Pianist Kary Billings' takeaway from Plan-B's Free Elementary School Tour

Kary Billings (Board Chair, Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation) was the pianist on Plan-B’s first Free Elementary School Tour, Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF in partnership with Gina Bachauer, which was seen by more than 10,000 elementary students. Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered on various legs of the tour. The Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation was fortunate to partner with Plan-B Theatre Company on the launch of their Free Elementary School Tour during the 2012/13 season. But the story is much deeper than that. We had offices and performed in the same facility for more than a decade before we really took the time to get to know each other’s work. Plan-B and Gina Bachauer worked together for the first time inside a much larger collaboration, THE ROSE EXPOSED, involving four other companies at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. We were tasked with creating a family-friendly segment of the day’s activities. The result, an interactive staging of PETER AND THE WOLF, was so well received that we expanded the program and toured to more than 10,000 school children, ages K-3, during the 2012/13 season. The theme of this expanded program was “Storytelling Through Music.” My new friends Jay Perry (a brilliant actor), Christy Summerhays (amazingly talented both as actor and director), and I went to work shaping a new program for the tour. At each school Jay took the role of Narrator, introducing the Piano (Daynes Music Company ensured that a Steinway 7′ grand piano was delivered to each of the 28 schools we toured to!) and explaining the various ways that a story could be...

Actor Jay Perry's takeaway from the Free Elementary School Tour

Jay Perry narrated Plan-B’s first Free Elementary School Tour, Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF in partnership with Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, which was seen by more than 10,000 elementary students. Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered on various legs of the tour. I’ve been working as actor with Plan-B since 2005 and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of performing for some really wonderful audiences. Our audiences are smart, diverse and extremely generous. They are our friends and critics, our neighbors and family members, our contemporaries and partners and, when we’re lucky enough to perform for them, they’re our children. Any actor who’s performed for kids will tell you that they keep you honest. They’re the toughest audience of all and need you to be engaged and real or they’ll quickly lose interest and start getting restless. They appreciate your authenticity and will let you know if they don’t see it. I’ve performed with Plan-B on both coasts, in concert halls and black box theatres, in rooms large and small, and no audience has been so immediately, viscerally communicative and engaging as an auditorium full of children. The feeling of an entire elementary school laughing, gasping, responding and making wolf faces back at pianist Kary Billings from Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation and me as we told our story with music and words was absolutely magical. I’ve always felt fortunate to be an actor working in a community that shows so much support for its artists and I’m especially proud to work with an artistic organization that honors and supports its community the way...

Producing Director Jerry Rapier on creating the Free Elementary School Tour

Jerry Rapier has been Plan-B’s Producing Director since 2000. His son Oscar is now two and has changed how he sees everything. Since the market crash of 2008, myriad arts faculty positions at elementary, middle and high schools in Utah have been cut back to half-time and, in some cases, the programs either relegated to after-school activities or cut altogether. Funding for buses for field trips has also become so limited that the once-common arts field trip is quickly becoming a thing of the past. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah boasted the largest average class size but still managed to rank 12th nationwide in per-pupil spending in 1996. By 2012 (the most recent comprehensive data available), Utah still boasted the largest average class size but had dropped to 50th in per-pupil spending ($6,193 or 70% below the national average of $10,608). In response, Plan-B launched its Free Elementary School Tour, the first-ever educational tour from a professional theatre company in Utah focused on new work created specifically for elementary students. Envisioned as a six-year project featuring five commissions (the first year of the tour was PETER AND THE WOLF, a rare Plan-B production of an existing title), the goal is to provide free, professional, in-school performance at Title I schools while adding five new plays to the canon of theatre for young audiences (two for 4-6, three for K-3). During last year’s tour of DIFFERENT=AMAZING by Matthew Ivan Bennett (an anti-bullying piece drawn from the real-life experiences of Utah elementary students), I was energized by how well we were connecting with 4-6 graders. A few schools opted to...

