Teaching Compare/Contrast with The Little Mermaid

A good friend of mine, Sarah Kirkpatrick, invited my squirts and me to see a production of The Little Mermaid at Metcalf Theater located on the SIUE campus.  Directed by Johanna Beck, a 2012 graduate of SIUE in Theater Education, this production mesmerized my kiddos.  A modern take on The Little Mermaid, costumes consisted of colored jeans and brightly colored tank tops for Ariel and her sisters.  Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula’s hench-eels slithered around the stage on scooters wrapped in lights.  A ten-minute intermission occurred between Beluga Sevruga and Les Poissons with an opportunity to purchase fundraiser cupcakes, but they were sold out by the time Sarah and the squirts approached the line (bummah!).  During the performance, Sebastian surprised the squirts by running and hiding between the rows of seats in the audience.  On the way home, excited chatter asked when we could see this show again.

As luck would have it, talking with a friend at church, Carolyn Biagi, she told me about Hard Road Theater located in Highland, IL.  When I visited their website, I was pleasantly surprised to see their next production was of The Little Mermaid Jr.  Kismet!  I ordered the online tickets, and we headed to The Kennel at Highland High School on the second performance evening.  Directed by Gentry Nessel, this performance, too, took on modern elements intertwined with traditional costumes.  Ariel, Flounder, the Princesses, Flotsam, and Jetsam all swam with the use of shoes with wheels.  The overall age of the performers was much younger than those in the SIUE production, but the caliber of the performance was the same, phenomenal.  My daughters sat on the edge of their seats throughout the 21 scenes.  The fact that there was no intermission was not missed as a concession stand was available prior to the opening scene complete with beverages, popcorn, and snacks.  

The ride home consisted of discussion of the comparison of the two productions.  They were unable to pick a favorite as both showings rocked.  We look forward to another lesson in compare/contrast with use of theater.  In fact, I was able to sniff out an upcoming dance performance of The Wizard of Oz coming in January, performed by Dance St. Louis.

Eat, Read, Pray Book Club: Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts Part 3

As members enter for Part 3 of Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts, engage them in the Opening Activity of what VosKamp describes as Ugly Beautiful:

Look at page 135 in your book and read through VosKamp’s list of “Ugly Beautiful.” Now, in your thanksgiving journal, add ten items which you would deem “Ugly Beautiful” in your own life.

Then, put members in pairs to discuss the questions covering chapter 5:

Chapter 5
  1. Think of a recent moment where something went wrong with you, didn’t go as planned, etc. Find one thanksgiving in that moment.
  2. Define hard eucharisteo.
  3. How would you rate your daily discipline to give thanks on a scale of 1-10? Are you (inert name) full of grace?
  4. How do you feel about “awakening to joy awakens to pain” (84)?
  5. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God” (88)? Explain.
  6. What does VosKamp mean by “ugly-beautiful” (99)?
    In an effort to cover chapter 8, have members complete the following activity:
    Chapter 8 
    Write “stress” on your note card. Discuss this term with your partner, and then list on your note card all items which cause you “stress”- emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.
    With “stress” cards in hand, discuss the meaning of theology as your group is walking outside in order to “chase the moon.”  In groups, have members take creative pictures which can include chasing the moon such as VosKamp did in chapter 6.  Click here for further ideas. 
    Hunky Guy Seen Here Holding the Moon
    While outside, have readers tear “stress” cards into tiny pieces and then bury under the soil for a symbolic and literal release of “stress.”

    Last but not least, members may enjoy a luscious snack inspired by chapters 5-8 of VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

    Moon Pies, Photo and Snack Courtesy of Beth Miramonti

Eat, Read, Pray Book Club: Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts Part 2

Part 2 of Ann VosKamp’s book study covered chapters 1-4 and book club members were given a thanksgiving journal at the first meeting in order to begin documenting their 1000 gifts.  As members enter for discussion, ask them to highlight five thanksgivings from their journal they would be willing to share with the group.  Once everyone has arrived and is settled, go around the room and have each member share their five thanksgivings- why these thanksgivings were chosen, when they were identified, the grace that resulted.

