Monday, July 30, 2007

Come see the Up with People show!

For those of you in Denver, come see the show!
Cast B is Friday, August 3rd- 7:00pm
Cast C is Saturday, August 4th- 7:00pm
Teikyo Loretto Heights Theater - southwest of downtown Denver on Federal Ave, just north of Hampden. Tickets are $15, and proceeds go to Young Americans Center for Financial Education. (Up with People donates show revenue to local non-profit organizations in the community we are performing in.)
Reserve tickets by calling Up with People: 303-460-7100 ext 125

Let us know if you're coming so we can watch for you! Scott & I won't be performing with the cast, but will be there as support staff for both nights. Hope to see you! -ee

Its (almost) showtime!

Today we moved to our performance facility, the theater on the Teikyo Loretto Heights college campus. This, the final week of staging, is when it gets real... Three more days and its showtime for Cast B.

As the students' days are packed with vocal rehearsals, learning the last bits of choreography, and doing many many show runthroughs, Scott, Hector and I (Cast B's fabulous education team) are preparing for our Thursday morning workshop on how to lead the Up with People school project program, "Stand for Peace." Our community impact program in Tucson will be our first "Stand for Peace" for middle school students, and as its not the most forgiving age to work with, we want our Up with People students to feel well-prepared and rarin' to go when they head into 7th & 8th grade classrooms.

Between that training prep, connecting with the advance teams in our upcoming cities, and occasionally hopping into show rehearsals, its a wonder I have any time at all left for my last little project. I was recruited to hem all the edges and add velcro to attach our new riser skirting for the 10 set platforms. Each riser skirt is either 12 feet or 18 feet long, and there is no way I'd be anywhere near done without the generous help of Chris and Tricia Enebo, the master seamstresses otherwise known as my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. They are the only reason I'll get any sleep this week at all. Tomorrow I'm headed to Denver Fabrics to pick up 50 yards of velcro. Good times.

those crazy cowboys

Our wonderful host family, the (Sapp)Stones, had a slam-bang finish planned for our last free day here in Denver, which was yesterday, Sunday July 29th. We cruised on up to Jack & Karen Sapp's lovely home in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and were treated to a fast-paced, exciting, incredibly muddy rodeo... and not just any rodeo: the "daddy of 'em all"- Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Finals! Not an easy seat to get -- our tickets had been pre-purchased in January (no joke).

There was bucking broncos, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing, and an amateur wild horse race, not to mention some pretty intense bull-riding on some of the biggest, sauciest beasts you've ever seen.

Scott & Jon decided that taking the calf roping title was the best deal of them all-- it still had a decent purse, but was much less life-threatening, then say, being tossed off an enormous bull.

Scottie also picked up some great one-liners from the announcer: "There aren't enough "O"s in smooth to describe that cowboy."

I was most surprised by the steer wrestling... there is nothing like watching a guy on a horse tearing after a young steer, then leaping from his moving horse onto the steer's back, grabbing it by the horns and flipping it to the ground. Both steer and cowboy turned a serious shade of muddy in the lake of the arena grounds. (we had gorgeous weather, but the three days previous Cheyenne had gotten a ton of rain). The slick playing field made all the rodeo events extra exciting.

Treated to handmade burgers before the festivities, and delicious BBQ afterwards, the whole day was a truly cultural experience for this cowgirl.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blocking blow-away!

Its been a whirlwind week of education workshops and training, and so today was my first chance to pop into the show blocking for brilliant Cast B. I was blown over-- they know so much already (which is good, since our first performance is in two short weeks!) Today soloists and dancers were put into the rehearsal runthrough, basically performing for their castmates for the first time. The group was so supportive, and also I think surprised each other with the immense amount of talent that was in the room.
I love how the Up with People performance can really show off gifted singers and dancers in one song, and in the very next number a brave someone who has never been onstage before is featured as a "signer" in the sign language song (One 2 One), or is holding a microphone for the first time as an MC. It was powerful to watch and to be a part of.
Tomorrow: Regional Learning in Boulder! Celestial Seasonings factory, here we come...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Drivin' the Big Rigs!

While you may think that this is a simple hat in the picture with some sweet metallic trim and logo, it it truly much more. This hat is actually a symbol of Scott's driving prowess in a 26 foot truck. After a gruelling obstacle course that involved avoiding crafty orange barrels and feroceous tennis balls, Scott came in with a whopping 225 points and clinched the best all around driver for the day. This hat will be religiously worn on each travel day to commemorate this momentous occasion!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

culture jams!

If you visit Rafael's photo page, (see previous post) you'll see some fun pics of students performing a wide variety of acts. Welcome to Culture Jam! I wish this had existed when I traveled as a student. It is a combination of open mike/ talent show with a cultural focus... a chance for students to share a little about themselves, their traditions, cultures, talents & hobbies with each other.

What I loved about the Culture Jams that happened last Wed and Thurs was how the students jump in so confidently, and also were so willing to help each other out-- Sukoen from Cambodia recruited 15 people to learn & perform a traditional Cambodian dance; Veronica taught Jeremiah some salsa moves so she could have a dance partner; the Mexicans, with a few Mexican-Americans, put together an impromptu mariachi band;and the Japanese performed a medley of songs from Japan, including a rockin' "air guitar" demonstration, as a Japanese man just won the International Air Guitar competition!

