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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kathleen Godwin Posts: "I Must Have Bunniculitis!"

Kathleen Godwin, of Arts YOUniverse writes:

I must have Bunniculitis.
 Symptoms include:

  • Inability to complete assigned real-world work tasks
  • Daydreaming about costumes, staging and choreography
  • Carpal-tunnel syndrome from too much blogging
  • Spontaneous giggling when thinking about the dialog
  • A persistent urge to climb up on stage and sing about Bunnicula, the Vampire Bunny
  • Occasional bouts of anxiety over the financial aspects of the production

Arts YOUniverse has barely begun this exciting collaborative artistic journey with Noreen O’Connor’s writing class this semester at King’s College and already we’ve incurred the costs of perusal scripts and scores ($20.00), copy paper ($21.48) and ink ($27.99) for eventual script and score printing (though we have yet to have our license application accepted…though I’m confident it will be…and yet…see – here it comes again). And then there is the CD of the score ($15.00) which was absolutely delightful to listen to as I followed the Adobe Acrobat version on my laptop (wondering to myself if my newly-ordered banjolele would be a logical musical instrument to add to the piano accompaniment  by Brenda Nighbert who just emailed me her reasonable - but nonetheless real - quote for rehearsals and performance).
…I should take two carrots and a yoga class and I’m sure I’ll feel better in the morning.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Kings-Arts YOUniverse Partnership | English 327: Professional Writing for the Arts

This blog, for the "Bunnicula Project," is a part of the fall 2011 King's College course, English 327: Professional Writing for the Arts. Students in the course, as well as its professor Noreen O'Connor and Arts Youniverse director Kathleen Godwin, will take turns blogging here as we prepare for the children's play Bunnicula at Arts YOUniverse. The play will be performed on October 22 and 23, 2011.

The idea for this course began when O'Connor and Godwin met at a "Third Friday"Arts event at the Arts Seen Gallery in Wilkes-Barre's Public Square in 2010. They soon began planning ways that King's English-Professional Writing students could have meaningful hands-on experiences with the writing  work that professionals in the field of arts management, arts education, and arts fundraising do. Students in the course will be writing the play's program, marketing and communications materials such as press releases, fundraising materials, and community outreach materials. This blog will bring many voices together to document the process this fall.

Keep reading!