Welcome, Lily!

Photo courtesy of Sharyn Peavey Photography

 

I am honored to be the newest member of the Education Team at the Children’s Museum and Theatre. I grew up playing and attending theatre productions here, so it’s inspiring to join the amazing group of people who make this organization truly magical.

I first became interested in museum education when I volunteered at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine during college. I realized how much children learn from the interactive exhibits and programs at the museum; it was particularly exciting to see the thousands and thousands of children who play, learn, and explore at the museum and theatre each year. I was ‘hooked’ after my summer of face-painting, story reading, and camera obscura operating.

My newfound interest in museum engagement inspired me to focus on museum studies and education classes throughout the rest of college, visit over eighty museums during my study abroad experiences in France and England, and volunteer at several art education programs for children and youth.

Most recently, I worked in a one room co-op schoolhouse and a small children’s museum, both in rural Northeast Tennessee. Teaching in a one room schoolhouse was an amazing chance to collaborate with a small number of individuals to create learning opportunities for my students and to experience our educational system in a different part of the country. Working at a children’s museum in rural Tennessee showed me that play-based, youth-centered organizations can create positive change in a community and that children are hungry to learn and explore the world around them.

When I’m not playing at the Children’s Museum and Theatre, I am usually busy organizing an art and social justice camp in Transylvania, Romania or helping to promote our new crowdfunding website that supports community development projects in Transylvanian villages. You may also find me planning farm camps for some of Maine’s youngest farmers, riding and competing my horse, or playing my violin.

Next time you and your family are at the museum and theatre, come say hello. I’m excited to meet you!

-Lily O’Brien

Now Playing at the Museum & Theatre: Santa’s Reindeer Present: The Nutcracker!

A Note from the Director:

Every year, we reindeer put on a variety show before loading up the sleigh. The stage summons our magic, surges our energy and brings us together. Vixen does card tricks. Comet tells jokes. Donner recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.When Dancer and Prancer are getting along, they usually do a tap routine. This year, I challenged my crew to explore something different. If we can pull a heavy sleigh, we can put on a whole play! We can use our reindeer magic to play timeless characters with our hooves and with our hearts. This year’s play? The Nutcracker! A ballet, a symphony, and now… a realistic drama, told reindeer style!

We beg you to imagine yourself in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1892, in the small workshop of a toymaker named Drosselmeyer. Not just a toymaker, Drosselmeyer is also a clock maker and a mouse catcher. On Christmas Eve, his nephew, a young prince, comes to visit. But lo and behold – before Drosselmeyer’s one good eye an evil sorcerer turns his nephew into… a NUTCRACKER! To become human again, the Nutcracker must defeat the Mouse King, travel to far off lands, and fall in love with a beautiful maiden. Impossible? Not if you find yourself in a child’s dream! Drosselmeyer the Toymaker gives the Nutcracker to a young girl named Clara, in hopes that she will help the Nutcracker complete his tasks to be human again.

Join us for this reindeer tail of magic and wonder. Only magical flying reindeer can write, dance, choreograph and stage as complex a yarn as The Nutcracker. We’ve worked hard on these weeks leading up to Christmas. Without these elves Maud, Eli and Murray taking time off from building toys, the play would never be possible. Thank you Dasher, for keeping us on track as the Stage Manager. Thank you for coming, you elves and reindeer in the audience. Happy holidays and enjoy the show!

Your Esteemed Director,

Rudy the Red

Leah as Rudolph, director of the Nutcracker!
Leah as Rudolph, director of the Nutcracker!

Interested in seeing the show? Click here, call 1-800-838-3006, or stop by the front desk during your next visit to get tickets!

Actor-Educator Michela: Teaching and Learning with Theatre and Puppets

Guest Blogger and Veteran Actor Michela Micalizio

GUEST BLOG POSTER: MICHELA

You may recognize Michela as an actress who frequented the Dress Up Theatre stage not too long ago, playing roles like Blitzen in Santa’s Reindeer Revue, the Empress in The Emperor’s New Clothes, and Mama in Wiley and the Hairy Man. During the day, Michela is an 11th grader at Falmouth High School. When she grows up, she’d like to be a theatre educator, so when she had the opportunity to job shadow for her school, she came the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine! Here are her observations and thoughts on the experience.

DAY 1

Hello! My name is Michela Micalizio. I am a 17 year old junior at Falmouth High School and I was permitted to job shadow here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine with the wonderful Reba Short, who might have the best job ever. She is the head honcho of the theatre, directing the shows and theatre programs in the museum. When I arrived, I sat down with Reba and three little girls to help with the Teensy Weensy acting class for ages 3-5. I knew I was going to have a good day when I saw three tiny girls eagerly and joyfully huddled around a window frame being held by Reba who was kneeling on the floor and operating a chicken puppet.

