Friday, November 25, 2011

Jessica Kush: Bunnicula Review

Even though there had been so much rushing to get things done, the Bunnicula show went off without a hitch! We even raised $250.00 that was donated to the West Pittston Library which was affected by the flood in September, 2011. 

Bunnicula's "Mom,"  Tonya Hill
I went to the first night of the show and found the theatre to be charming. The owner of Arts YOUniverse, Kathleen Godwin, saved an old abandoned church when she decided to host her shows in the building. The seating is spacious and holds up to 500 people! Where once the altar stood, there is now enough floor space for a stage, and the actors use every available space to enhance their performance. For example, the young actress who played Chester the cat used a wooden railing that encircles the cage in a magnificent way for her solo number. I was very much impressed with her ability to bring to life the stage and the environment of a house and a poor cat that has been put outside for the night.

This can also be said for the other actors in the play. Each of them was funny, exciting, and believable in their parts. They drew the audience right in and it was impossible not to find them endearing. This especially can be said for the actress who played Harriet, the family dog. She had great comedic timing and her interaction with Chester and the other actors was magnificent. It is hard to believe that so many of these actors had never performed live in front of an audience! They were very professional. I was very impressed with their abilities and theatre etiquette. It could not have been accomplished without Angel Berlane whose directing helped create such a successful show.

I cannot emphasize how appreciative I was to have been part of this project. It was depressing to leave class every day because it was like emerging into the real world where this was not yet my career. Writing for the Arts and the work we did for Bunnicula helped me realize that this kind of work is exactly what I want to with my life and I cannot wait to graduate and submerge myself into the professional writing career.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kevin Conroy | Local Arts: the power to change lives and uplift the entire community


Several weeks after visiting the first reading of Bunnicula, I had the privilege of seeing the play come to fruition.  The young actors and actresses surprised me with their progress— it was hard to tell that it was the first production for all of them.  From a quiet, rainy night in the art gallery behind the main stage, to the musical performance delivered on a sunny autumn afternoon, Bunnicula was a resounding success.

My first visit to Arts YOUniverse was the night of the first read through of the script, and there was a storm brewing.  It continued to rain throughout the night, and many places in the surrounding area experienced severe flooding.  King’s was eventually evacuated, but luckily neither the college nor Arts YOU was badly affected, and the show was able to go on.

I breathed a sigh of relief upon walking into Arts Youniverse on the day of the play— the stage was set and looked like a realistic living room, complete with a couch, kitchen table, a beanbag chair used for a pet bed, and a stove and refrigerator.  A cage was set up downstage (meaning closer to the audience) that was to house Bunnicula, the dastardly rabbit the play centered around. Only a few days before, the set was still in the planning stage, and most of the attention was still fixed on shoring up the cast’s performances (this is often the case in theater, professional or amateur). The producers had pulled it together well, and just in the nick of time.

The day I went to the play was also the first time that I had heard any of the actresses and actors sing.  In addition to being exceptionally good first time performers, the cast could also sing very well. During the initial run through, there was no singing, but someone would announce that a musical scene was occurring so that everyone could keep their place.

The music itself was adorable— the songs all fit well with the overall themes of the play.  One song sung the praises of pets, while another delved into the eerie world of vampires.  The entire cast pulled it off flawlessly.

I remember in the initial reading that some of the younger members of the cast seemed to have a hard time focusing and keeping track of when it was their turn to speak (which is understandable for their age).  There were no such problems in the final show; everyone articulated their parts well, with good inflection and emotion.  No one wandered off, which is remarkable considering how young some of the actors and actresses were.

It felt good to help out in such a worthy cause.  In addition to the writing and other footwork that went into the Bunnicula project, I was able to help out with the Campion Society (the King’s creative writing club) in selling concessions at the door.  All of the patrons seemed enthusiastic about the play, and afterwards there was a unanimously positive response.  We sold a variety of goods, including hot or cold apple cider and carrot cupcakes with little carrots made of icing on top.

We were able to raise a significant amount of money, sending $250 to the West Pittston library, which was critically damaged during the same flooding that occurred on the night of my first visit to Arts Youniverse.  We were also able to donate leftovers to local charities, such as the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, as well as donate a bunch of leftover water bottles to Arts YOUniverse.

