Thursday, March 9, 2017

Crazy for You and New York City—an amazing experience for the Upper School Drama Club!

The Upper School Drama Club performed in a one night only concert production of Crazy for You at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center at 8 p.m. on Sunday, February 19.  The production was directed by Crazy for You’s original 5-time Tony winning choreographer, Susan Stroman.  The musical director was the amazing Kevin Stites (Les Miserables, Titanic, Radio City Music Hall)  This was, to the day it opened on Broadway, the 25th anniversary of the show.   Crazy for You was not really a concert—it was a re-creation of the entire show, complete with the original choreography.  
The show starred Tony Yazbeck ( star of Broadway’s On the Town, A Chorus Line) as Bobby, Laura Osnes (star of Broadway’s Cinderella, Grease, Bonnie and Clyde and the upcoming Bandstand) as Polly, Rachel Bloom (star and writer of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on the CW) as Irene, Jerry O’Connell (starred in movies such as Stand By Me & Jerry Maguire) as Lank,  Rachel Dratch (“Saturday Night Live”) as Patricia, Jack McBrayer (star of NBC’s  “30 Rock”, Talledega Nights) as Eugene, Harry Groener (Broadway’s original “Bobby” in Crazy for You 25 years ago) as Bela Zangler, Mark Linn Baker (Broadway’s  A Year With Frog and Toad, star of TV’s “Perfect Strangers”) as Everett, and Nancy Opel (from Broadway’s Urinetown, Sunday in the Park with George and many others) as Mother.  

The concert featured the New York Philharmonic—and a 240 member chorus from across the U.S. and internationally.  We were part of the chorus—our journey began 5 years ago when GDS first auditioned for Manhattan Concert Productions (the concert’s producer) for their inaugural Broadway series concert, Ragtime.  GDS performed in Ragtime and was invited back for their production of Parade 2 years ago.  Our group has excelled at each concert—in behavior, professionalism, and preparedness.  

This year’s group was no exception.  Our group of 18 prepared for the concert during Winter Term. Thank you to all who made this wonderful trip and experience available for our students.  The students who participated were Kayla Rafkin '20, Hayley Rafkin '17, Davis Dunham '17, Gray Rucker '18, Meg Bennett '19, Katie Barton '19, Morgan Winstead '18, Penny Hazlett '18, Jake Breeden '19, Will Zhang '17, Laura Tutterow '17, Desmond McIntyre '17, Emily Brown '17, Mary Brown '19, Caroline Moore '17, Juliette Matthews '18, Kennedy Boston '19, and Avery Blue '17. 

Jonathan Emmons, who worked on a number of shows with GDS and served as the Upper School Chorus teacher for a year, was the musical director here and coached the students through learning the jazzy, syncopated Gershwin score.  Ruthie Tutterow also worked with the group on understanding the context of the show, its background, and careers of the show’s artistic staff and stars.  After a final polish rehearsal and final parent meeting on Feb. 4, the 18 students along with chaperones Ruthie Tutterow, Denise Johnson and Tammy Alt were off to New York!  

Most of our time in New York was spent in rehearsal.  Denise Johnson and Ruthie Tutterow also prepared with and sang in the chorus.  On a Broadway show, there are a lot of tweaks and changes, and actors have to be able to adapt and learn quickly.  We were given three pages of musical polishes, tweaks and cuts shortly before going to NYC that we were expected to have down the first day!   We went through the entire show at our first rehearsal, and were given “choral-ography” by Susan Stroman and her assistants.  The main cast had already been rehearsing for two weeks, and they were added in at our second rehearsal.  Most of our rehearsals (unlike past concerts) were with the main cast, culminating in a technical rehearsal at Lincoln Center the afternoon of the concert, and the concert itself on Sunday night.  

However, while we were there to work, we also packed in some sightseeing!  We were invited by GDS alumnus Kara Medoff Barnett, executive director of American Ballet Theatre, to come visit their studio, and were able to sit in on an amazing rehearsal of a new ballet.  We visited the new Freedom Tower and went to their observation deck.  We went to two Broadway shows—Dear Evan Hansen and School of Rock.  The stage managers of School of Rock (Bonnie Becker and Julie Devore) are UNCG graduates, and came to talk to us after the performance of School of Rock about working on a technically complex show with lots of kids!  

