Monday, June 15, 2009

School of the Arts students protest teacher layoffs


School of the Arts students protest teacher layoffs

Last week, students dropped their books to pick up picket signs.

Children from the School of the Arts are outraged over the Rochester City School District’s decision to layoff some art and music teachers in the city schools. More than 250 students protested, walking from the district’s headquarters to City Hall this afternoon. Some of the students also performed.

SOTA’s performing arts program is well respected among school districts in Section V, but because of budget cuts, many of the school’s teachers are being laid off. Students say, without the teachers, the school wouldn't be what it is today.
I would like to write in support of continued (even increased) funding for the arts and specifically music programs in Albemarle County schools.
We have a large body of research that establishes the critical role of music and the arts in the development of cognitive skills and in learning other subjects.

Now, in particular, in this time of reductionist, outcome-based (Standards of Learning) education, we really need to have schools encourage the human imagination and creativity. These arts and music programs enhance the quality of a person’s life and contribute to keeping us competitive in the modern world.

The district's $699 million budget calls for slashing more than 200 positions across the district, and increasing class sizes in some schools.




School budget cuts are wiping out entire departments, with art classes and programs for at-risk students disappearing fastest, the Daily News has learned.

Intermediate School 218 in East New York, Brooklyn, is losing one third of its teachers, which will mean axing its music, art and computer programs, teachers said.
As a serious student of the arts, I am deeply concerned about the fate of arts education in America’s public schools. Since the adoption of the federal No Child Left Behind Act during President George W. Bush’s administration, schools have focused on basic-skills-building at the expense of teaching young people about the arts.

"From top to bottom, the school is going to be gutted," said Chris Schilling, the school's computer teacher and basketball coach whose position has been cut, he said.


"There's no paper, no ink in the printers - we can't even make copies," he said.


"We've been staying here on Saturdays, working for hours after school and we've raised our standards, so why would they make such a big cut?"

Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte said IS 218 is losing its ninth grade to a new high school opening in the same building, so the junior high school will not need as many teachers.
"Our support staff has been working with principals to help them formulate their budgets, and principals have until June 18 to submit their budgets to us," Forte said.
"No decisions are final at this point."

Schools where enrollment has dropped are getting larger cuts, as they would any year.

One such school - Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant - will take a 16% budget cut totaling more than $3.1 million.

"The mayor is supposed to be in control of the schools and he's cutting them," said Michelle Ottley, co-president of the parents association at Boys and Girls.


Her daughter Sharnice, 15, wanted to attend summer school but there won't be enough room, she said.

Public School 42 in Far Rockaway, Queens, is losing eight teachers, four school aides and tutoring for the most at-risk students, teachers said.

"The children fall behind because there are insufficient ways to help them," said Maureen Babel, who has three children in the school.
IS 162 in Bushwick lost almost all of its after-school programs this year and will likely lose seven teachers next year.
"A quarter of my kids are special ed kids," said IS 162 music teacher Jesse Adelson.
"They may not love English and math but they love music."
Jim Bailey as Judy Garland 40th Anniversary Concert



To mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Judy Garland, Jim Bailey returns to the UK with his legendary impersonation of the great star in her cabaret years. Many different artists over the generations have drawn upon the ups and downs of Garland’s career for inspiration and Bailey’s well rehearsed routine still manages to throw up some unexpected delights from the blowsy, bluesy Get Happy opening through to the inevitable journey Over the Rainbow via The Man That Got Away, The Trolley Song and the seemingly ubiquitous I’m Still Here.
There are a few gems here beside the usual back catalogue, including Charlie Chaplin’s signature tune, Smile and Garland’s own audition piece for MGM, the rousing Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.

Bailey doesn’t dwell on Garland’s private life and there are no revelations here save for a distaste for Ikea furniture. This concert is simply a chance to revisit some classic numbers rendered with flair and an attention to comic detail that borders on the uncanny.

Youngsters and would-be cabaret stars should consider the disciplines involved in creating this still wholly credible illusion. The moves and mannerisms have been finely tuned over the years and the vocal patterns seem so natural that there are indeed moments in this concert where members of the audience have to sit up and remind themselves that this is indeed a female impersonator and Bailey is a man in his sixties.

From Garland, sort of, to this year's Tony Award winning Liza with a Z...Award-winning superstar Liza Minnelli will make her long awaited return to Australia in October this year, touring nationally in support of her current hit Broadway show "Liza's At The Palace."

Featuring an incomparable Minnelli songfest, including many of her personal favorites and signature hits, the diva will be joined by a 12-piece orchestra led by conductor/drummer Michael Berkowitz and pianist/musical supervisor Billy Stritch.

