Category Archives: Education

paper bag puppets

3 Free Performing Arts Activities for Summer Break

by Colleen Cook

Summer break is just about here, and if you’re like most parents, you’re looking for fun activities that will challenge (and occupy) your children during their break – particularly on those rainy days. Here are three fun performing arts activities you can easily execute with minimal effort!

Make sandwich bag puppets and put on a puppet show

paper bag puppetsPut those leftover paper sacks to good use and make your own puppets – you can use craft supplies like googly eyes and feathers, or keep it simple simply draw on faces and bodies with crayons or markers.

Once your children have created their characters, help them to create a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Encourage them to choose a main character, a problem that character has, and a friend or family member who helps them to find a solution. Then, help them write their script.

Finally put on a performance of their show on a makeshift puppet stage – this could be a table turned on its side, a tension rod with a curtain across a doorway, or something your kids can get creative with.

Create percussion instruments and create a rhythm pattern

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

Turn your leftover oatmeal tubs, aluminum cans, and water bottles (and more!) into percussion instruments. This project allows a ton of creativity and you can use things you would otherwise throw away. Add lentils or beans to a container and seal to make a shaker, turn a hollow container to make a drum, or tie together noisy objects (like soda or tin cans) and make a tambourine. You can leave these items as-is, or take them to the next level and decorate with glitter, paint, construction paper, markers, sequins or any other supplies you have hanging around the house.

Once you’ve created your instruments, pick a steady rhythm for each performer – these can be all the same, or each unique. We recommend picking something simple that can be tied to a word pattern. Some of our ideas include (Assuming a 4-beat pattern): “Ham-burger Ham-burger” or “Pepperoni Pepperoni Pepperoni Piz-za” or “Jelly Beans Jelly Beans.” You can use those to get started or write your own.

Creative expressive movement

Create a playlist on your favorite music app (Spotify, iTunes, Apple Radio, whatever) using a wide variety of styles. We recommend including pieces by John Williams, Camille Saint-Saens, and Eric Whitacre.

Then, collect some bouncy balls, scarves, old pantyhose or knee-highs (or anything stretchy!), ribbons, or neckties from your closets. Put on the playlist and encourage your children to move freely through the space with the only rule being to make the objects they choose look like the music they’re hearing. They can move together, or individually, to express the sounds they’re hearing.

If your space isn’t conducive to movement, you can translate this activity to have your student draw or paint what they hear or imagine from the way the music sounds, using watercolors or markers and paper.

Fresh Ideas for Easter Baskets - the Renaissance Blog

Fresh Ideas for Easter Baskets

by Colleen Cook

It’s officially spring, and I still have Halloween candy in my pantry. From two years ago. Does it ever feel to you like we just go from one candy-consuming holiday to the next? We trick-or-treat, then Christmas stockings, Valentine’s parties, and now Easter baskets. The last thing we need is more candy in our cupboard.

So, I’m the Easter Bunny is thinking outside the box when it comes to Easter baskets this year. One of the tenets of our mission at the Renaissance is to “celebrate the imagination in each of us,” so here are some great ideas for Easter basket gifts that celebrate imagination (without rotting your teeth!):

Carrousel Rides

Richland Carrousel Park

We’ll be stuffing Easter eggs with tickets to the Richland Carrousel Park – my girls adore riding the Carrousel, and what better way to welcome spring than to enjoy a day at the Carrousel? And, bonus, you can get 6 rides for just $5! (As I’m writing this post, my 3 year old walked up and saw just the bottom of that photo and shouted, “Hey! Look! That’s the carrousel! I LOVE THE CARROUSEL!”)

New Books

Main Street Books Mansfield

Our friend Llalan Fowler at Main Street Books has a wealth of great choices for families. Here are a couple of sweet suggestions from Llalan:

GuessHow

“Guess how much I love you,” says Little Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare shows his daddy how much he loves him: as wide as he can reach and as far as he can hop. But Big Nutbrown Hare, who can reach farther and hop higher, loves him back just as much. Well then Little Nutbrown Hare loves him right up to the moon, but that’s just halfway to Big Nutbrown Hare’s love for him.