The girls’ mission was to collect food that was falling from the sky and feed it to the chicken. I was handed the chicken and accepted the mantle that comes with it. The girls would talk to the chicken like it was real; they were bubbly and enthusiastic, imaginative and creative, and silly and fun. They all varied in confidence levels, one girl was tentative and shy while another was a wild child, outgoing and loud. Yet it was clear to me that all of them felt safe enough in that theater to express their opinions and dance like goons. The chicken was a more approachable classmate, always receiving cuddles, being asked to dance, and joining in the activities on the girls’ requests.

I find that with puppets, a whole different door is opened in terms of communicating with kids. They may not actually believe it to be living, but it is something that is fascinating and relatable. Puppets are wonderful to use with children. But soon it was time to say goodbye, and Reba and I went on a floor check with marionettes: two fluffy “birddogs”. The puppets are sometimes scary to younger ones, so we had to be careful.

We only had one incident where an older brother asked to use the puppet and proceeded to chase and corner his baby brother who was reduced to tears. We had to be careful about which kids we could hand the marionettes to. But the next child we handed it to, not only did she respect the puppet and not scare anyone, but she named it, she spoke to it, and she walked with it like a friend. Mr. Red and Mr. Blue, the birddogs, went to the supermarket and another girl bought them lunch: raisins with maple syrup (the favorite food of birddogs) and bread (a LOT of bread). The marionettes Misters Red and Blue were a success.

When Reba made an announcement for a star show and only one kid and her dad showed up, she put on a show just for them. The kid never said a word, and was still as attentive and enchanted as anyone else, for she sat still and listened to the stories behind the Chinese constellations. Well, I am very excited about the next two days I will be here, see you tomorrow!

Michela as Mama in "Wiley and the Hairy Man," 2012
Michela as Mama in “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” 2012

DAY 2

Hey there! Michela Micalizio here again at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. The second day of my job shadow began with a design meeting, planning out the set and lighting for Rumpelstiltskin. This is going to be a wicked cool show, let me just say. During the planning, kids would wander in and they would not be shooed away by us, we were in the children’s country, they have domain in their museum. Kids are free to explore anywhere and if we intrude, we are in the way of their leaping and spinning. When Reba and I performed her puppet show “What Does the Fox Say?” kids were laughing, interacting, and enjoying themselves. But as soon as we were done, we had to quickly get out of there because the kids were so eager to put on their own puppet show. It is bewildering and encouraging to see all these kids get so excited about the arts, theater and creating things for themselves. Tonight I get to sit in for a rehearsal of Rumpelstiltskin. That’ll be so fun! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Take care!

DAY 3

Michela Micalizio reporting from the last day of my job shadow! Here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, the “and theatre” part of it all is where it’s at. Rehearsal for Rumpelstiltskin last night was amazing! There are some extremely talented kids in this show. It will be performing Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays February 14-23rd, as well as Wednesday and Thursday February 19th and 20th. I cannot disclose anything about the play, because that ruins the fun, but I will say to get very excited, this will be a show you shouldn’t miss.

Theatre is a place for timid children to find their voice; it is a safe haven for the downtrodden and a party for the meek. It really is magical. This morning I got to do a puppet floor check by myself! It was much less eventful than the first, however, and I returned upstairs. Reba then informed me that I was to help her with a performance of her show “The True Story of the Toy Fairy.” All I can say is wow! It was an interactive, imaginative and plain wonderful play where the kids got feathers to fly, magic glitter, and a tea party with the toy fairy! Today I saw a lot more of parents playing and joining in on the creation then I have the past two days.

Reba asked me then to help her prototype an exhibit that will be debuting in the museum in the near future. The Imagination Playground is truly a sight to see, with massive blue blocks to build any old thing you want! Reba had the idea to create an activity for kids where they help a monster rebuild his house. I was to play the monster today, and Reba wanted to watch and create a comprehensive guide for volunteers to do this in the future. Prototyping is like rehearsals for the museum staff, she says. And that went very, very well! I operated a sweet blue monster puppet named Sully, and a wonderfully forward 4-year-old girl marched right up and built him a house. Reba says in the past, she’s noticed that boys tend to build the structure of the house, one with walls and a ceiling, while girls would furnish it. This was true for this girl, too, as she proceeded to make a mailbox, a bed, a slide, and many lamps! This will be a wonderful exhibit, children and parents both getting lost in the possibilities of these blue blocks. This was an informational and downright fun job shadow, and I hope to volunteer in the future! Michela Micalizio, signing off.