The production was such a success that there is a very good chance that King’s and Arts YOUniverse will be able to partner in the future for an ongoing children’s theater program in the future, offering the community an excellent way to get both kids and adults alike interested and involved in theater. From seeing the evolution of the Bunnicula’s cast, to helping the West Pittston library and other local charities, and hopefully establishing an ongoing children’s theater program, this has easily been one of the most rewarding projects of my college career.


I highly encourage others to take up the flame, so to speak, and get involved with the local arts community. It has the power to change lives and uplift the entire community.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Isabel Silva: The Bunnicula Project: Putting English Students to Good Use for a Good Cause


Nearly every time I tell someone that I am majoring in English I get the concerned and slightly sarcastic reply of, “Oh! So you’re going to be a teacher?” This has always bothered me, not because I think there is anything wrong with the profession, but because people always assume that the only thing someone can do with a degree in English is teach English.

In our Writing for the Arts class, we disprove this stereotype every time we step into the classroom. This class, and the “Bunnicula Project” that we worked on for the first half of the semester, have shown not only that there are many types of jobs for writers, but also that these positions can go a step further and benefit the community. The “Bunnicula Project” is proof that the skills gained from the study of English can be applied to many different jobs that are just as challenging and fulfilling as teaching.

The “Bunnicula Project” challenged people’s perceptions of what English majors can do in many ways; when hearing about the project, most people would assume that we were writing the script for the play and were surprised to learn that there was actually much more writing involved in the production process.  While working on this project, our class learned about how much writing is actually involved in the production of a play, and I think we are all quite surprised by the amount. We created memos, letters, advertisements, blog posts, and program pieces, among other things. In writing these pieces, we learned how to critique each other’s work and take the best from each, compiling them to create the finished product. This work benefitted not only the community participating in and watching the Bunnicula performance, but us students as well.

Though I was already familiar with the many ways in which reading and writing skills can be applied to real-life jobs and opportunities, I was still surprised at how many possibilities this class opened up for me. The study of English develops in its students reading, writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills that become invaluable to any employer. It’s great that, as a writer, I can use these skills to find a job doing editing, grant writing, technical writing, review writing, etc. but it is even more exciting to know that these same skills can be applied in ways that will benefit others, by working with non-profit organizations or helping with a project such as the “Bunnicula Project” on which we just finished working.  

It feels great to know that the work we did for Bunnicula has made a difference in the community. If not for this project, many of the children may not have had the opportunity to participate in a theatre production. For many of the actors, it was their first time ever performing and I am so pleased that we were able to give them that experience. In addition, we were able to raise $250 dollars for the West Pittston library to aid in the flood recovery of their children’s section. The “Bunnicula project” has paved the way for more children’s theatre in the community and created the beginnings of a valuable partnership between King’s College and ArtsYOUniverse that is sure to benefit the community with future projects. I’m glad that, through the Writing for the Arts course, I was able to use my linguistic talents for such a good cause and hope that more English majors will use their skills to benefit others as they go through their college careers. 

Sarah Scinto: "A Good Cause Spins Itself"

The Arts YOUniverse Stage
Advertising and PR get a bad rap in the world of communications, but these general ideas about lying, deceptive advertisers do not hold up in reality. In reality, advertising campaigns are shaped and defined by what they promote, and when a campaign promotes something good, it can never fall prey to the Mad Men-esque stereotypes. Case in point: our work with Arts YOUniverse.

Bunnicula and Arts YOUniverse are good causes in every sense of the word. They are providing a valuable service to the Wilkes-Barre community by providing access to the arts.  Coming into the Writing for the Arts class, we were asked to aid Arts YOUniverse in the promotion and sponsorship of the production, and as we began our work, it seemed as though the cause promoted itself. We knew that our writing would support something good, something that was giving back to the community, and we did not need to spin our approach or write in any sort of deceptive way.

In those first few brainstorming meetings, the ideas flew across the table at a rapid-fire pace. We were so inspired by the work of Arts YOUniverse and the Bunnicula project that we did not struggle to come up with ways to promote it. We were charged by the belief that the public should know about this cause, and inspiration flowed from this belief. We existed to serve the goals of Arts YOUniverse and the production, not to twist them around into a more pleasing form for the press. The work was pleasing enough already, we just put the message out into the world and let the word spread.


I never imagined myself as a promoter or advertiser. I always thought I could only be the creator; the one who makes the product or event to be promoted. I’ll admit it: I bought into the stereotypes. Now, however, I realize that I don’t have to limit myself to one category. Promotion does not stifle creativity, it encourages creativity. Promoters help the creators find their place in the world and enable them to continue creating. Of course, promoters themselves have creators in them: I can honestly say that some of the most creative things I’ve done were connected to promotional campaigns for both Bunnicula and the charity Invisible Children.