 

EggQuiet

This stunningly beautiful and wonderfully informative book from award-winning artist Sylvia Long and author Dianna Hutts Aston makes for a fascinating introduction to the vast and amazing world of eggs. Featuring poetic text and an elegant design, this acclaimed book teaches children countless interesting facts about eggs. Full of wit and charm, An Egg Is Quiet will at once spark the imagination and cultivate a love of science.


Children’s Museum Visits

Little Buckeye Children's MuseumWe have several gems for families in Mansfield, and Little Buckeye is definitely one of them! Two floors jam-packed with creative exhibits cultivated to foster imagination in your child. If you haven’t been to Little Buckeye before, or in a while, pick up a gift certificate to visit and stick it in this year’s Easter basket – it’s a wonderful way to spend a day as a family.

Theatre Tickets

The Renaissance Theatre - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

There are few things I enjoy as much as sharing something I love with my children. Whether we’re attending a Teddy Bear Concert, a full-stage musical, a family show, or a concert by the Mansfield Symphony, I’m always amazed by the permanence of that memory with my children – they talk about it for years after.

Some great upcoming choices for Easter baskets include tickets to our summer show, The Little Mermaid (July 29-30, Aug. 5-6; tickets starting at $15), the Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Spring Concert (May 7th; student tickets $5), and Little Johnny Jones presented by our Renaissance Youth Opera Theatre (May 27-28; tickets $15).


How will you be celebrating the imagination of your children this year? Tell us in the comments over on our Facebook page!

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Live, 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Three Valuable Lessons from Daniel Tiger

by Colleen Cook

We are BIG Daniel Tiger fans at our house. My husband and I often refer to Daniel Tiger as the third parent in our house, and I am sure any parent of a preschooler knows what I’m talking about. And, if you’re familiar, you’ve also found yourself singing the earworm jingles in the shower and simultaneously realized that you are no longer cool at all. (No? Just me?)

If you’re not familiar, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is the 21st century animated spin-off of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Many of the familiar characters from Fred Rogers’ Land of Make Believe are featured as the adults in this series, with the next generation of preschool-aged neighbors teaching positive behavioral lessons through story and song. It’s produced by Angela Santomero, the genius behind great educational children’s television shows like “Blue’s Clues,” “Super Why,” and “Creative Galaxy.”

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live is on our stage on April 7th at 7 PM – Read more here!

To me, what makes Daniel Tiger so great is that it reinforces emotional intelligence and positive behavior in a memorable way. When you’re in the depths of new parenting, it can be really challenging to know how to change a negative behavior in your child effectively. Daniel’s parents always respond calmly and rationally, even when real-life parents sometimes lose their cool.  There have been many moments when I’ve taken a cue from Daniel and it’s paid off. Here are a few stories:

  1. Happiness counters fear.
    In August 2015 we had a series of thunderstorms. We live in an old, drafty house and when the weather is moderate, we often place a box fan in my daughter’s bedroom window. One afternoon while she was taking a nap, a large gust of wind and clap of thunder during a storm caused the fan to fall out of the window and awoke my daughter in a panic. The very next night we had another thunderstorm and another clap of thunder awoke her into hysterics. This caused several nights of terror as my traumatized toddler was wildly afraid that another thunderstorm would come (and, the reality was, it would!).

    So, we took a cue from Daniel Tiger and watched and re-watched this episode when Daniel and O the Owl were afraid of thunder, and my daughter started “closing her eyes and thinking of something happy,” just the way Daniel did, and her fears subsided.

