Acts of Poetry

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Actors perform students' plays during Write to the Spotlight 2012

Actors perform students’ plays during Write to the Spotlight 2012

Our Write to the Spotlight outreach program is coming to a close for this year. For four weeks, our teaching artists were integrated into several second grade classrooms in Arlington Heights School District 25. Our teaching artists worked on adapting poems into original plays through the study of character, story, setting and emotion. Now, to wrap up the program, the students are coming to Metropolis to see their plays performed live on our stage by professional actors.

It’s time for a sneak peek of the brilliant work that comes from Write to the Spotlight’s second graders! Here’s a portion of one play, inspired by Smart by Shel Silverstein.

GRANDMOTHER: Don’t you know that $1 is more than 5 cents?

KID: Well, no I didn’t.

GRANDMOTHER: Aren’t you in second grade?

KID: I forgot about that.

GRANDMOTHER: I thought you were smart.

KID: I was…

GRANDMOTHER: You will have to make up for it.

KID: How am I going to do that?

GRANDMOTHER: You can start with making all the beds, putting the dishes on the counter, watering the plants, dusting, finding everybody’s icky underwear, putting the underwear in the laundry, taking the underwear out of the dryer, folding the underwear and putting the underwear away.

KID: Wish I could trade the underwear for 5 cents.

Little Known Metropolis Facts

September 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

So we’ve got this new Development Director – Joe Villinski. Good guy, that Joe.

He’s been spending much of his time saying things like “I can’t believe all this great work we do and how little we publicize it…” Then I say something like “Honestly, there’s such an enormous amount of work that goes in to marketing 45+ shows, three semesters of classes, summer camps (and my whining continues) that our Outreach department is the wheel that’s the least squeaky,” or something else really lame.

Joe has become their squeaky wheel, and that’s a good thing. People want to financially support good theatre, but they really really want to financially support good theatre that also brings the arts to poor kids, rich kids, kids with special needs, that brings vital arts programs to school curricula where it’s been cut, that helps kids develop confidence, find an artistic voice, have fun, make friends, that helps teachers learn how to teach, how to develop more artistically and intellectually engaged children, etc. etc.

Metropolis does a lot of this. So from this roof top, I’m going to begin shouting it. Here are a few numbers you should know:

  • In the past three years, Metropolis Outreach has served over 15,000 children and adults (though mostly children).
  • We have had Outreach programs in over 90 different schools, park districts, seniors homes and other community organizations.
  • We have a great program called Flourish in the Footlights where kids and young adults with special needs develop their own stage plays and perform them. It’s awesome and the parents and teachers will tell you – these kids come out happy and having developed their communication skills and made great strides socially.
  • We have had implemented programs in hospices to help improve quality of life for the terminally ill.
  • In addition to a milion (not really a million) Elementary and Jr. & Sr. High Schools, Metropolis Outreach works with groups like Arlington Pediatric Therapy and NWSRA. Awesome.

I personally interviewed a girl who had moved here from Iraq with her mom and brother. Her school had been blown up by militants and her dad had died. They relocated to the United States via a million other countries (again, hyperbole, but a few countries for sure), started a new life in the Roger’s Park neighborhood in Chicago. An anonymous donor paid for her private schooling at St. Scholastica and she joined a dance program at school run by one of our teachers – Kristen Gurbach Jacobson. She says it changed her life. It gave her confidence in something she always wanted to do but never thought she could or would even have the chance. St. Scholastica did not have a dance program. But they had Metropolis.

Here’s the whole story from September, 2009. It’s short and great.

Metropolis Outreach Helps a Life Starting Over

September 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

Kristen Gurbach Jacobson works with Amal Abbas in the Metropolis Outreach program.

Kristen Gurbach Jacobson works with Amal Abbas in the Metropolis Outreach program.

It’s 7:08 A.M. Amal Abbas is sitting in her school’s hallway, leaning against the wall, half asleep. She is waiting for class to begin. In this way, she is a normal 18-year-old. She is bright and cheerful, and has a smile that lights up the entire 900 seat theatre. It is Tuesday morning and she is waiting for dance class to begin at her new school, St. Scholastica Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Rogers Park, Chicago. Her tuition is paid for by a private donor. The Dance class is run by the Outreach department of Metropolis. Outreach Manager and Resident Choreographer Kristen Gurbach Jacobson teaches the class twice a week. “They look to us to bring a meaningful dance education to their students on a yearly basis. They’ve been an Outreach Partner for two years.”

In most other ways, Amal is not a normal 18-year-old. She is from Iraq. Her family lived in Baghdad. Her father died when she was one, and when she was 12, war broke out. The school that literally sat adjacent to her school was blown up by a bomb. After that, her mother, Nada, moved herself, Amal and her brother and sister to Amman, Jordan. They lived there for a year. Then one day, with 48 hours notice, they sold everything they had and moved to Chicago with the help of a United Nations agency. Amal has wiped the slate clean. “Starting from zero,” she says with a smile.

Amal entered the Metropolis Outreach dance program in September 2008. Dance is new to her. “I had never danced,” she says. “It is awesome… They don’t care if you can’t dance. She’s (teacher, Kristen Jacobson) supportive.” I ask her about adjusting to her new school while also rebuilding her life.

“Every day when I got home I was crying.” Her mother Nada, who speaks little English but understands much, gently laughs while demonstrating tears. Amal says the Metropolis Outreach program has helped her meet students, build confidence and have fun. She performed at Metropolis as part of Dance Week in May of 2009. “When we performed at Metropolis, I was so happy,” she gushes. “I didn’t think it would be that perfect for me.”

“This is exactly what we set out to do – to bring positive, artistic experiences to those who need it the most,” Jacobson says. “Our donors need to know that they help make programs like this one available to kids who need them…everyday kids dealing with everyday stresses or kids like Amal dealing with life altering experiences. Either way, the arts build confidence and help kids see the world differently.”

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