Help fund Plan-B's Free Elementary School Tour as part of #GivingTuesday on December 2

  Last year we at Plan-B decided that rather than conduct the standard, year-end “Holiday Ask” campaign last December, we at Plan-B Theatre joined more than 10,000 non-profit organizations worldwide for the 24-hour global fundraiser #Giving Tuesday. It turns out that we were the second most successful theatre company in the world . . . .so we’ve decided to participate again this December. #GivingTuesday is Tuesday, December 2 from 12:01am to 11:59pm (EST), which is really from 10:01pm on December 1 to 9:59pm on December 2 here in Zion. Please help fund our Free Elementary School Tour! Get familiar with how to make your gift that day. Plan-B Theatre Company, via the Free Elementary School Tour, is the only professional theatre company in Utah creating new work specifically for elementary students. Envisioned as a six-year project featuring five commissions, the goal is to provide free, professional, in-school performance at Title I schools while adding five new plays to the canon of theatre for young audiences. The Free Elementary School Tour launched with Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF, an interactive journey through the classic story of the hungry wolf, the ill-fated duck, the fortunate cat, the fearless little bird, and the brave and cunning Peter. PETER AND THE WOLF was seen at no charge by more than 10,000 K-3 students between September of 2012 and January of 2014. Performing Arts Coalition, Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, Davis Arts Council and Salt Lake Symphony partnered at different stages of the tour. The second Free Elementary School Tour, the world premiere Matthew Ivan Bennett’s DIFFERENT=AMAZING, was drawn from real-life bullying experiences of elementary students,...

Playwright Jenifer Nii on RUFF! (2014/15 Season, Add-On #2)

Jenifer Nii’s plays WALLACE (co-written with Debora Threedy), THE SCARLET LETTER and SUFFRAGE have premiered at Plan-B, the latter two garnering back-to-back nominations for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York. She spent a decade as a newspaper reporter after her university aspirations to be a concert pianist were thwarted by a pinky finger that snapped three times during a single Schumann sonata. She now trains dogs and writes plays, proudly calling Plan-B her creative home. When Jerry Rapier commissioned me as one of the five playwrights to create work for Plan-B’s Free Elementary School Tour, I wondered what kind of nuttiness had possessed him. I am childless, terrified of children, and I believe equally terrifying to them. I’m the dog lady! What story could I possibly tell that would be of interest to tiny humans? “Dogs, silly,” said Jerry. “You’re a playwright who’s obsessed with dogs. So write. Tell a story. Say it with dogs.” It turns out that writing plays and training dogs are similar processes. They both require discipline, openness, patience and perseverance. They both require me to face fear, do my homework, step out into the unknown, and believe. Training dogs requires creativity, to be able to look at a situation and see possibility, and then make the possibility a reality. In so many ways that’s exactly what writing is for me: overcoming doubt, allowing myself the freedom to act on an idea, and then willing myself to keep trying. I have seen firsthand the special connection between animals and children. I see it again and again, almost...

MaryBeth Jarvis Clark on why she loves Plan-B Theatre

MaryBeth Jarvis Clark is a Plan-B subscriber and $1,000 donor. I have a long list of reasons for supporting Plan-B Theatre Company: local playwrights, national exposure, topics I think I know a lot about, topics that seem totally new to me, top-notch actors and directors, professional productions on a shoestring budget, bargain prices, intimate performance space, taking an anti-bullying message to schoolkids. Currently #1 on that list: Plan-B Theatre Company has given me an awesome social life. That’s right. I used to sit at home, sad and lonely. Then I started going to Plan-B Theatre productions, and now I’m out almost every night, I have interesting things to talk about at parties, I chat people up on the street, I have Jerry Rapier’s cell phone number, and I’m in demand as a guest blogger. All this can be yours. You just need to like Plan-B on Facebook or buy a ticket to a show. Suddenly you will be in the know, a recipient of informative and enticing messages about Plan-B productions. You’ll rekindle an old friendship with a pal who’s always wanted a theatre partner. You’ll spot people in the audience at Plan-B shows who you know from work, school, community organizations. You’ll run into them later at other functions and talk about what a fantastic show that was at Plan-B. You’ll want to become a season subscriber, never to be shut out of a sold-out run again. You’ll be so impressed by what you see at Plan-B that you’ll want to become a supporter, proud to see your name printed in the list of donors. Attend a full...

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