When a promotional campaign serves something creative and good, it too takes on those qualities. The best promotions exist to serve what should be brought into the public eye. After taking this class, working with Arts YOUniverse, and continuing to work with Invisible Children, I have seen that so many great things deserve promotion. Their messages should be heard and seen by the world, and it is promotion and advertising that allows their messages to spread. I always thought I would be the creator, but now I can see myself as a promoter as well. If I can be responsible, even in the smallest way, for shedding light on a good cause or allowing someone’s voice to be heard, I know I will have achieved something worthwhile.

Advertising and PR are not about stifling creativity or spinning and distorting messages. They are about allowing creativity the space to thrive and helping a good cause get its message to the world. I think we achieved this purpose in our work with Arts YOUniverse. We took the message they gave us and spread it to the community, giving Bunnicula a chance to take the stage and Arts YOUniverse itself the ability to continue creating. I am so honored to have been a part of this effort, and I am so proud of what we accomplished. More than anything, I am so grateful for this experience.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Isabel Silva | Bunnicula: A Post-Production Reflection

Growing up with three siblings, I was already familiar with Bunnicula’s veggie-sucking antics long before our Writing for the Arts class began back in August. I had heard my siblings rant and rave about how thrilled they were after reading each book in the series and about how they wanted to read about the adventures of Chester and Howard over and over again. Already a Bunnicula fan, I was excited when it was announced that we would be putting on a production of Bunnicula. Until then, I was not aware that the book had been adapted for the stage so I eagerly printed out my copy of the script to see what this play would be like.

I have to admit that upon first reading, I was skeptical. It bothered me a little that such a beloved book was going to be changed and twisted and put to music. My emotions were similar to those that most of us experience when a favorite book has just been made into a movie; we cringe and sigh, knowing that the movie could not possibly, in 90 short minutes, do justice to the on-paper story. With these concerns always in the back of mind, I continued my work for the production with the consolation that at least this would be something for the children to enjoy and that they would hopefully be encouraged to read the book once they had fallen in love with the theatre production.

This past Sunday afternoon I headed over to ArtsYOUniverse, excited that everything had finally come together but nervous to see what the play would do to my childhood memory of the vegetarian vampire with which I was so familiar. When I walked into the theatre, it was almost surreal to see all the different things about which we had been talking about for months, actually coming to life before my eyes. I saw the puppet, the programs, the Halloween-themed snacks and favors; everything that we had planned was being fulfilled at ArtsYOUniverse that weekend.

As the cast took to the stage for their second and final performance, all my doubts began to disappear. The characters were so engaging and so loveable that I could not help but be absorbed by all the vampire-bunny fun. I enjoyed the changes in the stage adaptation and I loved the endearing quality of the performances by the children. Although most of the actors were new to theatre, the enthusiasm and commitment that they brought to the show was infectious. I feel now that having Bunnicula produced for children’s theatre actually brings new life to the story. It adds an element of childhood innocence and inexperience that makes the beloved children’s book that much more memorable.

The play was funny and the kids were absolutely adorable. As I watched the performance, it made me happy to think about these kids and how influential a project like this is to their lives. By putting on this play, ArtsYOUniverse gave local children an opportunity to create their own art and share it with others. This, coupled with the fundraising efforts to benefit the library, really made this entire project worthwhile. I am so glad to have been able to be a part of it all and, although the project is over, I have hope that this is only the beginning of what will later be a tradition of children’s theatre and art brought to the community by ArtsYOUniverse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jessica Kush: Watching a Friend Leap off the Page and Come Alive



Bunnicula is a mystery story written by James and Deborah Howe that tells the story of a rabbit whose nighttime snacking leads his fellow Monroe family pets to believe he has vampire-like powers. The book has been a children’s bestseller since 1979 and inspired James Howe to write several more sequels such as The Celery Stalks at Midnight and Howliday Inn.

Bunnicula’s popularity and off beat title character inspired playwright Jon Klein to create a stage production of the book. “I like characters that are sort of outsiders,” Klein states to the Washington Post when asked about his adaptation and comparing it to the 1948 film Abott and Costello Meets Frankenstein.  Despite having ample source material to work with, Klein adapted Bunnicula as a musical and enlisted composer Chris Jefferies to create the score for the lyrics he wrote. 