Directed by Ron Lewis, this concert performance of almost two hours duration (with interval), will be full of personal stories, anecdotes and heartfelt reminiscences.
There were plenty of interesting haps and mishaps at the 2009 Tony Awards ceremony, the 63rd of its kind, which took place this past Sunday at Radio City Music Hall in New York and was televised by CBS.
Though Brits walked away with plenty of the top honors, Americans shook up the typical routine, and a series of exciting musical excerpts made for an impressive year for the Tonys, which received a boost in the ratings for the first time after a slump of several years.
As this year's host, Neil Patrick Harris provided the show with a refreshing comic energy. His jokes were offbeat and sometimes full of insider bite (including a dig at Jeremy Piven's now-infamous sushi defense). Even more thrilling was his closing number, which brought the house down by summing up the evening's events with pith and pizzazz.
The show was off to a vibrant start with an elaborate opening number featuring most of the evening's musical nominees in a vast montage of this past Broadway season's offerings. There were the West Side Story gangs up against Guys and Dolls's crapshooters.
There were the Shrek fairy tale characters waving their freak flag. And there were also the Hair tribe, Liza Minnelli, hair band Poison with the cast of Rock of Ages, Elton John and the Billys from Billy Elliot, Dolly Parton and the 9 to 5 trio of leading ladies, and - perhaps the most awkward of pairings, - Next to Normal's Aaron Tveit battling Pal Joey's Stockard Channing in a face-off of competing renditions of I'm Alive and Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered from their respective shows.
In perhaps the evening's most worrying moment, Poison frontman Bret Michaels was knocked clean off his feet by a descending set piece following his performance with Rock of Ages in the opening number. After this troubling mishap, however, the show was off and rolling as the awards got underway.
By now it’s popular knowledge that Brett Michaels got his bell rung but good at the Tony Awards. The video clip in it’s various incarnations no doubt has tens of thousands of views on Youtube. Brett’s all right with a fractured nose and busted lip. And doesn’t hold any hard feelings to those who got a laugh out of it. He even thanks Liza Minnelli and Ugly Betty star Mark Indelicato for checking on his condition in the dressing room.
Rolling Stone reports, however, the one thing he is sore about is the way the Tonys’ public statements handled the whole incident.
By claiming he “missed his mark” the blame is pushed onto him.
Michaels calls them the “irresponsible” ones for not waiting a couple of extra seconds to drop the prop, or stopping it altogether until he cleared the stage. “For God’s sake, they have at least a five second delay to prevent the airing of unapproved expletives and nudity.”
Most of the awards were fairly predictable. Though there was talk of a possible Next to Normal upset (similar to Avenue Q's usurping cash cow Wicked some years back), Billy Elliot danced off with the best musical prize unceremoniously, winning a total of ten awards over the course of the evening, including awards for director Stephen Daldry and, in the acting department, for its three Billys as well as for Gregory Jbara.

In one of the most-discussed Tony speeches of the season, Alice Ripley cited a passage from J.F.K., shouting in a rather angry tone of voice before slipping back into her usual friendly demeanor. Explaining herself later, she explained that she was speaking up so she could be heard because of sound troubles experienced throughout the telecast, but she's still subject of a handful of parodies already on YouTube.

The Billys (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish), of course, won best actor in a musical, coming as no real surprise, though the circumstances of their nomination raised a few eyebrows because of the ruling that Tony voters need only see the performance of one of the three young actors in order to vote for the trio.

As has been the trend in recent years, a bundle of awards went to deserving Brits in transferred productions. At least ten awards went to British shows and nominees, with Hair the only U.S.-originated production to take top honors. God of Carnage took home the best play award, and The Norman Conquests won best revival of a play, providing Matthew Warchus (who was nominated for his direction of both shows and won for Carnage) an extra jolt of pride upon accepting his award.

Liza Minnelli's comeback show, Liza's at the Palace..., took the prize for special theatrical event, besting Will Ferrell's You're Welcome America, and special awards went to composer-lyricist Jerry Herman for lifetime achievement and press agent Shirley Herz (the first ever to win a Tony) for excellence in the theatre. Taking home the newly created Isabelle Stevenson Award was Tony winner Phyllis Newman, whose women's health initiative, as part of the Actors' Fund, serves women in the entertainment industry in need of medical assistance.


Overall, it was a year dominated by performances. Aside from the nominated shows, tour casts from Legally Blonde, Mamma Mia, and Jersey Boys performed excerpts to promote shows on the road with mixed levels of success (it was quite a sight to see five carbon-copy Frankie Valli's from across the country perform together on-stage).

What with Elton, Dolly, Liza, and Doogie, there was certainly no lack of drama or celebrity at this year's Tonys. Despite a fairly predictable list of winners (I mean, please, who could have beat Angela Lansbury as featured actress in a play?), there were plenty of satisfying moments (watching Karen Olivo, near tears deliver her heartfelt speech) and plenty to talk about, even if there was an element of schadenfreude in watching Bret Michaels hit the floor. Can next year's awards top this year's?
Oh, please - it's far too early to tell. But with shows like Spider-Man, The Addams Family, New York premieres from David Mamet and Sarah Ruhl, and revivals of Bye Bye Birdie and Finian's Rainbow amongst others, who knows what web-slinging will be instore in just a year's time. Start picking favorites!

