The Absolutely True Story of Tom Sawyer As Told By Becky Thatcher

New Year, New Goals, New Shows

2016 has come to a close and 2017 has begun. In the past I’ve talked about how I’ve wanted to spend the new year blogging more, writing more, producing more content. I think I write a variation of this blog every year. this year, the goals are the same; blog more, write more, create more content.

Lets look at what I’ve written in the past year though. I adapted my play  #JohnDoe from podcast format to stage format and had it performed by my local theater, Hays Community Theater, in late April/early May. You can watch these (not very well recorded but still) performances on my YouTube page.

In late May/early June I worked on three new short plays; The Suicide Club (based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson), A Knack For Living (a play set in the old west), and Moonlight (based on The Moonlight Road by Ambrose Bierce). At least two of these will be performed in the upcoming season of Sherri’s Playhouse, heard on the podcast Chatting With Sherri (the same podcast where Murder At Home and #JohnDoe premiered). In addition, I wrote some new 10-minute plays including Thoughts And Prayers in response to the Orlando shooting in June, which was performed in Kalamazoo, MI.

In December, I started work directing a new play for Sherri’s Playhouse as well, Sherlock Holmes and the Terror By Night Train. I came up with the story, my writing partner wrote the script, and I added in additional material. I’m really proud of this cast and can’t wait to share this story with you. It’s coming January 29th.

What does 2017 hold for me? I’m hoping to get Warning Shots, my monologue for young female actor, into the hands of some students for forensic competitions this year. I’d also like to get Superstar, a 10-minute two-hander, into some students hands as well. Both of these are available here on my website, along with some other free scripts. I’m working on an adaptation of the medieval poem The Owl And The Nightingale,  that I think would make for an interesting contemporary political themed piece.

Other goals include getting #JohnDoe into other theaters, seeing more productions of Tom Sawyer and Allie in Wonderland, getting a production of my adaptation of A Christmas Carol and continue writing about the arts and arts advocacy as needed.

So here is to more blogging, more writing, more content creation in 2017 (it probably won’t happen by the way 😉 )

EVERETT ROBERT: BEING AN ACTOR HELPS MY COMMAND OF DIALOG

An Interview I did with Ognian Georgiev, a Bulgarian broadcaster, writer and blogger!

EVERETT ROBERT: BEING AN ACTOR HELPS MY COMMAND OF DIALOG.

Attacks on Satire Is An Attack On Our Humanity

#JeSuisCharlie In my play THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF TOM SAWYER AS TOLD BY BECKY THATCHER, I included, at the very end of the show, a bit of satire. Not the greatest writing in the world and that good of satire but a light poking at president of the time. The line goes “George? That boy was dumb enough to be president.” This was inspired, no doubt, from my love of Saturday Night Love, The State and other comedy groups. I found out later (not at the time of the performance) that one of the actors parents got upset at my friend who co-directed the show and accused him of bringing a liberal bias into everything he did there. People get upset at satire all the time, its how we respond that matters.

Satire, in all its forms, really is our expression of speech. That’s why we can mock President Obama the same way we mocked President Bush and President Clinton, and President Bush, and President Reagan and President Carter and President Ford and President Nixon and…well the list goes on.

As someone who cares about the arts, who supports the arts, who lives in the arts, the minute we silence one voice in one area, gives us the power to silence the voices of anyone we disagree with and that will lead to tyranny and the end of our humanity.

Satire May Be Uncomfortable, But Humor Makes Us Human : NPR.

#WeAreSeniorsToo: A Follow up of sorts

2/28/14, 1pm UPDATE: In the past 50+ hours of my original blog post post going live, it has exploded like wildfire. This is my fault. I have encouraged people to share this blog on social media across Facebook, Twitter, etc. I originally thought I would get at best a 100 or so views. I wasn’t expecting the fast approaching 20,000 hits it has received so far. As the page view count grew so did my passion for this area and my desire to see it grow more.

As it has grown, I have received messages from all over the US expressing support and solidarity. I have also been told stories that break my heart about schools like this. These stories, coming out of Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, and others, continue to show that this is a subject which has touched off a lot of people. I have seen, in the very comments here, posts that I would consider bullying in nature, from fellow students and from parents. For that reason, I’m LOCKING THE COMMENTS SECTION DOWN and removing the sharing options. I’m sorry I have to be doing this, but I feel that it is for the students safety.

I have heard from fellow members of the senior class who played in the band that disagree with my statements and the facts as they were presented to me. I have invited them to share their thoughts.

I am also changing many aspects of this article, I’m removing the name of the town and the names of the students, from both the article and the comments section. I have also removed the original picture. This is for the students own safety and for their future.

I am also removing ALL contact links to the school in question.

I never imagined that this story would take off as it has, I never imagined it would become the juggernaut that it has become.