On his decision, Klein tells Gazette.Net “I wanted to be true to the spirit and tone of the book. And then I wanted to make sure that the music would be fun and representative.” The songs, which include an upbeat number about household pets and a pity party melody about an outcast Chester, certainly add fun and charm to the play. Klein’s adaptations seem to have been a good decision because since Bunnicula’s 1996 premiere at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, the musical has been produced more than 100 times and performed by several top theatres including Imagination Stage

However, Klein feels the success of the play lies with his ingeniousness to introduce Bunnicula as a puppet rather than an actor in a rabbit suit. During a production rehearsal he attended at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, Klein spoke to the Washington Post stating "The rabbit is the draw. ...I warned all the actors, if the rabbit does something, nobody is going to look at you.” The puppet helps build the mystery of the play and of Bunnicula who can appear cute or scary depending on the scene. While a pet, Bunnicula is not like Harold and Chester who are more human than animal-like in nature. Bunnicula never speaks and the audience never knows what is going on in his head or what he thinks. He is mysterious. The ending concludes with the audience never knowing for sure whether Bunnicula is a vampire or not. So until then, guard your vegetables!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Isabel Silva: Bunnicula Arrives!

It’s almost show time and earlier last week the star of the show finally arrived! Bunnicula, or his puppet that is, made it just in time for final rehearsals as the cast of Bunnicula prepares to go on stage this weekend. 

The character of this loveable vegetable juice-sucking bunny presented quite a challenge in creating a stage-adaptation of the classic children’s book. In the story, Bunnicula, although he is a rabbit, is very active on stage. He hops around, bares his fangs, wiggles his nose, sleeps, and sucks the juice out of all the vegetables in the Monroe house. 

All this action however, becomes difficult to translate on-stage when you do not have an actor playing the part. Noreen O’Connor, whose son “playing” Bunnicula, took upon herself the complicated (but fun!) task of finding a puppet that could bring this vampire bunny to life.

She found an artist on etsy.com named Paula Corbett who designs and sells puppets  through her a company fittingly called Bad Bunny Puppets. Impressed by her work, Noreen contacted Paula and they both began to brainstorm ideas for this bunny project. Noreen requested an “unassuming pet bunny look that turns vampire for the vegetable-sucking scenes” and requested that the bunny look as though he were wearing a cape. 

The trickiest part was finding a way to create fangs that could appear and disappear just as they do in the book. Paula devised an ingenious method for this; she created holes in the bunny’s face where the fangs would go and then created a glove that had the fangs attached so that the puppeteer could use his fingers to expose and retract the juice-sucking fangs. She also made it so that one of the puppeteer’s fingers could be used to wiggle Bunnicula’s nose. These elements, combined with the cape-like design of the bunny’s fur came together to form a Bunnicula puppet that looks like it hopped straight out of the book itself.

Paula said that researching Bunnicula for this project was “fun” and that she was “excited to see how [Bunnicula] was going to turn out! And so were the rest of the cast and crew working to put this production together. When the puppet was finally delivered, everyone was thrilled with the creativity and likeness of this one-of-a-kind puppet.

 Thanks to the ingenuity of Noreen and Paula, the Bunnicula production will have its vampire star tomorrow night when the lights go down, curtains go up, and Bunnicula takes to the stage.

Angel Berlane: Bunnicula Tech Week

Hello everyone! My name is Angel and I am currently directing Bunnicula! As many as of you know, the show is only few days away and Bunnicula has let me step away from the theatre to let you know what is going on in the Monroe house! 

Tech week is in full bloom and things are starting to change. Set pieces have been moved in, props have entered the stage and tomorrow…” A WHITE ZUCCHINI!!!”

The Monroe family have been adapting very well to their “new” home. Harriet and Chester are crawling and jumping around more than ever.  The mice have started to creep the halls and soon stalking lettuce will stalk our dreams! 

With costumes being brought in the mix and media joining us from time to time…these kids don’t miss a beat. They have continued to push through as they enjoy this experience.

Bunnicula would have to agree with me that with having the show at Arts YOUniverse and King’s college on our side, we are creating something special here.  

We would truly like to thank all who are making this possible for two great causes, the Arts YOUniverse Foundation and the restoration of the West Pittson Library. 

