Wordy Wednesday

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Imagine yourself…

hearing the sound of rubber brushing the tarmac as flights take-off and land.

seeing the gorgeous New York City skyline, clear as day, as gulls skim the water for the meal.

being able to see all of your friends and loved ones after having made a long trip to see you.

not having to worry about what to wear, eat, or drink, how to pass the hours of your day, and wondering if you’ll be able to get a full night’s sleep.

Now imagine yourself at Riker’s Island.

For the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of honing my teaching artist skills and carrying the Adler ambassador name working alongside Tommy on Riker’s Island. Let me tell you that there is never a dull day over there, and I am learning more about myself with each bus ride over the bridge. I have to admit that I am very honored to have been chosen to assist in Adler Outreach’s pilot program with East River Academy, (the school district placed at the prison for those inmates wishing to earn their GED while behind bars) and that the students are definitely giving me a run for my money, in a good way.

When you think of Riker’s Island, you may immediately think of “Law & Order,” (at least I did) and the connotations that went along with the place whenever Briscoe uttered the words, “Well you’ll have plenty of time to think over at Riker’s.” As with all penitentiaries, there is this mystery, a genuine curiosity for those “outsiders” who want to take a peek inside. And to those of you who feel that way, I strongly ask you to reflect on your reasoning for that attitude. Each week that I have been out there, I go through a myriad of emotions, scaling from doubt, to pride, to joy, to excitement, to sorrow, to confusion, to sympathy, to questioning. The boys and young men who choose to attend these classes, are just that boys and young, who have made choices in their lives which landed them in this place. But to see their eyes brighten when we walk into the classroom, or hear one ask as they sit down “Are we writing another play today?” brings their humanity to the forefront and as we work together bringing scenes and monologues to life, using their words to write them, the classroom can turn into one of those jet planes you hear across the river at the LaGuardia Airport, as the guys’ words transport us to 1950s New York City, Washington DC after Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech” and into the kitchens of a fictional mother and son.

While I am still trying to discern my feelings about these boys, the place they now call a temporary home, and the snapshots I see of what their lives are like once we board the Q100 for home, I look forward to the early alarm clock every Friday morning, and hope that it will be a good day filled with creative fervor and possibly, a few smiles.

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Ciao

Wordy Wednesday

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Howdy All!!!

If you’re living anywhere near New York, you know that this morning it’s blisteringly COLD!!!! brrrr, the season of multiple layers, followed by sweating profusely on the subway, in the office and at any public establishment and returning home to wear sweatshirts, flannel pjs and socks is upon us (o joy). But that’s not the main theme of this post today hahaha.

In case you missed it, I am currently working over at Stella Adler Studio (my training studio) two nights a week with the Adler Youth 2 Outreach program. My friend Jason, who has made a few appearances in photos and posts in the past, is the fearless leader of these high school and college students as they tackle Shakespeare verse and text for the first time! As with all theater education programs, even while I’m helping newbies learn to maneuver in this art form, I always end up learning a whole lot about myself and get reinvigorated to continue with my pursuits in the profession.

Never has that been more true than last night, when my Tempest scene partner, Melvin, gave me a surprising compliment: “It was pretty courageous of you to come to school in New York wasn’t it?”

*zoom in on me… dumbfounded*

As soon as he said it, I was thrown off balance. My moving to New York was seen as a courageous thing to do?

Immediately I said to him: “Well I don’t know if it was courage necessarily. I auditioned for the program, I got accepted, my parents were willing to support me in whatever college choice I made, so I accepted my admission and moved to New York for school.”

Melvin replied: “Yeah but it’s different here compared to there [Mississippi]. Was it a hard transition?”

“Well, I was lucky because I came here for school, so I was immediately thrust into an environment where most of us were coming from somewhere else and had RAs leading us through the city helping us get acclimated.”

*and then the phone rang*

While our conversation was prematurely cut short, it definitely left me thinking about how my choices can be viewed by others. I never saw my decision to attend NYU as courageous, instead I saw it as the next step to achieve the goals and dreams I had for myself. So when I reexamine the path I have taken thus far, the only thing I can see is how truly blessed I have been and continue to be.

Blessed to have the upbringing I had. Blessed to be raised with two of the best parents in the world, handpicked for me by God to support, love and encourage me. Blessed to have a brother who had dreams as big as mine, who is making it in his chosen field and eager to assist me in any way he can. Blessed for the friends, NY family I have cultivated, and the jobs and gigs I have booked along the way.

So my courage is rooted in faith and the blessings that came as a result further buttress the fact that I have been called to do this and my talents should not be frivolously thrown aside.

Wow. Talk about a great rehearsal 😉

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Adler Youth 2 Program

 

Ciao