This would be an ideal time to introduce the snack of the evening, cheeses meant to be grated.  Allow members access to various cheeses and various size graters in order to create their own rings of cheeses.
While taking turns with the grater, the following study questions may be discussed:

Chapter 1-
  1. What do you think of the opening epigram, “Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness”?
  2. Are your hands curled like cupped hands, a receptacle open to the gifts God gives?
  3. Do you have any memories which were jolted awake due to the electricity of the trauma?
  4. How can God be good when babies die, marriages implode, and dreams blow away?
  5. Does God really love me?
  6. What is the human inheritance/legacy of the Garden?
  7. When do your soul’s macular holes spontaneously heal?
  8. Define “grace” according to VosKamp.
  9. How do you know you can say “yes” to whatever He gives? 
    10. How do we “choose” to allow the holes to become seeing- through-to-God places?

Chapter 2-
  1. Can you relate to Ann’s dream? Has a dream or life experience ever made you want to live fully?
  2. Do you understand what Ann means when she talks of the life in between?
  3. Are you ready to go Home if the call came? If not, how do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?
  4. Are there places that must be known, accomplishments that must be had, before one is really ready to die?
  5. Define eucharisteo.
  6. Define the fall according to Voskamp.
  7. How often do you remember to say thanks? Every day?
Chapter 3-
  1. Thinking of your own life experiences, does change take real intentionality?
  2. Are you able to show gratitude in the midst of death, divorce, debt, etc. in order to accept the joy?
  3. Will you commit to name the gifts you already have, the gifts He bestows? What, if anything, causes you to hesitate?
  4. As you document your 1000 gifts, be specific. For, the small “moments will add up” (57).
  5. Complete a prayer of thanks three times a day.
    Chapter 4-
    1.   Is the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life? How can you make your life less busy?

    2.  What is your most profound regret in life? What did you think of the pastor’s regret of “being in a hurry” (65)

    3.  How can you take time to live with soul and body and God all in sync?

    4.  Document your own version of “Suds . . .all color in sun” (68).

    5.  Fill yourself with the weight of the present, be all here.

    6.  Tell someone you “love them . . . and all this” (77).

Finally, at the conclusion of discussion comes our INTENTIONAL activity of joy.  Since VosKamp lists #362 in her thanksgiving journal as the suds in her sink, use this time to allow the grown members of your book club to walk outside and blow bubbles, pop them, and catch them.

If interested in Eat, Read, Pray Book Club, please e-mail EatReadPrayTroyUMC@gmail.com

Eat, Read, Pray: Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts Part 1

Last night was Eat, Read, Pray Book Club’s initial meeting over Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts.  The book cover serving as inspiration, snack included deviled eggs topped with a carrot “nest” filled with an olive “egg.”

No reading was required; the group as a whole answered the following questions in order to think in terms of our abundance of God-given gifts:

What happened today for which you are thankful?
What did you see today which made you smile?
What made you laugh?
What was a delight to your eyes?
What brought you comfort?
What did you eat today which “hit the spot” and relieved your tummy grumbles?
What did you witness today which made you happy?
Did you receive an unexpected gift today (i.e. “thank you,” hug, smile, assistance, wave, text, e-mail, phone call, letter, love note, etc.)?
Did you give someone a compliment today?
Who hugged you today?
Who did you hug today?

The term, eucharisteo, with all of its components- grace, thanksgiving, joy- was then discussed followed by the “Homework” assignment:  reading of chapters 1-4, documentation of 333 gifts, and the sending of a handmade card.

This card in question was then created under the direction of Miss Cathy along with the use of her many card-making supplies.  This was deemed our INTENTIONAL activity of thanksgiving.

Our next meeting is September 19, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Oak Room at Troy United Methodist Church.  If interested, please e-mail EatReadPrayTroyUMC@gmail.com.