  2. How our roles evolve as we grow.
    Our daughter Eloise became a big sister to baby Coralie in December 2015. For most kids, adding a sibling to the family is complex and full of emotions ranging from delight to jealousy. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood produced a series of episodes about the addition of “Baby Margaret” to the Tiger family that are incredible for helping a child adjust to a new baby. By giving us the tools to show our 2 1/2 year old that, while she was no longer the baby in the house, she was a valuable helper in our family, our transition to a family of four was as smooth as possible as our daughter took on her role as a “big helper” with pride.
  3. Give your child all the information up front.
    This lesson was maybe a bit more for me than it was for my daughter. In this episode, Daniel’s mom sings “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do.” I’ve adopted this methodology into my parenting and it has been a life-saver. My natural inclination is to limit the information and just deal with things as they happen, rather than add worry and fear to the day. But, talking about about things with my children has been incredibly helpful in allowing them to fully understand and avoid surprises.

I’m so thrilled that we get to bring Daniel Tiger and his neighbors to our stage once again this April. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live is an excellent interpretation of the animated show, featuring many familiar songs along with newly composed pieces, all of the beloved characters, and a story that reinforces the lessons you want your child to learn. I can’t wait to bring my daughters.

Sensory-Friendly Theatre

Sensory-Friendly Performances: What, When, and How Much We Love Them

By Chelsie Thompson

We take our mission to make the arts accessible very seriously – it is the lifeblood of our work and the passion behind everything we do here – so one of the things that matters more than anything to the Ren team is creating an exceptional patron experience, for all of our patrons.

Of course, we know that going to the theatre is more comfortable for some than others. Families or persons with autism or other disabilities that create sensory sensitivities, in particular, may find the prospect of attending a performance at the Renaissance to be somewhat daunting.

Let us assure you: we are committed to creating an experience that will thrill and delight every single member of our diverse audience. So, we are expanding our ability to offer sensory-friendly performances, starting with a sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical on Thursday, March 30th at 7 pm.

For those who aren’t familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others (source: Autism Society of America, 2013). This can easily create feelings of anxiety and stress for a person with autism when attending a performance in a space that may be crowded, loud, and have sudden or unexpected happenings.

Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to make the performance experience a pleasant and welcoming one for those patrons with sensory sensitivities. Here are a few of the accommodations that you can expect when you come to the Ren for a sensory-friendly performance:

  • Lower sound and light levels, especially during louder or more dramatic events
  • The freedom for patrons to leave their seats or talk during the performance
  • Designated quiet areas
  • Places to move or stand while still enjoying the performance
  • Lower crowd sizes
  • Pre-show visits and videos to acclimate to the theatre environment
  • A staff and volunteer team that is trained to be inviting and accommodating

Let’s pause to look at that last bullet point: our staff and volunteer team is now trained to not only design and create sensory-friendly programming, but to be the welcoming faces who are here to help you enjoy these meaningful events. Thanks to an anonymous donor, we’ve had the good fortune to work with consultant Dr. Ryan Hourigan, Director of the School of Music at Ball State University and a parent of two teenage boys with autism.

Dr. Hourigan is a nationally-recognized author and advocate for the inclusion of students with disabilities in the arts, and he first came to us through our Kennedy Center Partners in Education program as a teaching artist on their national roster (and he also co-founded the incredible Prism Project at BSU, which has now grown to multiple locations across the country). Since his first workshop for our local teachers in the 2014-2015 season, he’s offered additional professional development for both teachers and the Ren team. Most recently, he visited in February for training and to help us confirm logistics for our sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical on March 30th.

While we are thrilled to be able to work with Dr. Hourigan (we’ll admit it – our staff is a bunch of arts nerds who love learning new things), we are even more excited for our patrons to be able to experience the performing arts in a way that may be more comfortable for them. We feel that there has been a segment of our audience that we haven’t been serving well, and we want to correct that, so you can expect to see more sensory-friendly programming on the schedule in the coming seasons. Why? Because above all else, the arts are good for us, and they are inclusive.

For more information on the sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical, contact the Renaissance Box Office directly at (419) 522-2726.

Lori Turner Turandot 1993 Flemish Royal Opera

Life as an Artist: An Interview with Lori Turner

By Colleen Cook with Lori Turner

When parents talk to me about Lori Turner and the work she does with the students who participate in the Renaissance Youth Opera Theatre, or “RYOT,” program, their eyes glisten and their faces become reflective and soft. “She does such a good job,” they tell me; “my child is discovering who she/he is, they are growing so much,” they say. Behind the curtain and apart from the outstanding productions this group regularly performs, the culture of RYOT and the quality of instruction Lori provides creates an almost sacred space for the students who participate each year.

