Monday, June 22, 2009

Hair Sponsor and the NY Post!

At J Taylor Salon with Ellen Stein (My trainer/ unofficial booking manager and community liason) and Joe Taylor (Hair Artiste!)
The Pageant Wave!

We only had one chance to get this shot, because there was only one batch of confetti!

At home, in bed, surrounded by plays. Ahh... Paradise.

Hey everyone! This post will be noticeably less verbose than it's predecessors, but only because I am literally scrambling to get everything ready for tomorrow!

Though a little belated, I NEED to give a shout out to J Taylor Salon, the official hair sponsor of Miss Brooklyn 2009! Joe kindly squeezed me in for a last minute cut and trim, and I was thrilled with the results! It was important for me to not change anything drastically- I wanted to look like me, but better, and he did just that! And an additional thanks to the fabulous Ellen Stein (yep- my trainer) for knowing EVERYONE in Brooklyn. (Photos to follow ASAP)

Also, if you haven't already, be sure to check out the fantastic spread the NY Post did on some NYC titleholders, myself included! We each did individual interviews/ photo shoots of us relaxing in our homes, and then we went to the NY Post's HQ for a glamorous photo shoot, complete with makeup by Smashbox and hair by Prive! The link to the article online is here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Builders of the New World- Actor's Theatre Workshop

One of my absolute favorite non-profit programs here in NYC is the Actor's Theatre Workshop's Builders of the New World program. A self described "...Theatre, Education and Community-Building Program for Homeless Children and At-Risk Youth", Builders of the New World "is a a life-changing after-school theatre and education program for homeless children that improves reading, writing and presentational skills, instills discipline and self-esteem, and inspires the children to make educational choices today to achieve success tomorrow". Developed by award winning actor/ director Thurman E. Scott, this award-winning program, now in it's 15th year of operation, uses theatre as a medium for change, social awareness, and creative expression.

For more information on the Builders of the New World Program, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NY Post Feature, Meet & Eat and Miss Delaware Pageant!

At the Miss DE pageant with Miss America 2009, Katie Stam, and Miss Jubilee 2009, Claire Buffie!

Signing an autograph at the Meet & Eat with Miss Brooklyn 2009 and Wafels and Dinges!

My official duty at the fundraiser was to dispense free whipped cream!

With Inga, Miss Manhattan 2009, at the NY Post photo shoot!

Though the Miss NY Pageant is rapidly approaching, my duties as Miss Brooklyn have not slowed down yet! This past week was exceptionally busy and exciting!

On Wednesday morning, Danica Lo of the NY Post, along with photographer Christian (a Sheepshead Bay resident!), came to my apartment to do an individual interview/ photo shoot about being Miss Brooklyn, but also being a regular person (I got to do my own makeup and wear my own clothes)! After the individual shoot, I rushed into the city to do a group shoot with a few other titleholders at the NY Post building, this time all done up, pageant-glam style! The shoot was lots of fun, with hair provided by Prive Salon, and makeup by Smashbox Cosmetics! Thanks to everyone for a fantastic experience!

After this, I rushed back out to Brooklyn for a volunteer appreciation party at Club Nocturnal. It was great to get to thank many of the people who've helped keep the Miss Brooklyn Organization running, and who've made my year so enjoyable thusfar.

I was incredibly lucky to have my mom visiting Tuesday and Wednesday, to help me get myself organized! My mom is the unofficial seamstress/ costume designer/ organizer/ personal manager/ stress reliever of Miss Brooklyn 2009, and I couldn't do it without her! On Thursday AM, she drove me to my appointment with our dental sponsor, Bensonhurst Dental (see post below), and then dropped me off at work in Chelsea before heading back upstate to attend to her other Miss NY Contestant (my little sister Courtney, Miss Fulton County 2009)!