We also want to thank a GDS Board of Trustees member, Cathy Levinson, who invited us for pizza between our tech rehearsal and the concert on Sunday night.  We also spent some time shopping, dining out, and went to a cast party at Planet Hollywood after the show.  The concert itself was a jaw-dropping experience!  It was sold-out, and the love from the theatre-savvy audience, which was attended by multiple celebrities, original Crazy for You cast members, and the Broadway community, was palpable. Many of the student’s parents attended, including Will Zhang 17’s parents from China!   
There were many show-stopping moments, and a standing ovation after ACT ONE!  And of course again after Act Two!  The show concluded with a lovely speech from Susan Stroman where she dedicated the performance to her late husband, who she met doing the original production.  An impromptu final moment came when Harry Groener, who originated the lead role, hugged and congratulated Tony Yazbeck, who was truly inspiring and brilliant in the all-tapping, singing role of “Bobby.”   Some in the theatre community are calling for this cast to revive the show on Broadway—I agree!  It was two hours of total joy!  

Enjoy some highlights, pictures, and videos from the concert: 


Playbill


Thursday, November 17, 2016

We had a Ball, Y'all!

With the Fall Ball taking place 2 weeks ago, many students at GDS prepared by buying dresses or suits, planning dinners, and asking people out on dates. When many think of the Fall Ball, formerly TWIRP (The Woman Is Required to Pay), they think of Sherwood where it’s commonly held, or the fun environment, but few think of everything that goes into the dance. The effort and planning that goes into the dance is, as I learned, very immense for not just the Executive Student Council, but for students as well.

Junior Clarke Phillips did not go to the dance this year but has gone in previous years. She mentioned that when she did go, she “did the whole shebang” before the dance by going to dinner with friends, getting ready together, etc. When asked if she would go next year she said “I might go but I don’t know yet.”

I also spoke with the Executive Student Council asked about the problem that occurred when Sherwood double booked the venue. “I was angry,” Executive Student Council President John Ball  '17 stated. “Planning the dance takes a lot of work. We have to pick a senior theme, book a venue, buy decorations that are within the student council budget, and the hardest part is spreading the word about the dance. We also have to get everything approved by faculty, find chaperones, and finally get a DJ.” When asked about why the dance is always held at Sherwood despite the complaints the Student Council received last year, they responded by telling me that Sherwood is the most economically viable venue and that now by knowing the issues and complaints people had last year, they can take steps to fix the issues and make the dance fun for everyone.

Levi Smith, a junior, said he was not able attend this year. He’s said he does enjoy dances but also admits that they’re not the best because the venue is very small and cramped. “When you’re a freshman there’s this wow factor, you know? The dance seems new, cool, and exciting. It’s the first time you really get to ask people out so it seems like it’s awesome, but as you move up in grades it loses that wow factor. With the name change last year, less people go so it really isn’t as fun.” Another student agreed with this. They said they had gone and that they too would improve the music. “The DJ is always someone much older than us and doesn’t play music we’d enjoy.”  However, he did admit that the dances can be fun if you’re with friends and just having a good time.

People have very different opinions about the dance but most agree that it is a fun, enjoyable event. All the planning and hard work that goes into the event from not only the student council, but the student body as well makes the dance enjoyable, and they succeeded this year as everyone had a ball and it can only get better.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Behind the Scenes of "A Chorus Line"


As you glance across the room the blinding lights create a hazy vision of the hundred or so people sitting in front of you, each pair of eyes staring and examining your every move, creating the strangling feeling in your stomach telling you, “welcome to the spotlight.” You’ve been rehearsing this very moment for months, so what could possibly go wrong? There’s no need to be nervous … but then again, there is. You could miss a step, you could sing the wrong line, you could get a little nervous tummy ache and, well, you know the rest. Either way, this is it. An audience awaits, the music is ready, and the show is about to begin. This is, A Chorus Line.

For the past two months, 24 Greensboro Day Upper school students have been rehearsing their next up-and-coming musical, A Chorus Line. For those of us uneducated on the musical itself, A Chorus Line follows 16 individual actors wishing to “make it” on Broadway. However, not as Broadway’s next top-shot star but as the individuals who have no character name and are simply used for their voice and dance moves. These 16 actors are trying to earn a spot on Broadway’s chorus line.

I attended a rehearsal of the show this past Thursday and I can truly say that this cast may be one of the most hardworking casts GDS has ever had. The work that they put into the musical is significant, and they have spent long nights perfecting the very smallest details. We get to see the final product of the show as they stand on stage, but behind the scenes, they’re also students, high school students who are balancing both their school work and their work in the show. Whether they are piled with AP U.S. History work from Mr. Piacenza, studying for an upcoming quiz in SeƱora Swinton’s Spanish 2, or attempting to finish a load of math homework from Mr. Ross, all of our students show an exemplary ability to figure out how to best handle it all.