Beyond the RYOT shows, many of our patrons have had the opportunity to see Lori’s unforgettable performances on our stage in a number of musicals over recent years, including Young FrankensteinA Christmas Carol, White Christmas, Xanadu and Ragtime to name just a few. What our audience may suspect from her notable performances on our stage but may not know, however, is that Lori has enjoyed a tremendous career as a performing artist. Lori’s performance career began with the Los Angeles Opera, the Roger Wagner Chorale and the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra. She then spent 10 years in Europe as a member of the Royal Flemish Opera in Belgium. I invited Lori to allow me to interview her and share some insights from that season of her life:

Colleen Cook: What was life like as a full-time opera singer in Belgium?

Lori Turner:  European audiences support the arts in a very different way from those in the United States. As an opera singer with the Royal Flemish Opera, I had a full-time, salaried position and I worked for the season from August through July, with a paid summer vacation. We performed 6-8 fully-staged, avant garde productions each year in two houses, one in Antwerp and another in Ghent. The houses were slightly larger than the Ren, so about 1500 seats, and they would regularly be sold out.

The opera company was constantly aspiring to make opera an interesting visual as well as aural sensation for a younger audience, and they responded. European audiences have fewer preconceptions about opera and are generally more interested in attending an opera even if it’s outside of their normal type of entertainment.

The arts are state-subsidized because European Governments believe that access to the arts is an important experience for the general population’s quality of life, which really improves life for the artists because you can be a working artist. The Royal Flemish Opera Company is 1 of 3 national opera companies in a country the size of Los Angeles.

CC: When you left Europe and moved to Mansfield, what kind of culture shock did you experience?

LT: I tried to anticipate a lot of things, but I missed performing a lot. I missed being able to sing really challenging music, but I was also occupied being a parent, and that was priority one, so that was certainly impactful but it didn’t control my life.

It was harder on our son, because he was used to European lifestyle. He told his friends that it was always warm in America, because he had only visited the US in the summers. Let’s just say that first winter was a rude awakening! Not having medical insurance was impactful. Teaching privately, via a community arts school, and not having a salary had a big impact.

CC: What advice would you give a young performer considering a career in performance?

LT:  If they’re about to go into the world, into college, I’d encourage them to go to a college that has as many performance opportunities as possible. If they’re going into the world to work, then go some place that has as many performance opportunities as possible. I believe every American should spend time overseas – in Europe, Asia, England – to gain a world-wide perspective. Every performer should study the classics, regardless of your discipline, dancers should study ballet, actors should study Shakespeare, singers should study opera – the foundations don’t limit you they expand your higher ability.

CC: The decision to make a major shift from performing to moving your family back to the US and focus on parenting is brave and bold. What advice would you give a young parent?

LT: It really changed my life for 20 years. I was performing full-time, and then I wasn’t. For me, to be home at night, I felt that needed to happen to be an effective parent. For a time, I lived a little bit vicariously through my son’s involvement in theatre, as I suppose all parents do. I never lost touch with theatre because I was still directing. I still sang some with the symphony and concerts but now that Phillip is grown, I’m starting to perform again. I’m no longer a “Dorabella,” the roles I can play have changed as I’ve aged and as my instrument has changed, but I’m having to redefine myself as a performer now, 20-years later. One thing I did for myself and for my instrument, I studied the whole time that I wasn’t performing.


Lori’s next production is RYOT’s The Gondoliers & Pinocchio, February 4-5, 2017.
Get information and tickets here.

3 Things You Support By Giving to the Annual Fund Campaign

By Jessica Dulle & Colleen Cook

1. Education

Teddy Bear Concert - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Teddy Bear Concert – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

The Renaissance proudly boasts that our Education Department serves 15,000 students each year! We have 13 distinct programs, numerous collaborations with area schools and agencies, and serve individuals of all ages and abilities!