Saturday, I visited the Wafels and Dinges truck in Park Slope, where I gave out free whipped cream and signed autographs! It was great to see some familiar faces in addition to all the new people I met! BCAT (Brooklyn Cable Access Television) came for a quick interview, and after chatting about waffles and Brooklyn, we got to taste them! YUM!

Then I was off to Manhattan to meet up with Claire (Miss Jubilee), and embark on our voyage to the Dover Downs Casino and Resort to watch the Miss Delaware 2009 Pageant! (Special thanks to Claire's friend Ilan for letting us use his awesome car!) The highlight of the night was getting to meet Katie Stam, Miss America 2009! The venue was beautiful- congratulations to the Miss Delaware Organization for a great show, and congratulations to Miss Delaware 2009, Heather Lehman!

I've got another busy week ahead of me, and then we move in to our hotel for Miss NY on Tuesday, June 22nd! I'll keep you posted!



Monday, June 15, 2009

No/Low- Budget Drama Clubs

I recently stumbled across an insightful interview with Kevin Maedel, a middle school special education teacher who runs a theatre program for the students in his school on absolutely no budget. His work is exactly in line with what I'm attempting to establish and help flourish right here in New York: a grassroots effort to get kids thinking creatively and expressing themselves in beneficial ways through the medium of theatre.

When asked, "How do you feel about keeping the performing arts intact?", Maedel responded,

"I think it's vital.

It gives them a voice. It helps them find who they are. I have a lot of kids who came to me and were just quiet in the classroom and they just blossom. In drama they become a whole different person. Their confidence gets built. Their social skills, their tolerance and acceptance of other people because in this drama club it's not the popular kids, it's not the best students. It's a whole range of students from special education, regular education, struggling students, the brightest students.

So much of school is, as you know, testing, and it's stripped down to the basics. It's just such a release for them. It's a physical release."

Like myself, Maedel incorporates improvisation and scripted shows to give the kids an optimal opportunity to both create, explore and express themselves while acquiring the discipline demanded of any actor in a full production. We do disagree fundamentally on the successful implementation of a drama program. Maedel says, "
I wish more people did it, but not all people have degrees in theater like me and study directing. That's the thing - you have to be qualified. You can't just do it,". I disagree; at least in part. Certainly, if the main goal is a polished production, experience on both the production and performance ends is necessary, but I strongly feel that simply interacting with the fundamentals of theatre is where the real benefits begin, and a volunteer does NOT need a degree in theatre to use drama as a therapeutic tool to help local kids.

To read the full article by the Daily Bulletin's Sandra Emerson, click here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dental Sponsor

With Dr. Marina Rubinshtein of Bensonhurst Dental Care

The word "dentist" strikes terror in the hearts of many, myself included; maybe because the mouth is one of the most sensitive and vulnerable parts of the human body. I'll admit- it had been a while since I'd sat in the dentist's chair; my lack of dental insurance combined with my denta-phobia being to blame. And I'll also admit, initially I was a bit nervous about visiting my cosmetic dentist sponsor, Bensonhurst Dental Care, but I assure you, my trepidation was both unfounded and unwarranted!

First, I'd like to thank Daniel Rubinshtein of Bensonhurst Dental Care, for contacting the Miss Brooklyn Organization with their interest in being my sponsor! After a few e-mails back and forth with Daniel, I was referred to the wonderful Danielle, who quickly set up my appointment with surprising ease, considering my near impossible schedule of late.

When I arrived for my appointment, I felt more like an old friend than a new patient- the entire staff was incredibly warm and welcoming. I was introduced to the lovely Khrystyna, who administered my ZOOM Whitening Treatment. I felt nothing throughout the entire process (I was so relaxed that I dozed off once or twice- no joke!), and emerged 1.5 hrs later with visibly whiter teeth! After a quick photo shoot with Dr. Alexander Rubinshtein and Dr. Marina Rubinshtein, I departed with a whiter smile and a much more relaxed view of dental care. In addition to cosmetic dentistry, they also provide traditional dental services, and I would absolutely recommend them to anyone looking for quality dental care in Brooklyn!