Favorite scenes for the cast
Avery Blue '17 (Zach):
My favorite scene is probably “One,” which is basically a number where everybody dances and sings and I like it because it’s where everybody comes together and it sounds fantastic and it shows all the hard work. Everybody is able to show off their practice; it’s just really cool.”

Morgan Winstead '18 (Judy Turner):
“There is a series of songs that pile into one big song called “the Montage.” There’s one part where its Judy’s turn to talk and she runs down and she starts spewing out everything that comes to the top of her head. She talks about how her little sister was a brat and so she decided to shave her sister’s hair off, she talks about how her mom embarrassed her, and that she’s seen a dead body—and that’s all she says—she only says, “that was the first time I ever saw a dead body.” It’s just stuff like that, it’s random, and that’s the best part of the show for me.

Desmond McIntyre '17 (Richie Walters):
“Personally, I love the Montage. It’s really long, but it’s so much fun and it will blow your mind! Also, the ending number, “Bow,” is jaw dropping. You will definitely be in tears, have chills, everything! I love the song and I love the dance.”

Why should people come to the show?
Avery Blue '17 (Zach):
“I guarantee you’ll be able to find somebody that you can connect with on one level or another. You can come out and enjoy the music and the dancing because it’s fantastic. Plus, it’s just a good night to have with your friends and family.”

Morgan Winstead '18 (Judy Turner):
“All of the characters are really relatable and even though not everyone is playing a character that is similar to them, it still feels really human. With shows that we’ve done in the past, it’s felt like that, but I don’t think anyone’s ever felt more connected to their character than we have in A Chorus Line which is going to make it really interesting.”

Hayley Rafkin '17 (Val Clark):
“This show is different than any show we’ve done before. It’s more of a one on one experience and more personal because we interact and make connections with the audience. These aren’t necessarily fictional characters; we’re real people that are portraying a real audience process. So this is more of a story of people rather than characters.”

Laura Tutterow '17 (Cassie Ferguson):
"People should come out because as a senior, it’s very sentimental moment for me and we’ve all been working extremely hard!"

Davis Dunham '17 (Paul San Marco):
"This is definitely the most dancing we’ve ever had to do in a show before. The opening number is completely dancing and its ten minutes long. We dance at the Ballet, then we dance in the Montage but that’s a twenty minute long song. It’s so much dancing, but we’ve all worked extremely hard and it’s going to be an amazing performance.”

Lindsey Cooke '17 (Stage Manager):
“I’m the stage manager for A Chorus Line and I have been really impressed with this rehearsal process so far. This show is a lot different than ones we’ve done before, it’s the most dance-based show that’s been done since I’ve been in high school. They’ve all worked extremely hard and I know the audience is going to be able to see it!”

A Chorus Line runs November 10-13, 2016 at Greensboro Day School's Sloan Theatre. Tickets are available at greensboroday.org/tickets.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What kind of grades did you get in school?

What kind of grades did you get in school?  Mine were decent.  Although, most of my grades I don’t remember at all.  What I do remember is the relationships I had with some of my teachers, lots of my friends, and, of course, the way I felt about my relationship with my parents.  Now that I have a career, the grades I had in middle school and high school feel so irrelevant.  But some of the relationships I had with teachers are still quite relevant and always will be.

Although I don’t know what my actual grade was in English my sophomore year, I will never forget the day my teacher pulled me aside to tell me how much she really liked a poem I had written.  I felt so incredibly capable, and so smart.  As a result, I wanted to keep writing!

I also recall a quiet conversation with my Spanish teacher about my failing grade. Somehow I walked  away feeling like I wasn’t dumb.  Nor did I feel like anyone thought I wasn’t trying hard enough. I concluded that Spanish was just hard and I was going to have to take it again to conquer it.
Then, of course, there are the friendships.  Although I have no idea what name and what particular comment belong to which memory, I sure do know how I felt about the way certain kids acted around me and made me feel.

All of these were so much more important to me than grades.  My grades were important, but I really didn’t need my parents harping on me if I made a B or an A on an assignment.  What I wanted, and needed, was for the adults in my life to recognize and value everything in my adolescent world other than just the grades.