Cultivating Radiance Book Club

     Whew!  Having just turned the final page of Tamara Gerlach’s Cultivating Radiance, I can honestly say you cannot estimate the time it takes to read a book simply by the number of its pages.  At first glance, I thought 180+ pages would be an engaging weekend read.  However, a weekend read stretched to a two-week self-discovery adventure.  Yet, since the theme of the novel, “cultivating radiance,” is actually an on-going process, I know that I will revisit, reread, and review as needed.
     Cultivating Radiance is divided into short chapters which end in homework assignments comprised of a Discovery Question, an Activity, directed Gratitude work, and a Mantra for memorization.
     Each chapter is sprinkled with anecdotes, biographical contributions as well as Ms. Gerlach’s honest recollections as proof of the author’s authentic requests of her audience.
     For book club, this is an ideal choice for weekly study groups, an on-line book club, or a monthly book club that checks in with one another on a weekly basis.  Some homework assignments may be completed together such as attempting meditation (think The Center in Glen Carbon, IL), cooking healthy with local ingredients from a farmer’s market (think Fournie Farms in Collinsville, IL), or participating in your first 5K (think A Signature Hollywood Salon’s Annual Running with Scissors).  Perhaps, your book club members will register as a group for a Women’s Retreat (I’m in!).   Whatever tickles your fancy, attempt an activity which lies beyond your norm in order to experience Cultivating Radiance.

Tamara Gerlach

Experiencing Tuesdays with Morrie*

*I write a lot about experiencing the novel through crafts, snacks, field trips, dramatization, etc. This blog will discuss experiencing Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie through its dramatization which my husband and I attended June 12, 2011.  This blog, though, is written in celebration of the life of Michelle Conrady-Brown, born June 27, 1977.  Having only met Michelle a handful of times through her sister, my friend Ash, I felt as if I had known her for years due to her warmth and smile.  A loving mother to Avery and Nora, devoted wife, and tireless social worker, she is remembered forever in our hearts.
Michelle Conrady-Brown
     Having purchased my tickets for the play, Tuesdays with Morrie, I wanted to read the non-fiction work written by Mitch Albom prior to performance night.  Having downloaded this book on my phone, I intentionally learned how to use the digital highlighter thingy ma bob because of the thought-provoking aphorisms (these quotes will definitely find their way onto my chalkboard) at nearly every turn of the page.  The vivid descriptions of Morrie’s debilitating disease brought to mind memories of my own father’s gruesome death at the hands of cancer, and, thus, streams of tears from my eyes.  Yet, I do not walk away from the reading of Tuesdays with Morrie with mere sadness at the loss of Morrie, a contributing member of society, but sadness overshadowed by the motivation to do more with one’s life with the end goal of not benefiting oneself, but benefiting others.
    Thus “date night” arrived, and the hub begrudgingly agreed to accompany me to see the enactment of Tuesdays with Morrie (although X-Men: First Class would have been his choice).  This play, directed by Tom Corbett, had a one-night production at Troy United Methodist Church.  The two-man cast from the Ricks-Weil Theatre Company comprised Gary Roberts as Mitch Albom and Thom Johnson as Morrie Schwartz.  There was no changing of scenery, no intermission, and only slight costume changes.  Yet, the passing of twenty years and the suggestion of an accompanying cast through the use, for example, of an empty chair was achieved.  This play was able to portray the love between these two human beings as well as the rapid progression of ALS in a meager 90 minutes.  What impressed upon me the most was the creative usage of lighting.  At one point, Mitch’s wife, Janine (i.e. the character in the empty chair), visits Morrie.  A singer, she agrees to sing for Morrie at his request.  Morrie, in turn, closes his eyes in order to be in the moment and savor this gift of her voice (which is a recording played in the background).  After Morrie closes his eyes, the stage as well as the church’s Family Living Center, where the stage is placed, goes dark- unable to see my hand in front of my face dark.  Thus, the audience’s eyes are shut, too, in order to accompany Morrie in the present.  The play ended with roaring applause, and then there was an unusual quietness where, I guessed, people were lost in thought instigated by the play in much the same manner as the hub and I were.  The majority of the ride home was comfortable silence interrupted only with our agreeing that we both thoroughly enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie.  I will now close with one of Morrie’s aphorisms for the road, this journey we call life, “Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”