To see the bravery of some of the more reserved or quiet or shy students to get up and share something was very moving. Plus the energy in the room, and the support of the students for each other was powerful. Some of my favorite moments:
-the standing ovation that our one blind student, Jessica from Tucson, AZ-USA, received for her smokin' violin and vocal solo-- a song that she usually plays in a larger mariachi band. I have never seen anyone's fingers fly on the fiddle like Jessica's.
-A tall Swede named Johan had planned originally to sing a traditional Swedish song, but decided to instead share a song he wrote. In his introduction, he asked that we would pretend we already knew the song, so we would recognize it when he started playing and would cheer like we were excited to hear it!

There was a boy band performance from a very recently formed international group, "Out of Sync", and a lesson in how to speak Minnesotan from the five midwesterners that included a demonstration on appropriate situations in which to use the word "Uff-da." There was a Belgian breakdancer and a step team demo and a South Korean who played her national song on a bamboo flute, and much much more.

One really cool result of the Culture Jams, and the reason why I wish they had existed when I was a student, is that some of these acts will be added into the up with people show for the tours this fall. So instead of Up with People production staff choosing and teaching a Mexican song and an Indian dance, the students bring to the stage something more of themselves.

resident photographer

Within our larger cast we have small groups that meet weekly, called our "home teams." I am lucky to have in my team right now Rafael Cardoso from Brazil, who has taken some really incredible photos of his first few days at staging. Check out this site to see some images of the uwp experience from a student's eyes. (In his "Day 2" link, which was Monday, July 9, there are great shots of the Opening Session ceremony and show-- if you look carefully, you can see Scott and I!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Taiwan... a troublemaker?

Wednesday, June 11th-- our first controversial topic comes to light. During our stereotypes workshop, students write down generalizations that come to mind for each country represented in the room. The citizens of that country then present to the group what surprised them the most about what others wrote about their nation, which generalizations were correct & incorrect, and what other items not mentioned would they really like us to know about their culture.
A fascinating exercise, especially because for many students who aren't as comfortable conversing in a group setting or in English, this is their first time speaking in front of everyone. With 17 countries in the room, this was a long, yet engaging process, especially because I could sense that people really wanted to learn from each other.
I only learned afterwards that the Chinese students were disturbed that our finance staff person, who is from Taiwan, presented as a separate country. China, of course, does not recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, and this caused some quiet controversy. BUT being exposed to both sides of this issue and having these harder conversations is what these students are here for... I am excited for the discussion to come.

Belgian for a day

Opening Session 2007! We welcomed about 110 students from 19 countries to the Up with People program on Monday, July 9th... I was honored to carry the flag of Belgium in the flag processional (and had all the Belgian students coming up to me afterwards to check to see if I was from their fine country). Imagine about 40 flags of the world, processing into the darkened auditorium, with a classic uwp tune filling the space:
"Sometime soon the time will come, when there'll be room for everyone."
A bit cheesey, yes, but also so moving for the students to see themselves represented in this international space.
Scott & I learned the blocking, choreography, music, and the rhythm stomp for the new show in about three hours, so we were able to participate and perform for the students... showcasing for them what they will be learning in the next few weeks.
Its been a whirlwind-- this day already feels so long ago!

I also led my first workshop the afternoon of Day One-- goal setting. It was exciting to jump right in! more updates to come... -ee

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I'll Take Meetings for $400 Alex

Answer: You spend most of your training week in these.
Question: What are meetings?


We will not give you the blow-by-blow of our many meetings, but rest assured that we are starting to feel ready to welcome the students and get going with our jobs. This is fortunate because the STUDENTS ARE HERE! They came in last evening and seeing their faces reminded me of why we are embarking on this adventure. We have been working so hard to get to this moment and know that the fun, challenges and excitement of the semesters ahead is right around the corner.

We have been doing our training in the old Shriner's temple in Denver, and this is where we will be doing the staging for the casts. We have the searched the place from top to bottom, but we have yet to find the cache of miniature cars and fez hats ;-) It is a beautiful building though and we will be having our opening session tomorrow morning for all of the students (I get goosebumps just thinking about it). Be sure to think about us in the morning as we welcome all of these wonderful people from around the world.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

last Saturday off

As up with people is typically a six-day workweek, which starts in full swing on Monday, we wanted to make the most of our last Saturday off (for awhile). Here's what I (ellen) learned:
  1. when its going to be 100 degrees in Denver, all the locals head into the mountains, where the temperature drops in direct proportion to how high you go
  2. mountain-biking at 7,000+ feet is a really quick way to learn how out-of-shape I am
  3. the hottest item at the Central City American Pride Music Festival and street fair was definitely the "tater twist" -- a spiral-cut spud, deep fried and smothered with gooey nacho cheese
  4. I need to be more diligent about carrying my camera places, because not only were the bike trail views gorgeous, and the mound of tater twists worth documenting, but also because reading a blog with no photos is definitely less interesting than a blog with photos.

I vow to do better! -ee