November 8, 2010

Pippin & friend Stella at the park

For several years after moving to Durham the favorite part of every day for my dog friend, Pippin, and for myself, was driving in the afternoon light out West Club Blvd. to the dog park. We’d turn left at Central Park beside Club Boulevard Magnet Humanities School and rickety-clack down the muddy, gravel drive to the fenced expanse of grass where Pippin could run freely back and forth, herding cars and bicycles and joggers in lieu of sheep and wolves. It was beautiful to see his joy in herding. He’d run so fast that the Lassie-style mane at his neck was lifted by the wind around him. Then, where the fence curved right in an oval and the drivers, bikers and joggers kept going straight, Pippin would execute a sharp u-turn left for the return, skidding on the same right elbow over and over again until he got arthritis and had to content himself with long walks on the leash around our neighborhood instead.

It’s been nearly a year since we stopped going to the park every day, so I welcomed the chance this morning to drive to that neighborhood and park outside the Club Blvd. elementary school. Over the years of taking Pippin to the park, I’d developed the opinion that the school enjoys a healthy degree of parent involvement. Today I got to meet and start working with a stellar example of this observation confirmed in the flesh.

Ann is a teacher herself and a dedicated parent of a student at the Club Blvd School. When the DPS budget suddenly lost funding for a full-time arts teacher in the fall, Ann worked with others to transform a weakness into strength. She helped secure funds for arts educators to visit the newly christened “Humanities Classroom” in five-week mini-units throughout the year, filling in the two otherwise empty days of the week with richly varied educational experiences in the arts. Today we signed the agreement for me to teach creative drama to the students over five-weeks in January 2011.

I’ve been thinking of what it means for a director of a theatre organization like DFT to teach theatre residencies and workshops and to perform at other venues, such as schools and homeless shelters. This week I’m also going to continue conversations with EK Powe STARS and Urban Ministries of Durham about residencies with their organizations. And over the weekend I spoke with an actress, director and producer who is interested in developing theatre programs with local prison populations. And as I contemplate all these impulses and events I see a common thread – I call it the thread of participation in neighbor communities that might not otherwise have interactions with DFT and our programs.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about today. I’ll keep you posted as ideas turn into relationships and relationships turn into programs and programs turn into ideas made real.

With good wishes, Jenny

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