Friday, September 19, 2014

Become a Better Storyteller

This season, you'll see a huge emphasis on storytelling at the New Vic. We begin the season with PigPen Theatre Co., who creatively tell an original fable, The Old Man and The Old Moon. You'll also love The Snail and the Whale, an adaptation of a beloved children's book, staged as a story-within-a-story. The trend continues with Isango Ensemble's The Magic Flute, Complicite's Lionboy, A.R.T.'s The Light Princess, and Windmill Theatre's Pinocchio.

While every family has stories to share like these artists do, we know that not everyone at home has a stage like ours for telling their tales. Luckily, as social media becomes ever-more present in our lives, the avenues for telling your story are becoming more and more diverse. You can tweet, blog, or Instagram throughout your day, building your story through snippets you share. With that in mind, we've put together these ideas to help you try your hand at telling stories with your kids in new ways!

For Tweeters
What kind of stories can you tell in just 140 characters? Writers have long been exploring "flash fiction," or extremely short stories, to communicate deep emotion and plot. Perhaps the most famous flash fiction story goes, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." In just six, powerful words, the author (who some say was Ernest Hemingway) implies so many things to the reader. A more humorous example comes from science fiction writer, James Patrick Kelly: "We kissed. She melted. Mop please!" (Find more fun 6 word stories here.) With Twitter, modern day writers are getting even better at this art form. Try out writing your own Twitter flash fiction!

Try out #SixWordMemoirs for starters. The campaign, started by SMITH Magazine, encourages everyone to try and sum up their life in a six-word tweet. Tag it with the hashtag, and you could be featured on their website as a favorite of the week!

For Old-Fashioned Writers
For some, there's nothing like the thrill of putting a pen to paper. I, too, love keeping a journal of my thoughts and doodling along the way. Trouble is, writer's block is always around the corner, ready to strike!

Avoid getting stuck and use our School Tool Creativity Pages to get inspired by the themes in The Old Man and The Old Moon. Our worksheets are great for the classroom, but can double as a weekend exercise to try together, paired, perhaps, with our Family Activity.


For New Storytellers
Do you like the idea of writing stories, but aren't sure how to get started? If you start paying close attention, you'll see that stories are everywhere! (You don't have to write a book to be a great storyteller.) Begin by listening more. Historically, important stories always began in oral tradition, e.g. talking to other people is a tried-and-true first step.

To get a sense of how to structure a good story, ask your parent, guardian, babysitter, grandparent, teacher, or any other person you enjoy talking with, to tell you about a moment from their past. Here are some "story starters" if you need a little more help. Notice the details that they share, and pay attention to the beginning, middle, and end of their narrative.

Another exercise would be to watch a TV show, play, or movie that you love. Scripts begin as writing, but then are transformed into live action or animation. If you listen more closely, you'll begin to get a feel for the techniques that make a script interesting, compelling, honest or exciting! Take notes on those moments. Reading a favorite book will also help to illuminate these methods.

For Non-Writers
If you're tentative about calling yourself a writer, "writing" might sound challenging or boring. But you don't have to write or even narrate a story to share a story. Think, instead, about what you love to do, and then think about what you can communicate using that talent!

Do you love to skateboard? How can you move your body to communicate an emotion while you ride? Or, maybe you're a great photographer. Show the story of your day on Instagram without any captions. Maybe, like me, you love to cook. Try recreating a recipe that reminds you of a special moment in your life and share that meal with friends and family. We'll bet you'll be feeling like a more confident storyteller in no time!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ten Facts About the Moon to Share With Your Kids

With PigPen Theatre Co.'s The Old Man and The Old Moon opening our 2014-15 season, we can't help but gaze skyward each night and think about what it might be like to be the eponymous man in the show. The Old Man's job, in the theatrical tall tale, is to tend to the leaky moon, refilling it with light.

Even if we're not professional moon caretakers, there are lots of ways that the moon affects our everyday lives. Before you come to see the show (at the New Vic from September 26 through October 13), have a little fun with your family and talk about these ten did-you-know facts!

1. The ocean's tides are largely caused by the gravitational pulls of the moon. Waters bulge depending on where the moon is in its rotation around the Earth, causing tides to swell and fall. (Moon Connection)

2. From the Earth, we can only ever see one side of the moon. Because of how the moon revolves around the Earth and how it rotates, the same face of the moon is always facing our planet. That's why you'll sometimes hear people talk about "the dark side of the moon."