2. Live Performances

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Whether it’s our locally-produced professional Broadway-style productions, touring bands,  artists, or comedians, or offering a venue to local emerging artists and acts, the Renaissance exists to make outstanding live performances available and accessible for everyone in our region! (Did you know that no one is turned away for an inability to pay for a ticket, thanks to our Angel Ticket Program?)

3.The Mansfield Symphony

The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

A cultural establishment in Mansfield for over 85 years, the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra is one of the premiere mid-size symphonies in the country. This season, the MSO is able to offer 6 concerts to the public, plus four educational concerts and numerous community outreach performances. As Ben Folds recently said, “Symphonies symbolize the epitome of civilization, i.e., people working together. If you go to a town without an orchestra or a bad orchestra, it’s a crappy town.”

You can give to the Renaissance Annual Fund Campaign $100,000 Matching Grant Challenge and have your gift matched 2:1 by the Landers Foundation and the Hire Foundation anytime between now and December 31, 2016! To give, click here.

Mansfield Symphony Cellist photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

What to Expect When You Come to the Symphony

by Colleen Cook and Chelsie Thompson

Something we hear from our patrons a lot is that one of the reasons they hesitate to come to a symphony concert is because, well, they just don’t know what to expect. Doing new things can be intimidating, especially if your perception of the experience is outside of your comfort zone.

So, here are some answers to some of the frequently asked questions about attending a symphony concert:

What should I expect?

Expect that you’re in for a treat! If this is your very first symphony concert, you might be a little nervous because this is all new to you, but that’s okay – you’ll soon realize that your role as an audience member is one of the best: to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience. After all, the orchestra is playing this concert for you.

What should I be paying attention to?

Notice the beat of the music, and the way the tunes make you feel.Let your thoughts go, and instead, allow yourself to simply focus on what you hear. For just a couple of hours, you can pretend that there is nothing else in the world except the musical moment that you are experiencing at the time.
Here are a few things to look for:

    • The bows that the string sections use to play will always be moving in the same direction within their section.
    • Woodwinds will be adjusting their instruments and reeds, perhaps changing out their instrument to a smaller or larger model to play higher or lower notes.
    • The percussionists will be moving from instrument to instrument and changing the mallets that they use to play each one, with the timpanist occasionally tapping the drums lightly while holding his ear to them to make sure they are in tune.
    • The brass will be emptying their spit valves – yes, this happens, although any brass player will confirm to you that the “spit” is actually condensation that builds up in the instrument as they blow air through it. The French horns will be the most noticeable in this, as they are notorious for annoying their fellow brass players by purposely emptying up to ten slides in a row.
    • After solos, you might see the string players tap their bows lightly on their stand or the wind players tap their foot on the ground, or hand on their knee, to show their appreciation to the soloist during the music.

What do I wear?

Well, what do you like to wear? There’s no dress code for the symphony, so you’ll see everything from jeans and tees to cocktail dresses and suits. Going to the symphony is all about experiencing the magic of a live orchestra, so you might even notice that the orchestra dresses in all black so as not to draw your attention away from the music. Wear something that’s comfortable to you, and feel free to dress up as you see fit.

Where do I park?

You’re in luck – the Renaissance Theatre, which is the Mansfield Symphony’s home, has its own large parking lot, which connects directly to the back main entrance of the theatre (you can’t miss it – you’ll see four glass doors marked “Theatre Entrance” on your right as you walk towards the building). On busy nights, you may end up in one of our secondary lots: the two adjacent lots just West of the Ren on Park Avenue, and the gravel lot behind the main parking lot, next to the Sons of Italy building. You might also find parking on the streets in front of and behind the theatre.

Will it be interesting to watch?

There’s quite a bit going on during a symphony concert, which can have anywhere from 60 to 100 musicians onstage, so there’s plenty to see – in fact, when we add the chorus, the number of musicians onstage at one time can reach 170! The conductor is in command of all of these musicians at once, so his arms, hands, and the rest of his body are perpetually in motion to make sure that everyone is always on the same page.The musicians themselves are enjoying the music, too, so you’ll see some who are smiling, some with looks of intense concentration, and some moving to the beat.