Thank you all for standing up for these two students. I am proud of what I wrote, I am proud of them. They are my heroes for taking an unpopular stand that they felt was right. #WeAreSeniorsToo

-Everett Robert
Emergency Room Productions
Feb. 28, 2014
1pm
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

As I am writing this, my last blog entry, We’re Seniors Too, has been viewed over 12,000 times. This was certainly not something I anticipated when I sat down to write it. My posts are usually seen in the 20-30 view range. I thought maybe I’d crack into the hundreds. But not this. I didn’t expect my comments to be filled up like they have been, I didn’t anticipate the thousands of shares of it on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t expect this:

or this:

Lee Weber is the head football coach in Council Grove, KS (239 miles east of Hill City).  And I didn’t expect a retweet from Dr Chris Jocum of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (127 miles west of Hill City). But I got one:

I didn’t anticipate people from Colby, Dighton, Smith Center, Garden City, Hays, Phillipsburg, and other nearby towns to join in the discussion and stand up alongside these students. I didn’t expect it to be shared from people on the East Coast and people from the West Coast. I didn’t expect people in Texas and Michigan to share it. I didn’t expect page views from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Brazil and yet, they clicked and read. I shared my blog on a couple of writer’s groups on Facebook that I’m a part of. Locally, nationally, and internationally recognized writers from a variety of areas (playwrights, novelists, etc) “liked” the post, supporting student artists.

I don’t share this to “toot my own horn”, but rather to illustrate that this is obviously a touchy subject with a lot of passionate feelings on both sides.  I didn’t expect or anticipate this outpouring of support or vitriol. I wrote my original piece to shine a spotlight on two students who I felt were getting the short end of the stick. I wrote it in a moment of heat and passion, but that isn’t to say I regret what I wrote, because I don’t. I said it then, I’ll say it now, Smalltown High School SHOULD have recognized its senior pep band members properly alongside its basketball players, basketball managers, wrestling managers, and cheerleaders.

I didn’t write the piece to disrespect Smalltown High or to “whine” about these students’ treatment and they didn’t make their sign to whine about being left out, despite what some may say. This isn’t a “boo hoo me” situation as one commenter suggested. I wrote it because I felt that respect needs to be given to all students regardless of what their activity is.

In the past day, I’ve heard several stories about students, past and present who haven’t been recognized. I’ve heard about the Smalltown High Senior girl who has sung the national anthem at several home games and yet wasn’t recognized for her musical contributions on Senior Night. I’ve heard from former students of Smalltown High about how they never got recognized for their hard work in band and in the arts. I’ve heard from former students from other towns about how they didn’t get acknowledged either but how that has changed in their towns (some of them just a short distance away from Smalltown.)

I didn’t write We’re Seniors Too to shame any student athlete, they work hard and deserve their recognition, but as I mentioned in the original article and in my comments, the pep band works hard at creating an atmosphere of excitement. As one former Smalltown High alumni told me in person, “What kind of game do you have without the band there?”

In theater, we have what’s called a “curtain call”. If you’ve ever been to a live show or seen a movie or TV show that features a theater performance of some kind, you know what a curtain call is. It’s the bow the actors take at the end of the show. I used the curtain call as an analogy in one of my comments and I’ll share it here as well.

Imagine you are directing a production of say, Macbeth, and you need several young men to be soldiers in the final act. They would be in one scene and have no lines. Extras, if you will. You recruit players from your school’s sports team, football or basketball or whatever, to play these soldiers and they gladly volunteer their nights to come and march and grunt across the stage. They do sit around backstage and wait for their cue, then they march and go back backstage until the curtain call. They do this for the final rehearsals and for the performances. Would you recognize them at the end of the show? I would venture that most if not all schools would. They would have them do the curtain call, invite them to the cast party, maybe even give them flowers, their names would be included in the program. As well they should be!

Why shouldn’t our student artists, who work tirelessly on new song selections throughout the year for pep band in addition to the concert and contest pieces, who volunteer their nights month after month, be afforded the same opportunities?

As usual, weigh in on Twitter or on Facebook using the hashtag #WeAreSeniorsToo.

Contact me, I’m on Twitter @eerobert or on Facebook @ Emergency Room Productions. If you’re on Tumblr, I’m there as well.

Share this on and more importantly continue to share the original article on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you, on behalf of myself and these students, for your support.

We’re Seniors Too

2/28/14, 1pm UPDATE: In the past 50+ hours of this blog post going live, it has exploded like wildfire. This is my fault. I have encouraged people to share this blog on social media across Facebook, Twitter, etc. I originally thought I would get at best a 100 or so views. I wasn’t expecting the fast approaching 20,000 hits it has received so far. As the page view count grew so did my passion for this area and my desire to see it grow more.

As it has grown, I have received messages from all over the US expressing support and solidarity. I have also been told stories that break my heart about schools like this. These stories, coming out of Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, and others, continue to show that this is a subject which has touched off a lot of people. I have seen, in the very comments here, posts that I would consider bullying in nature, from fellow students and from parents. For that reason, I’m LOCKING THE COMMENTS SECTION DOWN and removing the sharing options. I’m sorry I have to be doing this, but I feel that it is for the students safety.

I have heard from fellow members of the senior class who played in the band that disagree with my statements and the facts as they were presented to me. I have invited them to share their thoughts.