We hope you all can make it to the Monroe’s house to catch a glimpse of what is to come of the Vampire Bunny.  Watch as Chester and Harriet take on Bunnicula and shake things up a bit in the house! This show will surely be delightful. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Angela Warner: "An Art Manifesto"

ART  /√§RT/ 
Noun:
A stimulant for the senses that in one way or another induces emotion, impacts society and helps define a generation, and generations to come. 
Music, painting/drawing, acting, theater, dance, writing, design.
Observed, created, bought, experienced.
Inevitable and important.
Omnipresent. 

What is art? The definition above is my homegrown creation (no offense to Merriam-Webster). You may not agree with it but since the essence of art lies in the beholder, that’s okay too. One thing is certain however: WE NEED ART!

No matter the demographic, art has and will continue to impact life as we know it. Art is consumed every single second of every single day. Sometimes art smacks you square in the face and you don’t realize it. SMACK! It just happened. Did you feel it? 

This program and its pieces are forms of artistic expression by a group of young scholars studying Professional Writing at King’s College. Along with those who work at Arts YOUniverse, these students have been working diligently to promote the production you are about to enjoy. In addition to the play, the creative collaboration has developed a means to encourage artistic enrichment beyond the performances of Bunnicula

In order to encourage a continuation of art within the community of Wilkes-Barre, this collaboration of artists and students is constructing a foundation in order to preserve the very essence of art: The Arts YOUniverse Foundation. 

Through its creators, The Foundation is dedicated to providing artistic programming and experiences of all sorts to everyone in the community. Its mission is embodied in the above definition; allowing art to be omnipresent in the community for generations. What does this mean for you? Art classes, dance lessons, more plays and music lessons are available for the entire family! We hope to further encourage students, families and artist alike with our efforts.

Art will impact you. You will take it in, consume it. Let it digest in your cranium; Form an opinion or brush it off, and go about your day. Either way art does something to you. It makes you think beyond the scope of words on paper. But why is all of this important? Why as humans do we need outlets to express this impact life has on us beyond the basic senses?

Without art life is mundane. Art is the glue that binds us to other humans’ experiences. It is the medium between reality and fiction, good and bad, right and wrong, left and right, up and down, black and white. Art is temporal yet timeless, old yet young, rich yet poor, high yet low. Art is inevitable. As long as we as beings have emotions, cognition and imagination the world will always have art. Art allows us to analyze life in an innovative way. Art allows us to truly live, whether it be vicariously through the art itself, or by relation to the art. Art is always around, never stagnant. Without art we cannot relate to one another. Simply put, WE NEED ART! 


Monday, October 10, 2011

Jessica Kush: "Director Angel Berlane: 'If You Push Hard Enough, You Can Get Anywhere'"

Angel Berlane directs Bunnicula
If You Push Hard Enough, You Can Get Anywhere

“If you push hard enough, you can get anywhere.” These are the words that really stick with me as I leave class after our interview with Bunnicula director Angel Berlane. She says this in regards to her own experience as a child actress where her first ever audition was for the role of Annie on Broadway. Angel made it to the top thirty but failed to sing loud enough in her final audition and lost the part. While disheartened, she came away with the notion that anything is possible as long as you try.


Fitting words from someone whose zest for theater is infectious. When she speaks her hands move animatedly and her smile is engaging. Angel has been in several children’s theater productions, graduated from East Stroudsburg with a degree in theater, and has begun teaching children's acting classes at Arts YOUniverse where she is a drama and voice coach. She is truly excited about the collaboration between Arts YOUniverse and King’s College and hopes to raise awareness about the arts and children’s theater in the community.

While Bunnicula is not Angel’s directing debut, she is still learning and takes her own experiences into consideration when directing the children. Her goal is to make them as comfortable as possible. This is especially true during the audition phase. Angel wants the children to understand that they do not have to do it perfectly the first time but to just do their best even if it took a few tries.

Angel is patient and encouraging when directing them. She truly enjoys watching them grow into their characters and appreciate their own talent.  Her goal is not only to put on a successful show but to help guide the children towards the next level of acting. She feels that it is important to be there for them and to let them know that the stage is a safe zone. More than anything, Angel wants the children to grow into themselves and to enjoy the art of acting. She wants to see them succeed and gain confidence from their success. Perhaps even some of them will audition for Broadway someday where she can pass on a little advice from a lesson she once learned: “If you push hard enough, you can get anywhere.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BUNNICULA THEATER POSTER

Press Release: "Bunnicula" at Arts YOUniverse: "Come laugh and be bitten by the theatre bug--er, vampire"


