process in the fall!

Looking to the Future

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

This week during the Youth Imagine Project, a few students picked dates for their projects or for personal meetings to discuss their projects further. We also focused some more attention on job applications, and a few of our students even applied for the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s Youth Ranger position! As our students begin preparing for summer, many of them have more and more questions regarding college as many of them will start the college application process when they return to school in the fall. To help our Youth Imagine volunteers, we have reached out to our friends at the University of New England, who will be sending an admissions official to discuss the application process with our students. More updates on that later!

This week, Jamie and I are also starting work on making the Youth Imagine Project a sustainable program. Thus, these next few weeks are going to dedicated to creating policies and procedures for future Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine staff. It’s a great time for Jamie and I to sit down and think about what worked about the Youth Imagine Project, and what still needs to be changed a little bit. We’ll be covering everything from recruiting and applications to the actual workshops volunteers participated in. We can’t wait to go over every detail!

Big Plans Ahead!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks! It’s SAT weekend for high school juniors (good luck to all you wonderful high schoolers who are taking them!) and it’s finals week at USM. Needless to say, both the Youth Imagine volunteers and I have been extremely busy!  Despite our hectic schedules, we had a successful meeting at Portland High School this week. Here are some things are wonderful Youth Imagine volunteers are doing:

  • Elfriede is about to start work on her painting. It will detail all of the different vegetables and fruits in our greenhouse. Isn’t that awesome?
  • Munira and Hindia are going to work together to do a theatre/storytime program about bullying and culture – more updates later on!
  • Samia is going to help out with some tea programs that we have at the Museum. She knows how to make Sudanese and Egyptian tea. Make sure to come in this summer when she is doing these tasty programs!
  • Alias is going to help in the putting together of our new greenhouse.
  • Suzan wants to do a language program about Arabic. We are thinking she might write a visitor’s name on a piece of paper for them in Arabic, which they can then decorate.

This last week the Youth Imagine volunteers have been participating in a professional development workshop about job applications and resumes. It’s the time of the year when high school students are looking for part-time and summer employment. Do you remember what it was like to get your first job? Wasn’t it exciting? Sometimes the process of finding a good job in high school can be confusing. How can you tell what an employer is looking for? How can you market yourself when you don’t have any job experience? These are some questions we tried to answer on Tuesday.  We cruised around some online job listings, and discussed what types of jobs were appropriate for high school students, and what types of companies hire seasonal employment. Next week, we will be focusing on resume writing. Some of our kids have already gotten a head start on their resumes, which is awesome! We hope that these types of workshops will help our kids enter the job market. It’s a tough thing to get started in for a lot of high school students! 

I also hope that next week we can start picking dates for our students to come in and do their programs with our visitors, or work on the projects that will be displayed in the Museum. I can’t wait to see how all of their projects turn out!

Cool member perk: explore Maine museums for free on May 14!

Saturday, May 14 is the first ever Maine Member Day. Twelve museums throughout the state (including this one) will be offering free reciprocal admission all day. If you’re a member of any participating museum, everyone included in your membership will be admitted for FREE to any other participating museum!

A restoration project at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.

Margaret Hoffman at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens came up with this idea and I think it’s terrific in two ways: we’ll see a lot of new faces here, which is always exciting; AND our members get to be “members for a day” at someplace new!

I’ve listed all the participating museums here. Don’t forget to bring your membership card with you, and check their hours in advance since everyone’s are a little different. Now enjoy your adventure!

Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor

Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Portland (that’s us!)

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay

Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland

Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor

Maine Historical Society, Portland

Maine Maritime Museum, Bath

Maine State Museum, Augusta

Owls Head Transportation Museum, Owls Head

Portland Museum of Art, Portland

Victoria Mansion, Portland

Wendell Gilley Museum, Southwest Harbor