Thank you, Bensonhurst Dental, for my beautiful smile!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Broken Crayons

Early last year, I had the honor and privilege of serving as casting director for Broken Crayons, a Cinema Poattica film written and directed by Alessio Cappelletti and co-produced by Mind The Art Entertainment (the entertainment networking group of which I'm a core member). A description from the director: "A microcosm of America is told through the eyes of a young recently orphaned Hispanic boy who is forced to choose between action or silence when pitted face to face with the tensions and inequalities perpetuated by a bereaved teacher."

Upon initial reading of the script, I was struck with the profound potential this piece had to hold a mirror up to society and force it to look at a problem many would argue no longer exists. Pieces like this are a true testament to the eternal relevance of the performing arts as a tool for social change. Casting challenges arose as we attempted to find the perfect actors (a majority of which needed to be under the age of 14) to work with emotionally charged and rather heavy material. We eventually were able to piece together a dream cast, however, and the uncanny ability children to imagine and pretend helped create this film.

Though my schedule didn't permit me to participate on set, I'm proud to have taken part in this brilliantly conceived and executed piece, and look forward to this film's bright future in the festival circuit and beyond. I'm constantly in awe at the talent and brilliance of my colleagues, co-workers and friends, and this piece is no exception.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Miss New Mexico 2009 Pageant!

With Kira, Miss Santa Fe 2009 and Top 10 Finalist at Miss NM 2009!

Kira with Nicole Miner, Miss New Mexico 2009!
On an impromptu hike to the bottom of a canyon!
Kira and I at the White Sands National Monument for the Sunset/ Full Moon Party!

My chariot for the trip- Kira's tricked-out Jeep Comanche. And when I say, "tricked-out", of course I mean, "No air conditioning, no radio".

Last Wednesday, I hopped a flight to Albuquerque to cheer on one of my best friends from college, Kira Hirschfeld- Miss Santa Fe 2009- at the Miss New Mexico Pageant! It was my first time out West aside from visiting Lake Tahoe, and nothing could have prepared me for the 100 degree heat! Luckily, the landscape was so breath-taking that I was able to overlook the extreme climate, the 4 hour drive south to Alamogordo, and the fact that Kira's Jeep Comanche has neither air-conditioning nor a radio. And I got to see one of my very best friends whom I hadn't seen since the Miss NY 2008 pageant!

Kira did a fantastic job, placing in the Top 10, and winning a special award for individuality. Congratulations to Nicole Miner, Miss New Mexico 2009, and all of the other contestants! And a special thanks to both the Miss New Mexico Organization (who gave me a fantastic deal on tickets as a local titleholder), and the Hirschfeld family for taking care of me while I was there!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why Arts?

I was recently introduced to Project H.O.W. (Helping Others Worldwide), and was thrilled to see that they too have embraced the importance of art as a therapeutic and educational tool for kids dealing with intense struggles. Their Kidz Art Heart Therapy Program uses art therapy to help African orphans cope with the trauma they've experienced, while paving the road to a better future. As a performing arts therapy advocate, I work specifically with local kids living in poverty; an experience I can relate to personally- but the fundamental ideals and goals of Kidz Art Heart Therapy ring very true to the work that I strive to do right here in my borough and my state:

"Needless to say, these children are never given the opportunity to deal with the intense emotional trauma of their past tragedies. The universal language of the arts is a way to cross cultural and language barriers in order to give them a positive outlet to reflect on their past and cope with their present situation. Since these orphaned and abandoned children cannot care for themselves they need us to provide a healthy and positive space for education and creative self-expression, love and growth,"- Kidz Art Heart Program Description

Some would trivialize the arts by suggesting that they do not provide immediate, transparent, measurable benefit to participants; they'd be wrong though. For those of you who like statistics, try these on for size:

"Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are:

-4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
-3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
-4 times more likely to participate in a math or science fair
-3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
-4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poemk

Young artist, as compared with their peers, are likely to

-Attend music, art and dance classes nearly 3 times as frequently
-Participate in youth groups nearly 4 times as frequently
-Read for pleasure nearly twice as often
-Perform community service more than 4 times as often"

("Living the Arts Through Language and Learning: A Report on Community-based Youth Organizations," Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, November 1998)

It's easy to generalize about the irrelevance of something when you've not yet seen the facts- now you have.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

5th graders CAN learn Shakespeare!