     
Media Contacts:

Kathleen Godwin
Arts YOUniverse
570-970-2787
arts@epix.net

Noreen O’Connor
Dept. of English, King’s College
570-991-5914


For immediate Release
October 1, 2011

“BUNNICULA”
At Arts YOUniverse
“Come laugh and be bitten by the theatre bug -- er, vampire”
October 22-23, 2011

Wilkes-Barre, PA (October 1, 2011) Arts YOUniverse and King’s College present Bunnicula, a charming musical mystery play that is sure to enchant both children and parents alike through its loveable, goofy characters and clever plot. This story of a vegetarian vampire bunny is especially fitting for the Halloween season because of its playful, kid-friendly take on today’s most popular monster.

Bunnicula will be performed at Arts YOUniverse on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 23, 2011, at 2:00 pm. The Sunday production will be followed by a meet-the-cast reception, featuring a Halloween costume contest. The play is appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $5, and will be sold at the door. Tickets may be reserved in advance--call 570-970-2787 or e-mail arts@epix.net.

Proceeds from this production will benefit children in our community in two ways. One portion will go to the West Pittston Library to help its children’s collections recover from the devastating effects of this month’s flood. A second portion will be used to establish a children’s theatre program within the Arts YOUniverse Foundation, a non-profit that promotes and provides access to the arts in Wilkes-Barre.
First published in 1979, James and Deborah Howe’s Bunnicula is a modern classic for young readers that has spawned several sequels including Howliday Inn, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Adapted for the stage by Jon Klein, with music by Chris Jeffries, the howlingly funny mystery is centered on the Monroe family’s pets--Harriet the dog, Chester the cat, and family’s newest pet, Bunnicula, a rabbit they found at a movie theater showing “Dracula.” The family soon finds that all of the vegetables in their refrigerator have turned white because someone has drained them of their juice, and the vampire hunt begins. The Washington Post in 2010 positively described a prior production as “brainy,” “delightful,” and “a celebration of reading.” The Seattle Southside, also affirmatively stated, “[Bunnicula] is a sweet, funny tale that everyone in the family can enjoy together.

Bunnicula’s director, Angel Berlane, is also a children’s drama teacher at Arts YOUniverse and a professional actor. Berlane has purposely taken on the challenge of creating the play with a number of young community actors in its cast. Says Berlane, “I am certain that you will enjoy this show no matter what age you are and that you will go away feeling entertained by this young cast who have been working so hard to create this clever, witty, funny show.”

The production stars pet sleuths Harriet the dog, played by Brenda Wenner, and her partner Chester the cat, played by 9-year-old Nicole Orlando. The title character will be played by a custom-designed bunny puppet with retractable vampire teeth and black-and-white markings reminiscent of a vampire’s cape. 11-year-old Daniel Hancuff will be the puppeteer. The play also features Kevin Lazarowicz as Mr. Monroe, Tonya Hill as Mrs. Monroe, and real-life sisters Mia and Cades Linder as Tabby and Patty, the Monroe children. Ensemble cast includes Gianna Dickson and Adit Mansury

To support this production, college students from the King’s College English/Professional Writing program have partnered with the Arts YOUniverse Foundation through a course called “Writing for the Arts.” The King’s students—Isabel Silva, James Donnelly, Angela Warner, Sarah Scinto, Kevin Conroy, and Jessica Kush—have been integral to the play’s entire pre-production process and have chosen as a class to give proceeds from the production back to the community.

King’s students are helping support Arts YOUniverse Foundation, a non-profit part of Arts YOUniverse, to create a program that promotes children’s theatre and art in the local community. After the severe flooding in our area this September, the students also decided to make the production of Bunnicula a fundraising event to benefit the West Pittston Library.

“I am truly inspired by the commitment, imagination, and civic-mindedness of my students,” says King’s English professor Noreen O’Connor. “They are learning and also practicing all aspects of professional writing to support this project—writing a documentary blog (bunnicula-kings-artsyouniverse.blogspot.com), fundraising letters, grant research, press releases, and the play’s program. It has become a very meaningful project. Bill Bolan, of King’s Shoval Center, and I worked on creating a course with real opportunities for service learning with ‘Writing for the Arts,’” says O’Connor. “The Bunnicula production is really turning out to involve the entire community, more completely than I could have hoped. Working with Kathleen Godwin has been wonderful, because she is so open to trying new ideas with my students. It has been such a valuable experience for everyone so far.”