3. In East Asian folklore, there are stories about a rabbit that lives on the moon. That's because, for some, the patterns on the moon's surface appear to take the form of a rabbit. Some Native American and Mesoamerican cultures have similar myths about the rabbit on the moon. Take a look and see if you can see the shape!
(Source: WP Clip Art)

4. In many cultures, the full moon is thought to cause erratic behavior or even "intermittent insanity." That's why mythical creatures like werewolves are often associated with phases of the moon. It's also where the term "lunatic" comes from. "Luna" means "moon" in Latin. (Source)

5. The moon has volcanoes! Although, scientists say they "have not erupted for millions of years." Many of the craters that we can see on the surface of the moon, however, were actually caused by the moon being struck by other celestial bodies like asteroids and comets. (Scholastic)

6. With no atmosphere, the moon's surface temperature varies much more severely than Earth's. It can be as hot as 253 degrees Fahrenheit and as cold as -387 degrees Fahrenheit! The lack of atmosphere also means you can't hear sound on the moon and the sky always appears black. (NASA, Space Facts)

7. Only twelve people have ever walked on the moon, and all of them were American males between the years 1969 and 1972. The first men to walk on the moon were part of the Apollo 11 mission-- can you name some of the famous astronauts on this mission? (Space Facts)

8. Our weight on the Earth is connected to our planet's gravitational force on our bodies, and gravitational force is unique to each planet, depending on its size. So, if we were to walk on another planet or celestial body and weigh ourselves, we would see a very different number on the scale. Use this online tool to see how much you would weigh if you were standing on the surface of the moon. (Moon Connection)

9. The light we see emanating from the moon is actually sunlight being reflected off of the moon's surface. It's not actually glowing cheese, nor is it tended to by an old man!

10. While The Old Man and The Old Moon explains the varying levels of light in the moon with their "leaky light" fable, what we're actually observing on Earth are the phases of the moon. Phases are caused by the shadow of the Earth being cast onto the sunlit portion of the moon. See if you can tell what phase the moon is in tonight! (Moon Connection)

(Source: Moon Facts)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back-To-School Survival Guide

Turn on your TV, and surely you'll be inundated with back-to-school madness. We're willing to bet you've got a lot on your mind as you prepare the family to return to those early mornings waiting for the school bus, evenings spent slaving over homework and the upcoming afternoon soccer practices! So, we've compiled a list of resources and reminders to help you get back into the swing of things this fall!

Plan Ahead While You Still Can
No matter how much you vow to get up earlier this year and avoid rushing in the morning, we guarantee that once you wave goodbye to your kids on that first day, the momentum of the new year will make time fly. By looking long-term now, you can potentially eliminate those oh-so-familiar struggles.

For example, make sure your kid has a comfortable desk space to work on his or her homework so that they're not distracted by siblings or the sound of the TV in the family room. Here are some fun, colorful ideas for your kids' room at various price levels.

Also, we love the idea of spending one of these last few summer days having a school lunch tasting. Test out some healthy meal ideas on your kids to determine what they might like or not like in terms of new sandwich and snack options. If your kid is old enough, this is also a great time to try to get them involved with putting together some of their own lunches!

Emotions Are Running High: Address 'Em!
No matter how prepared you, your kid or your teacher are for the new school year, every transition includes stressors, even if they're small or ones you anticipated. How do you address that? Here are some ideas:

For your kids, find a way to show even the most excited-for-school kids that you're thinking of them while they're in class. Never underestimate the power of a little note in the lunch bag, or, for the more artistic parent, send your son or daughter to school with a piece of art in their backpack for them to uncover every day like this dad did. The small gesture will make them feel a little less alone on days when making new friends feels hard.

For parents, we recommend finding support in fellow parents! Take a few minutes to chat at the bus stop with other neighborhood moms and dads, get to know each other at a meet-the-teacher night, or even use social media to connect with other parents going through similar transitions. From parent blogs to subreddits, we guarantee you can find like-minded parents on the web. Tweet at us if you want a more specific suggestion of a blog or network, based on your parenting style and personality!

Don't Rush the Last Minutes of Summer
Some of you parents might be reading all of these tips thinking, "stress? I can't wait to have kids back in school, and to get back to normal!" Yes, summer can be just as hectic as the school year for you, but it's definitely worth remembering that summer, for kids, means freedom, endless play and the opportunity to explore their interests. As one of our Twitter followers pointed out, make sure not to rush those last few dwindling summer moments!
We know that a formal education is crucial for all young people, but keep the spirit of summer alive with lots of play (structured and unstructured) after school and on weekends. Free play benefits kids emotionally and cognitively, so make sure to encourage it in your household! Whether it's hide-and-seek in the backyard, or a dance party with dad, remember to help kids decompress and build those social skills whenever you can!

We're happy to help you get into the swing of play with your family. With every show at our theater, we create Family Activities, host Family Workshops, have Arts Express and TXT Marks the Spot fun in the theater, and have a Try This! activity in our lower lobby. Plan your trip to the New Vic this fall and make sure to include these opportunities for fun in your day!