Solving the riddle of Rumpelstiltskin

IMAG0876-1Allison has worked with our theatre for several years, stage managing shows and contributing her creativity to our dynamic program. She is currently assisting Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short with Playmaking: Rumpelstiltskin, a collaborative playwriting process in which young actors work together to develop a script.

One of the very first questions that came up in our first week of playmaking was, “Who is Rumpelstiltskin?” We even wondered, “What is Rumpelstiltskin?”

Those Grimm brothers are certainly mysterious about the magical little man. As we dive into playmaking, our group of young actors has made it a mission to solve these riddles for our future audiences. Reba and I posed the added challenge of thinking outside the box, encouraging these creative minds to reach beyond the original fairytale as they bring this story to life.

At our first meeting, we read through the very beginning of the story and used movement, writing prompts, and tableaux (or frozen pieces from the story) to explore the Weaver, his daughter, and the King/Prince (or as we’ve labeled him, a “Pringle”) who meets them. After only one day, we collected a rich basis for what brings this girl to the Pringle’s castle to face that seemingly impossible task of spinning straw into gold.

IMAG0861At our second meeting, our Playmakers were eager to jump into the puzzle of Rumpelstiltskin himself. Topher, a Children’s Theatre veteran, bravely volunteered to be the model for Rumpelstiltskin’s form. The group proceeded to fill in the outline of his body with words about his identity and intentions, even exploring parts of his appearance. But they were certainly not finished with just the inside!

The second stage of this project involved thinking like Rumpelstiltskin. What are his first words to the Weaver’s daughter? After all, he needs to catch her attention and convince her to trust him with just one sentence! Perhaps he is indignant -“How dare you not notice me?” wrote enthusiastic new-comer Leah.) Or perhaps he’s playful, singing “La la la, I am a man who can help you, la la la.” Or maybe those mysterious Grimm brothers were onto something: “I am as big as a shoe and I can help you,” is an intriguingly cryptic greeting contributed by actor Sydney.

We ended our first week by brainstorming answers to these four statements:

I am as big as ___

I am as small as ___

I am as kind as ___

I am as forgiving as ___

 

There are so many possibilities! Can you think of any?

Structuring Ideas

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 first  and second posts.

As an upper-level college student, I am often faced with the dilemma of narrowing down a very broad topic into a very detailed thesis.  As you might know, writing papers is all about structure, and you can’t build a strong argument on a shaky thesis. This challenge frequently leaves me staring at my textbooks for hours trying to figure out how to take a grand idea and turn it into something practical. So, I understood the strife of our students this Tuesday as they tried to narrow down and combine their interests and concerns into a manageable service learning project.

We started off with a worksheet which posed the challenge to create a service learning project by combining an interest and a community issue. I personally think the greatest difficulty in creating a project is finding the means of combining both ideas into something that can actually function. For example, it’s easy to say you want to combine your interest in dance with your interest in cultural education, but then little details get in the way, like, how are you going to talk to kids about culture and keep their attention? Are you going to have them participate in the dance, or are you going to perform for them? What dance will you perform and why is it significant? These questions can cause cracks in the foundations of projects, and sometimes they are hard to patch up, but these kids worked through them like champs!

 They have come up with a lot of brilliant ideas. For example, one of our students is concerned with teaching kids about where their food comes from. In other words, she wants to show kids that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store. She is thinking about doing a program in our new greenhouse in order to teach kids about this topic! Isn’t that awesome? There are lots of other great ideas that include topics such as the history of technology, dance, culture, food, art, and giving kids some time to dream. Be sure to check back for individual student interviews, which will allow you to get to know these kids and a little about their projects!

Playing Grown-Up

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 first post here.

                It’s been a busy week at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. With the Explore India event, and the new program surrounding celebration of Mawlid (did you get to meet some of our students? They were helping at both events!) we haven’t had much time to sit down, organize our thoughts, and answer some questions. That being said, sometimes the big questions come up in hindsight. The other day, we began to realize that we had one big question to answer as we proceed with the Youth Imagine Project: why the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine? Why should we get to create and host this amazing program, with a group of kids that is well beyond our normal age bracket? We began to think of our mission statement – that the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is very focused on facilitating discovery and imagination through exploration and play. How could this mission statement be related to the Youth Imagine Project?

                Honestly, it comes down to two words in that mission statement: discovery and play.  The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine offers a safe space for all families and children. It’s that very atmosphere offers a unique opportunity for students to play at being grown up; that is, discover themselves and their interests while being able to make mistakes and try new things. So, I guess the Youth Imagine Project is a lot like dressing up as a firefighter in the Fire Truck exhibit, only these kids are trying on certain careers, passions and personas.