I try to do that for my kids.  Sometimes I think they find me intrusive, but I keep trying.   I keep trying to send the message that no matter what their grades are, they need to keep their focus on being kind to others and trying their best.  I want them to try their best in relationships, as well as academics.  Character speaks volume for a person and never goes away.  I so desire for my children to develop character that speaks largely about who they are.  When they are adults, I hope they look back and remember that I nagged them about things that were important, and I hope they always find that relevant.

What are your memories of school, grades, friendships and teachers?  How can you make the most of your memories in empathizing with your child and helping them along the path to success?  


*Join the conversation.  Please come to our Coffee with the Counselor discussions in the Middle School.  Our next meeting is November 24 at 8:30 a.m. in the Middle School Conference Room.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Parenting is Hard

Have you ever given your child a compliment and she took it as a slam?  Parenting is hard.  One child will internalize the mildest criticism and the other will require lots of reminders about limits and natural consequences.  We don’t really don’t know which child we have because our kids present themselves in different ways all the time.  No parenting book, expert speaker or well-meaning friend could ever give us all the direction we need.  Parenting is not a perfect science.


Sometimes we mess up.  Messing up is good.  Just like we teach our children the value of failure, failure as a parent can be helpful too.  Consider this, if you always did exactly the right thing, and protected your child from every disappointment that a family can bring, what would it be like?  They would likely grow up into adults with no stamina for stress and no coping strategies for managing relationships and big ethical dilemmas.

Since none of us can actually provide a perfect environment, I guess we will never know.  But we do know that our own growth and our children’s growth are frequently prompted by hurt feelings, mistakes and all out failures.  We have heard quite a bit about the value of letting our kids fail, and we try, we really do. 

Still, work needs to be done in accepting our own failures as parents.  “I should have been more patient and helped him study for that math quiz.”  “I shouldn’t have yelled at her.”  “Why did I have to use a condescending tone of voice, I sound just like my mother!”  Yes, we all fail a little, and it’s okay.

In order for your children to develop the skill of forgiving themselves from failure and moving on, we have to model it.  Model accepting responsibility and apologizing when needed.  Avoid shifting blame.  Just own it and then let it go.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your teenager said, “I’m sorry I interrupted you and said the rules are dumb, dad.  I will work on my temper and do better next time”?  Wow, wouldn’t that be amazing?  In order for our children to do amazing things, it takes a bit of modeling from the adults around them.  It’s okay to admit failure.  By the way, it’s good for your own emotional health and promotes your children developing an essential life skill. 


To join in more conversations like this one, come to Coffee with the Counselor.  Our middle school counselor is hosting monthly sessions for parents to connect with each other, laugh and share stories.  One parent commented, “It’s so nice to know we are not doing this alone.  Everyone else is going through it too.”  We hope to see you next month for this casual conversation, October 27 at 8:30 a.m. in the middle school.  RSVP to Michelle Bostian.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: Kay Zimmerman

Teacher Tuesday: Kay Zimmerman, Middle School Latin

Q: How long have you been a part of the GDS community? 
  30 yearrs, (full-time about 26; part-time in Lower School and Middle School when the boys were very young)

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your time at GDS? 
 Great students, colleagues who have become my best friends, and the support of administrators to try new ideas that might enrich my teaching and help my students.  I am also especially appreciative of the Brooks Sabbatical which allowed me to travel to Greece, Turkey (Troy!!!), and Italy.

Q. What is something new that you get to do/teach students that continues to make you enjoy your job? Think of new ways to teach ancient things!  Participation in NCJCL.

Q. What is one interesting fact about you that we may not know?   

My uncle was president of Appalachian State.  I'm retiring in June, after teaching full and part-time for 43 years!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: Angela Ballou


Getting to know Middle School Learning Specialist, Angela Ballou.

How long have you been a part of the Greensboro Day School community? I began my teaching career here at GDS right out of college 17 years ago.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at GDS?  The growth I have been able to do in areas of intellect, character, athletics, and as a good citizen of the environment is tremendous.  The people and environment at GDS pushes me to be my best every day.

What is something new that you get to do/teach students that continues to make you enjoy your job?  I love helping students build their confidence as learners.  It is also really awesome to see students who dread reading start to become excited about books.  If they find the right titles that are of high interest to them, they will really get into reading! 


What is one interesting fact about you that we may not know?   As an adolescent, I hated to read.  Now, I read every night because, through working with my students, I have discovered the joy and value of reading a good book.