Best Play: God of Carnage

Best Musical: Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Book of a Musical: Lee Hall, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: Music: Tom Kitt, Lyrics: Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal

Best Revival of a Play:The Norman Conquests

Best Revival of a Musical: Hair

Best Special Theatrical Event: Liza's at the Palace...

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:Alice Ripley, Next to Normal

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play: Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical:
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical


Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical: Karen Olivo, West Side Story

Best Direction of a Play: Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage

Best Direction of a Musical: Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Choreography: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Best Orchestrations: (tie)
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal

Best Scenic Design of a Play:Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Best Scenic Design of a Musical:

Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Best Costume Design of a Play:

Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Best Lighting Design of a Musical:

Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Sound Design of a Play:

Gregory Clarke, Equus

Best Sound Design of a Musical: Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre: Jerry Herman
Regional Theatre Tony award:

Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award: Phyllis Newman

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre:

"This is the end of the Broadway musical as we know it," said a fellow theater enthusiast after "The Phantom of the Opera" won the Tony for best musical of 1988. He spoke with disgust, but he was a prophet.

Except for Andrew Lloyd Webber's own "Sunset Boulevard" in the '90s, no top Tony-winner since has come from the grand Broadway tradition of large orchestration and lush melodies that are free from pop or rock music influences.

That doesn't mean "Rent" and "Spring Awakening" and "Avenue Q" lack charm, heart or good tunes. But the style of the Golden Age of Broadway, which began with the operetta-like "Showboat" in 1927, seems to have just one practitioner now: Lord Lloyd Webber.


Stephen Sondheim, who'll be 80 next year, never cared much for that style and left it behind long ago. Jerry Herman, who'll be 80 the year after next, no longer writes new shows. So only ALW carries the torch that's in danger of going out.

All three holdovers from the Golden Era wrote their first full-length musical scores within four years of each other. Herman did "Milk and Honey" in 1961, while Sondheim turned out "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" one year later. In 1965, Lloyd Webber finished "The Likes of Us," about Irish social reformer Thomas Barnardo.
(It was the composer's first of five pairings with lyricist Tim Rice.)
"Likes" set ALW's tone for the next four decades: large, sweeping emotions accompanied by large, sweeping melodies. Think of "Evita" or "Cats" or, if you've heard it, Lloyd Webber's wonderful "Requiem," written in memory of his dad.


Lloyd Webber comes from a classical music tradition: Father William Lloyd Webber was a composer, and brother Julian is a classical cellist. ALW once wrote a set of variations on Niccolo Paganini's 24th Caprice For Violin, then adapted those for the wordless second act of his "Song and Dance."
So he thinks in grand, long-phrased gestures. His melodies have an operatic sweep, often reminding people of Puccini, though accusations of direct musical theft usually prove unfounded.
And please note that, when John Williams won an Oscar for "Star Wars," his main theme exactly duplicated a motif from Puccini's "Manon Lescaut." Nobody cared.)

What makes "Phantom" great is not the boat sailing through the candlelit mist or the squashed-tomato makeup of the maimed face or the effects with magic mirrors and underground lakes, though those all cast a spell.
It's certainly not the "plummeting" chandelier, which has been about as terrifying as a rickety Japanese lantern in all five productions I've seen. (That includes the Broadway version, six months after it opened; I'm writing this before seeing the national tour that's playing at Belk Theater through July 5.)
No, what makes it great is the wrenching pain the Phantom suffers at losing Christine Daae and the ambivalence she feels at rejecting a brilliant, psychotic artist in favor of a loving but conventional relationship.


Some of that emotional impact comes from the lyrics by Richard Stilgoe and Charles Hart, which are never less than serviceable, but most of it emerges in the music.

Not everyone saw the potential in this story at first. Maury Yeston won a 1982 Tony for "Nine" and was approached by actor Geoffrey Holder, who had rights to create a musical from Gaston Leroux's novel.

"I laughed and laughed," Yeston said later. "That's the worst idea in the world! Why would you write a musical based on a horror story?... Then it occurred to me the story could be somewhat changed... (He) would be a Quasimodo character, an Elephant Man. Don't all of us feel, despite outward imperfections, that deep inside we're good?
And that is a character you cry for."
He was right. Had he set to work at once and raised money for a Broadway version, Lloyd Webber might have had to turn his attention elsewhere. But ALW reached the stage first and gave us the capstone to 60 years of theatrical traditions.
I am happy to inform you that I have been selected for the role of Pastor Harden in a movie "In This Home". I'm shooting my scene on Thursday!


GO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


AND DON'T FORGET TO RESERVE FOR: FAREWELL CONCERT OF "CAROL CHANNING IN CONCERT STARRING RICHARD SKIPPER!"

BOB EGAN ENTERTAINMENT in association with ELEGANT DIAMOND PRODUCTIONS presents CAROL CHANNING: A CELEBRATION Starring Richard Skipper! Musical Direction by Jon Weber, with a five piece band and back-up singers. In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, Skipper takes his audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.
www.RichardSkipper.com

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