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.