                When you really think about it, play time is a time to try something new without fear of judgment. There are no such things as mistakes during play, only opportunities for improvisation and learning. We hope to bring this mission and attitude to every meeting with these kids.  While it’s important to gain professional skills, it’s just as important to know what makes you tick. We hope that by developing their own service-learning projects, students will be able to try out a potential interest that could become an important aspect of their life… or not.  Sometimes it’s just as valuable to know what doesn’t work for you.  So, in short, what we really want to do is offer these kids some time to discover themselves through play, while giving them a few mental toys to use along the way.

The Market has a new look!

If you’ve been in our Market lately, you’ve probably noticed some changes – new colors, new signs, new food! Beginning this month, Whole Foods Market is sponsoring The Market, and they have lots of great plans for making this Museum favorite feel brand new! While all the changes won’t be done until the beginning of October, over the next few months you’ll begin to see the space transform (but don’t worry, it will still be open for play!).

The focus of this renovation is on healthy New England foods – many of the products you’ll find in The Market are brands made right here in Maine! While you can still shop for products and bring them to the register, the exhibit will also have recipes and puzzles (what do you need to make spaghetti?) that will turn choosing items into a fun game. Figuring out which foods go into healthy meals adds an additional interactive element to The Market and will give families an opportunity to take home what they learned from this game and discuss it during mealtimes!

In addition to healthy eating habits, The Market will also be a space to discover multicultural foods. Local fruits and vegetables will be the focus in the renovated produce section, with signage as to where you can find this particular tomato or that ear of corn. Breads from across the globe will be featured in the bakery and ingredients needed to make many multicultural dishes will be on the new shelves and inside the new refrigerator.

The blackboards and food graphics will be familiar to regular Whole Foods Market shoppers. The blackboards are another great way to convey the emphasis on local and healthy foods as the messages will change throughout the year. Aprons and baskets will still be available for all the little shoppers! We’ve already added a feature the parents will be excited about: a bench in The Market which serves as a little rest area. As we all know, The Market (like any grocery store) can get pretty crowded!

I am really excited about these new changes and updates to The Market. It will be fun to see them happen throughout the summer. I am sad that my AmeriCorps term will end before The Market will be fully complete, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the blog for updates and the final product!

Bee Cam!

I think besides the Dress Up Theatre, the Ranger Station is my favorite place in the Museum & Theatre. I love going in there to watch the turtles swim around and to search for the queen bee. Bees are a little harder to watch than turtles, though, because they move so fast. But now you can see the bees up close and personal with our new bee camera. If you haven’t visited our beehive or you’d like to see what they’ve been up to since you left, here is a quick video I shot:

The bees are only here in the spring and summer months! Don’t miss the chance to search for that ever elusive queen bee (hint: she has a white dot on her back!).

Growing up at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine

sophiecmm2My daughter slept through her first visit to the Children’s Museum.
Of course, she was only a couple of weeks old at the time and I was bringing her in to visit my coworkers. That first visit primarily showed me that I could get myself, my newborn and all of the associated stuff out of the house and in to the museum in the dead of winter.
Over the next several months Sophie and I made many visits to the museum. In the beginning she rode in the baby carrier while I walked around the museum. She was fascinated with all of the noises and colors. We pressed the stuffed birds in the Ranger Station to hear their sounds, watched the colors change on the traffic light in front of the fire truck and touched the big tree to feel its texture. Watching the other children play was endlessly fascinating. Sometimes we sat in the Toddler Park. Sophie lay on her back while I dangled objects over her and made faces at her. She enjoyed leaning over one of the big cushions on her tummy so she could get a good view of the other children. I enjoyed being out of my house and around other adults. Those early visits gave me the opportunity to meet other parents, vent new mom frustrations and hear what worked for others.
Visits became even more fun as Sophie could sit up on her own. I surrounded her with toys that she could reach for herself, set her by the gears on the wall or let her admire herself in the mirror.
Now that Sophie can crawl she has incredible freedom to explore. She disappears behind the puppet theatre in the Toddler Park, then reappears out the other end. She is immensely pleased with herself when she crawls up and over the soft steps. When I peer at her through the plexi window on one side of the steps she peers back at me and giggles. During quieter times at the museum I let Sophie crawl around the other exhibit spaces. She loves having so much space to explore. She watches the other kids, chases balls in the Have a Ball exhibit, drives the fire truck and stops to check out the cow in the farm. I love sharing her delight at experiencing this place that I know so well.
When Sophie walks the museum will be a whole new adventure!

–Andrea Krasker Gavin