Will I know any of the songs?

You might! You’ll probably know some of the music, and some of it will likely be new to you. Even if you don’t think that you are familiar with orchestral or classical music, chances are good that you hear it on a daily basis – it’s in commercials, movies, and in the background of radio ads. Since music speaks for itself, it’s used quite frequently to convey a mood or elicit an emotion in these formats. In fact, even current pop and hip-hop music often uses familiar melodies from classical pieces. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of just 25 of them on ClassicFM. (In case it isn’t obvious, our personal favorite is Nas + Beethoven).

Who are the musicians?

The Mansfield Symphony is an exceptional group of professional musicians from right here in Mansfield, as well as Cleveland, Columbus, and everywhere in between. They are professional musicians, music teachers, graphic designers, college professors, managerial professionals, and even music students who are currently completing their Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. They are all different in many ways, but one thing they have in common is that they love to play music for you, the audience.

Will anyone be singing?

We have a fantastic chorus, and they do accompany the orchestra on a few different occasions each year – the Holiday Pops is a perennial favorite, and we often perform at least one additional large-scale work each year that features our talented vocalists. In addition, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus is active in the community, performing an annual “Sing Out! Choral Extravaganza” with several area schools each fall – and this year, the chorus will perform their inaugural “Sing into Spring” concert in April. Shameless plug: if you love to sing, then this is the group for you!

Can I bring my children? Will they like it?

Children are always welcome at the symphony, but you’ll find that some concerts are better than others. Many regular season symphony concerts are almost two hours long, which can be hard for the little ones to sit through without getting antsy and distracting your fellow audience members and musicians. Concerts with lots of extra action onstage (like the Holiday Pops concerts)are a great first symphony experience for the family, as the multimedia and interactive aspects offer more to catch kids’ eyes and keep them engaged.

You can also give us a call to ask whether a specific concert might be okay for kids – we can give you some insight on the music and length of the concert that may help you make your decision. And if you’re still not sure, why not try out our interactive Teddy Bear Concerts with members of the Mansfield Symphony? These concerts are slated for afternoons three times each season, and offer a small group or soloist from the MSO accompanying an original story or children’s activity.

When should I clap?

Okay, this is a very common question, with good reason! After all, no one wants to be “that guy” that clapped at the wrong time. There are a few easy spots to remember:

  • At the beginning of the concert, the Concertmaster (a.k.a. the first chair violin) will enter the stage to tune the orchestra. As he or she enters, clap to welcome him or her.
  • When the orchestra is done tuning and the Concertmaster sits down, the Conductor will enter the stage, so you’ll clap to welcome him or her as well.
  • If there is a soloist, they will enter the stage when the orchestra is ready to play their piece, and the audience claps at that time.

It is also appropriate to applaud at the end of each piece – and this can be a little tricky, since some of the songs you’ll hear have multiple parts, which are called “movements.” The movements are listed in the program, and the orchestra and conductor prefer that the audience does not clap between movements, as they need that time to concentrate on the next part of their music.

A good rule of thumb is to watch the conductor: the conductor will turn around when it’s time to applaud. If the conductor’s hands are still in the air, or is still facing the orchestra, then most likely they’re still concentrating and need quiet. When the conductor’s hands drop, and he or she turns to face the audience, the orchestra is ready to hear your appreciation and applause. If ever in doubt, just hang back a bit – regular symphony-goers will help you know what to do by starting the applause at the right time.

How do I buy tickets?

Easy-peasy: you can purchase tickets through the Renaissance Box Office by calling (419) 522-2726, or visiting in person. The Box Office is open 12-5 Tuesday through Friday, and 2 hours before every show, but you can purchase online anytime.

We hope this is a helpful guide for any symphony-goer. Did we miss your question? Comment below and we’ll happily answer you! If you’d like to see what performances are upcoming in our Mansfield Symphony’s season, you can find that out right here.