Many New York City parents and children are very concerned about children getting a well-rounded education. Some children instead of training in various sports or running home to homework and video games are getting arts education after school. Fortunately, for those who want to follow in the footsteps of off-Broadway and Hollywood actors, actresses, singers, dancers, playwrights and poets in the dramatic theatre arts programming, there are opportunities at the historic Billie Holiday Theatre on 1368 Fulton St. There they can follow in the footsteps of such persons as Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen and Samm-Art Williams.
The Restoration Plaza is also headquarters of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Youth Arts Academy. It is also a driving force! This community-based arts education programming is under the leadership of Peggy Alston. It is a highly-reliable place to train for college portfolios and “real careers” in arts, entertainment and arts-education.
This past weekend (April 5 and 6) Peggy Alston’s talented kids presented the “Liberation of Mother Goose” children’s play by author, playwright, educator, Aduke Aremu.
The production was a collaboration of The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Center for Arts & Culture and Dove, LLC. with the 501 ©3 non-for-profit support of the Concerned Women of Brooklyn and a citation from the Office of Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams. The children’s play featured a visionary director, Abdel Salaam who is world renowned and a preeminent NYC artistic director. His Harlem-based dance company is called Forces of Nature and he does projects with many community-based organizations including the Harlem Children’s Zone to meet and train tomorrow’s artists and educators.
Salaam is well-known for his appetite for excellence. He has the rare ability to authentically tell the stories of the human family with extraordinary cultural and spiritual significance. He is ‘at least’ a local and contemporary — Walt Disney-type-of-mind when it comes to setting-up fabulous environments which introduce fantasy.
THE REST IS HISTORY…
Well ya’ll…this artistic-genius-brother took, Aduke Aremu’s words, muse, humor, fantasy, literacy play and urban adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s bedtime story, “Alice In Wonderland” and some selected, “Mother Goose” characters to new and exciting music, dance, cultural and literary heights. And…the Billie Holiday Theatre was packed baby…wall-to-wall for two shows with Tri-state area producers, media, teachers, parents and their children ages 2 to 21 at each show.
In this 2014 production, the Bed-stuy performers were from ages 10 to early 20’s. They were led around on stage by a gifted young and very lost heroine by the name of Alice (Colby Christina). Colby already a veteran actor, didn’t change sizes and walk through mirrors but did, like Carroll’s Alice search everywhere for her little illusive rabbit. The urban Alice didn’t have to worry about getting beheaded by a mean-spirited queen but she was severely reprimanded by her mom with a Brooklyn/Caribbean/American dialect about day-dreaming in school!
Alice this time, dreams us all into new and hilarious “named forests” filled with characters (owls, rabbits, dolls, alcoholics, Mother Goose, FeFe the “Black Is Beautiful” witch, Mother Hubbard, Solomon Grundy, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Jill from Jack & Jill, Little Red Riding Hood, The Spider and Lil Miss Muffett, Humpty Dumpty etc.) with messages and personal styles that valued wisdom, humor and the “truth about Mother Goose!”
Salaam director extraordinaire used the entire Restoration Plaza facility from the lobby to the stage to create an environment for the play. The set was like fantasy and the music and drumming (directed by Mario Sprouse) was like a pulse to a modern odyssey with a large measure of endless-character-advice introducing their “own wonderlands.”
The message of the story is that we all have to know and appreciate our own luring and intriguing personal heritage. It’s like a DNA with sensory attractions if we can hear the calls to our spirits by slowing down the complex voices and distractions in the real and video worlds. The rabbit’s footsteps and ancestral presence is always recognized in our psyches because they meaning our families intended for us to represent them in the ‘cycles of life.” God and the ancestors are forever near.
These children grew-up from what we saw in this production. These young maturing artists and performers “owned their craft.” They seamlessly executed their often funny parts and literary lines to the extent that they introduced the two lucky audiences to magnificent acting, singing, dancing and… to visuals and sounds for phonic awareness and creative artistic license.
These Youth Arts Academy students were a part of traditional and ‘new’ literature! Part of an English Language Arts experience. Part of an arts-in-education production that welcomed toddlers, school age children, adults and seniors to a polished and extraordinary entertainment. This play was and is, in and of itself, a curriculum. It presents an adept appreciation for the craft of theatre as it is dedicated to reflective practice of exploring humor, pain, confusion, joy and hope ready in on the surface and in the depths of the human spirit.
Educational and TV Component too…
This play has a companion instructional program for schools, after school programs, churches and online partners. It will be televised and will be used to train teachers and junior high school and high school students to mentor younger kids and to get them excited about literature, reading, writing, speaking and listening and acting out their fantasies in productive ways.
What the audience witnessed was the contributions of master artists, ready-to-learn children, and a community arts organization on-the-same-page with the ‘corporate-heart’ to deliver love, education and excellence. The truth about Mother Goose is… that her timeless love reigns… now in the hearts of NYC children and families too! Thanks Restoration, Dove, LLC, Peggie, Aduke, Abdel, Mario, Lillias and Brian! Thank you… mother Francis Wright-Homes, Vivian J. Bright, Berean Baptist Church and Zeta Phi Beta too!
The play will be introduced to venue, schools and potential partners in NYC, Westchester, NY, CT, NC, and GA.