I am also changing many aspects of this article, I’m removing the name of the town and the names of the students, from both the article and the comments section. I have also removed the original picture. This is for the students own safety and for their future.

I am also removing ALL contact links to the school in question.

I never imagined that this story would take off as it has, I never imagined it would become the juggernaut that it has become.

Thank you all for standing up for these two students. I am proud of what I wrote, I am proud of them. They are my heroes for taking an unpopular stand that they felt was right. #WeAreSeniorsToo

-Everett Robert
Emergency Room Productions
Feb. 28, 2014
1pm

Edited Post in

3…

2…

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I want to take you to Smalltown, KS located on the wild plains of western Kansas. The population is less than 1,500 people. It may be hard to believe that towns this size exist, but I assure you, they do.

I know about this town because my first two plays were performed there. In fact, I completed the script to that show less than a block away from the high school. I’ve eaten lunch there, performed there, lived there for three months. It’s a town I dearly love, but at the moment, I’m saddened by.

In a town that small, I’m sure you can imagine how small the school is. According to http://www.high-schools.com, total enrollment at Smalltown High is 166. Of those 166 students, 36 are seniors. Tonight, Feb 25, 2014, was their last home basketball game of the season.

In many schools across the state and the nation, the last home game is often recognized as “Senior Night.” I’ve seen it at high school football games, basketball games, etc. It’s a chance for the coaches, faculty, parents and fans to cheer and recognize the hard-working athletes, cheerleaders, sports managers in their last home game. There are two young people I know who are Smalltown High School seniors. But they are not part of “the team”, they are members of the band. And tonight, at their last home game as pep band members they did not get recognized alongside their classmates.

And here’s the kicker, they were promised they would be recognized and then that offer was rescinded. They were told they COULD be recognized at their spring concert. Which, according to one of the students, has “minimum to no attendance” and which she has “never seen” happen. So what did these brave students do? They stood up and made themselves recognized.

Let me put this out here right now, I have no problems with sports. I think sports have their place in high schools as much as music, theater, and the arts. As I’m typing this, I’m wearing a tee-shirt recognizing a Big 12 collegiate team, a hoodie from an area high school, and a Major League baseball cap. I got to sporting events. I even played sports for a little while in middle school and in high school.

But what I do have a problem with is athletes getting greater recognition then others. Whether they be players, managers or cheerleaders, they are NOT more important than their classmates who work just as hard, put in as many hours, with none of the glory and recognition. I fear and feel that this brings forth a culture of entitlement that carries on into later adulthood.

Do you want to know what this band and their members have done for Smalltown High School? From One of the band members,

 We have played pep band since sixth grade, long before the seniors who were recognized tonight played on that court, before the cheerleaders wore those uniforms, before the managers worked with the coaches. I have never ridden on a class float during the homecoming parade, because I have always marched. I have played in half times at college football games. I have taken music to contests and played in honor bands. I have played with Dallas Brass. I’ve played jazz band on top of a mountain in Aspen at a ski resort.

These band members were ambassadors for their school, but more than that, they were torchbearers and played as important a role in athletics as the athletes on the field or the court. In Biblical times, musicians often preceded the armies into battle and in beginning in the 16th century in Europe, armies would often have a drum and fife player who would play uplifting music to encourage the troops, as well as be used to convey orders. What is the purpose of a high school pep band but to uplift and encourage the crowd of spectators and the athletes. They work in conjunction with cheerleaders often times.

I’m writing about this, not because these students are friends of mine (although they are-they were part of my original show in Smalltown), not because I’m disappointed in a school or a town (although I am), but because this is symptomatic of our culture. We like to separate the “jocks” from the “geeks”. We like to pigeonhole and ghettoize groups of people. We place a disproportionate amount of praise on our student athletes while marginalizing and ignoring our student artists. I graduated high school almost 20 years ago, from a much larger high school, and felt the same thing. Student artists get the shaft while student athletes get the praise. I had hoped that our society had progressed beyond that.

I’ve blogged about this before, but it bears repeating; arts in education is vital to making our country better. Studies have “found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.” (PBS, 2013). And according to Fran Smith in a 2009 article on Edutopia, the website of The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), “Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.”

Smith goes on to cite a 2005 Rand Corporation study which states, “can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing,” meaning, basically, the arts can make a person’s life BETTER because they [the arts] are sweetening that person’s life, causing them to create closer social connections and bonds.

Music education can help with verbal skills, increase IQ, develop Spatial-Temporal skills. The brain works harder, causing increased test scores. Theater education can help with social anxiety and confidence, art education helps with motor skills and decision-making. The studies are out there for those who want to look.

Art Education plays a vital role and instead of ignoring those students, instead of promising something and then revoking it, the Smalltown School District (and by default ALL schools) should be CELEBRATING our student artists.

I can’t do much, but I can applaud these Senior students and I can write about this.

If you wish to join the discussion use the hashtag it #Weareseniorstoo so I can track it.

If you know of other stories like this, contact me via Twitter or my Facebook page and I’ll continue to bring this life. It’s time we took a cue from these Smalltown students and take a stand.