Founded by Kathleen Godwin, Arts YOUniverse is dedicated to promoting the arts through productions, classes, and space rentals for local artists, bringing all the arts to one location making them accessible to anyone who is interested. Now, Godwin is delighted to be continuing her efforts to expand the community involvement by working with King’s College to put on the production of this delightful children’s play.

The secret to success,” says Godwin, “was knowing who to call! In the case of Bunnicula, it was Noreen O'Connor and her students in the Professional Writing Program at King's College (my alma mater). With the energy and commitment of her students, a great script, fun music, and the fine young actors at Arts YOUniverse, we're sure to entertain.  And this time, there's another bonus.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the West Pittston Library Restoration Fund.  So come see, come laugh and be bitten by the theatre bug - er, vampire, (did I say that?)”

Bunnicula
·       Based on the book by Debra and James Howe
·       Adapted by Jon Klein; Music and lyrics by Chris Jeffries
·       Directed by Angel Berlane
·       Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm
·       Tickets: $5 at the door.
·       Tickets may also be reserved in advance by calling 570-970-2787 or by sending an e-mail to arts@epix.net.
·       For all ages
·       Meet-the-cast reception with Halloween costume contest after the Sunday performance
·       Bunnicula Project Blog: http://bunnicula-kings-artsyouniverse.blogspot.com/

Arts YOUniverse
·       Located At: 47 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
·       For Information: 570-970-2787 or arts@epix.net.


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Angela Warner: "Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining"

"Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining"

King's College in fall 
September marks a month of change. Leaves begin to turn from summer greens to autumn oranges and reds. Days become shorter. Heat begins to rush out of the air and a cool, crisp wind takes its place as if the world’s refrigerator door was left open. Pumpkins become ripe, ready for picking and carving. Students enter and exit classrooms once again. Halloween is approaching. Autumn is here. Yes, September's changes have been especially ripe with opportunities.

Personally, September is bursting with educational opportunities for me. Autumn has always meant dusting off text books and heading back to campus. However, my studies at King’s College were supposed to conclude when I graduated this past May. The key words being “supposed to.” The decision I made to take a year off between graduation and graduate school was becoming an overwhelmingly heavy elephant on my chest. It was time to relieve that burden, so I enrolled in courses once again.

English 327: Writing for the Arts. What did this class entail? I had never seen it offered in prior course selections before, and this was exactly what I needed for the fall: intellectual and artistic enrichment. This was no ordinary writing course. We as students, along with Dr. Noreen O’Connor, are “hired” for the first half of the semester as writing professionals to advertise, promote, and fundraise for a child’s play, Bunnicula. Our first “client” is Arts YOUniverse, an organization devoted to encouraging artistic development within one’s self and the community as a whole.

The Susquehanna a block from
Arts YOUniverse and King's College
However, like autumn’s transformative nature we too faced the need to change due to extenuating circumstances: our cities were flooding. Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee transformed autumn’s celebrated new beginnings into a time of begging for an end to this season's rainfall and elevated river levels. September has now changed some Luzerne County residents’ lives forever since the Suquehanna crested at new heights. Tones became somber instead of celebratory; DJs over the airwaves played ditties like Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Events were cancelled; restaurants and businesses closed; people were evacuated.

The West Pittston Library, which lost
most of its collections in the flooding
Although both King’s campus and Arts YOUniverse were thankfully spared from torrential waters, the community as a whole was not as fortunate. As a collective, students in my "Writing for the Arts" class have decided to donate some of the proceeds of our production to the reconstruction of the children’s section of the West Pittston Library, which suffered some of the worst damage. In doing so, we would like to create new opportunities for celebration as homes, businesses and restaurants are rebuilt. Not only is the production of Bunnicula exciting in and of itself, the opportunity that has arisen for us to give back to the community is a new reason to celebrate.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kevin Conroy: Bunnicula begins!

Editor's note: Kevin visited Arts YOUniverse on September 7, 2011, for the first rehearsal of Bunnicula, where the castmembers met each other and their director for the first time. It was definitely a dark and stormy night; the Susquehanna River was rapidly approaching flood stage that evening.

Raindrops sent ripples through the puddled streets as I made my way into the towering old church, ducking as I passed under an Arts Youniverse sign.  The rain thundered along the roof, as it had been for days.  It showed no signs of relenting.

After wandering around the immense building for a few minutes, I found my destination; the table reading (or first run through) of the script of Bunnicula, a play being put on here by several young members of our community. 
           