The Hobart Shakespeareans with Sir Ian McKellen! I'm SOOOOO jealous!

Please do not adjust the channel- this is not a test! Yes, I said Shakespeare and fifth graders in the same sentence! It's not only possible, but Rafe Esquith, author of Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire and There Are No Shortcuts is doing it day after day, month after month, year after year, with astounding results; especially considering English isn't the first or only language of most of his students. Rafe Esquith teaches at Hobart Elementary, an inner-city Los Angeles school where his primarily Asian and Hispanic students are for the most part children of recent immigrants, and 92% of the student body comes from families living below the poverty level.

In the prologue to Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire, Rafe acknowledges the struggles with proposing elevated curriculum in a struggling school district; struggles that often discourage those who want to give the kids a fair chance to excel. "Expectations for children are often ridiculously low. Racism, poverty, and ignorance often reign supreme on campus. Add to this mix ungrateful students, and even mean-spirited people in the teaching profession itself, and the hardiest of souls can be crushed. Each defeat usually means that a child's true potential will not be developed,". Though he has experienced the same hardships, he's found a way to continue to put the best interest of his students first, and has turned his classroom into a safe haven for young souls where ANYTHING is possible. Rafe writes of Room 56 (his classroom), "It's a world where character matters, hard work is respected, humility is valued, and support for one another is unconditional,".

If you've not yet seen it, the PBS documentary that explores Mr. Esquith's work, The Hobart Shakespeareans, takes a look at the truly extraordinary approach that Rafe takes towards improving the minds and lives of his students.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer time, and the living is... Hectic? But in a good way!

With Miss Brooklyn's Outstanding Teen, Melanie, at the Miss Brooklyn Bowling Party!

With my trainer at the Miss Brooklyn Bowling Party!

Wow. It's truly hard to believe that there are only three short weeks until I leave for Miss NY! After being crowned Miss Brooklyn on February 22nd, I thought that March was my busiest month ever- in life! Until April happened, and then May, and now June...

On Sunday, the Miss Brooklyn Bowling Party took place at Melody Lanes in Sunset Park. It was so much fun to reconnect with some friends from Block Institute along with other sponsors, and I bowled two strikes! (This is a serious accomplishment... I'm fairly certain my high score is appx. 75...). We also enjoyed some delicious birthday cake (I turned 23 on 5/27)!

Earlier today, I spoke with Meredith Deliso from the Bay News about my preparations for Miss NY and my incredibly generous sponsors! Look for the interview in this Thursday's Bay News! I'll also be doing an interview/ photo shoot with the New York Post about fashion, beauty and pageant prep! Stay tuned!

I'd also like to give a shout out to the newest member of the Miss Brooklyn 2009 State Preparation Dream Team- Bensonhurst Dental, who'll be providing me with free whitening services before Miss NY!

On Wednesday, I'll be flying out to New Mexico for the Miss New Mexico Pageant! My good friend from college is Miss Santa Fe, and hopefully the next Miss NM!

When I return on Sunday, I'll have my hands full organizing myself for our upcoming Miss Brooklyn events (see the website and earlier blog posts), the cost-free performing arts education template I'm developing, the show I'll be opening the week before Miss NY (and then passing on to my understudy), and Miss NY itself! I'm often asked how I don't go crazy being involved in so many different things, and my answer is always the same. I don't do anything I'm not passionate about, so my love for my activities keeps me going.

"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it,"- Henry David Thoreau