As I entered the room, the group of kids sitting in a circle got quiet and looked up, apparently curious to see what I was doing here.  I spotted an adult and told her that I was here from King’s to sit in on the reading. “Take a seat,” she said, smiling and pointing to a chair.  She started to speak, and attention immediately shifted in her direction.  She suggested that we all go around the room and introduce ourselves.  One young man, aged thirteen, announced that he writes novels and short stories, while another young lady stated that she sings in chorus and plays the clarinet.  Eventually, Dr. O’Connor began to speak about how King’s will be working with Arts Youniverse this year to help raise funds and awareness, and hopefully spur on the growing arts community here in Wilkes-Barre.  The two boys next to me whispered excitedly to each other as she spoke (about the future of art, I’m sure).
           
After introductions the actual reading began.  The little girl playing Chester, the family cat, spoke with more inflection and enthusiasm than I would be able to muster, while two slightly older children played the adults of the house, managing even at this early stage of production to sound decidedly parental.  Everyone read their lines from photocopied scripts, placing their pages on the floor at their feet as the reading progressed.  Soon there are little piles of paper everywhere, adding to the hectic but fun atmosphere.
           
After about an hour and a half, the director stopped and asked if everyone would like to keep going.  Several parents that had been sitting in the background looked concerned.  We learned that Market Street Bridge was scheduled to close because of the rain.  Waters were rising, apparently at a rate far more serious than many of us had suspected.  Several parents took their leave, but a few of us made the decision to trudge on and weather the storm. 
           
Some time later, the read-through was finished and I had an opportunity to talk to the director, Ms. Angel Berlane.  Her passion for theater was obvious as she told me that this was many of the kids’ first show, that now after the initial reading the real work began.  Involved with theater since the age of eight, she seemed as excited about the play as the kids. After our discussion, I said goodbye and made my way outside, back into the drizzling rain. 

The following morning the Wyoming Valley was evacuated; there was a real danger that the river was going to overreach the levee system, flooding the area.  I took the trip back to my home in the Poconos, worrying for the citizens of Wilkes-Barre, my fellow students, and Arts Youniverse. 

I returned to Wilkes-Barre on a sunny Monday morning several days later; the college was ok, my fellow students seemed to be holding up, and Arts Youniverse had been untouched by the rising waters.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sarah Scinto: "A Single Audition"


Editor's Note:
Sarah Scinto, a King's student in the "Writing for the Arts" course, describes her experiences at the second round of auditions for Bunnicula, held on September 2, 2011. The first audition for the play was held on August 28, the weekend Hurricane Irene also visited the Wilkes-Barre area so a second audition was arranged for those unable to attend the first.

A Single Audition

On a gorgeous Friday night, I got my first glimpse into the work of Arts YOUniverse. After asking a King’s security guard to point me in the right direction, I found my way to an old church and walked through the doorway to Arts YOUniverse. Still unsure of where I was going, I heard music and followed it, accidentally walking into a dress rehearsal for a musical revue. I knew I was in the wrong place, but I had to pause for at least a moment to watch. As I listened to the cast members, some as young as elementary school age, I was struck by how much Arts YOUniverse truly does. I had come looking for an audition, and stumbled into something entirely different. I was looking for a production in its very beginning stages, and found one preparing for its first performance.

I glanced at my watch and realized that I should probably find what I had come for. I found my way up a creaky staircase into a room full of art and echoes. A young boy stood in the center of the room, clutching a folded piece of paper. He was in the middle of an audition for Bunnicula, and I tried my best not to disturb him as I slipped into the room. His voice was small, but as he read through the monologue, the echo of the room granted him power. He worked through each line with gentle nudges from the director, and his not-so-small voice gained strength with every word. This boy did not know he had talent. He was discovering it with each line he read. Each echo reverberated off the walls and returned to encourage him to keep reading. Keep speaking. Keep discovering. I sat off to the side, wondering whether this boy realized what he could do. He was just playing, just learning about this thing called acting, and yet he was already on a journey to discover his talents and nurture them.

            None of this would have been possible without programs like Arts YOUniverse. Arts programs like this allow and encourage children to discover their talents and play with them. This is the story of a single audition, but I’m certain that Arts YOUniverse sees things like this happen daily. I left Arts YOUniverse and stepped out into a clear, cool night with a smile on my face, knowing that I had witnessed the start of something amazing.

   Sarah Scinto