It’s hard to imagine that Clear Space has been bringing performing arts to the community for over 87 years. More accurately – 7 years – but it most certainly feels like 87 in the most wonderful way. Clear Space fits in this community as if it’s been here for ages. All of its programming revolves around the community need and its Mission: To inspire audiences, artists, and students through high-quality performance and educational experiences. Many of you are aware of the scope of the programming that Clear Space offers, but it’s always nice to get a new perspective – so I invite you to indulge in the following request, set aside a moment in your day with a friend, spouse, lover, parent, roommate, niece, or reading partner, to partake in the following exercise. After all, ‘tis the season for warming hearts.
Please imagine the following scenarios …
(This exercise works most efficiently if someone else does a dramatic reading while you have your eyes closed. Character voices are encouraged.)
*Disclaimer: The following circumstances are based on true events. Only the names have been changed. They have been formatted to fit this screen.
A 5th grade student in a local elementary school, Alex struggles with his academics. His test scores are below average and he is known for his behavioral problems in the classroom among his teachers. It’s difficult to reach out to Alex because he has so much energy and not a lot of focus. He is obviously brilliant and is simply facing the obstacle of finding purpose and reason in his work. Those are some of the most frustrating circumstances – when a student’s potential is yearning to be released but its access is being denied.
When a grant comes through from the Department of Education for a partnership with Clear Space, coupling arts and literacy skills in an after-school program, Alex is recommended to join the program with the hopes that he can improve his work during the school day. When I met Alex for the first time, I knew. This kid has something special: How do I reach him and why does he feel the need to act out in a group setting? Alex’s behavioral problems wavered for his first two years in the program and his continuing participation was a serious consideration. After a collective teacher meeting, we wanted him to continue, knowing that the arts portion of the programming would be changing format to include scenes from a musical. I assigned a challenging acting role to Alex under this format with a large amount of memorization required. Alex smiles a lot in my class, but you would have thought he just won a trip to Disney World. “ALL of these lines, Miss Dana?” “Yes, Alex, can you do it?” Then, he did the running man (a popular 80s dance move) to show his excitement.
The following week during class, Alex had all of his lines memorized, informed me that he had worked on his projection and articulation, and was ready to “perfect” his acting.
Alex was brilliant in the rehearsal process as well as the public performances of the show. I wouldn’t have expected anything less of him. Stepping into the spring semester of the after-school program, Alex’s test scores are above average, he accepts the challenges in his academic classes with determination and a smile, and acts as a behavioral role model for other students in the program.
Molly started doing plays after swim practice when she was in third grade as an extracurricular activity, not to mention that she would also run around the house playing movie star with her mother. Aiming for an Oscar at 15, Molly thought that she was the bee’s knees.
In 2005, she auditioned for Clear Space’s first production of SCROOGE! She was cast. Although the environment was welcoming, she was only 12 and it was clear the expectations were high. As the rehearsal process continued, she was pushed to give all of her energy into this craft of the performing arts, soaking up new skills and performance techniques. With this being one of the most incredible experiences for her, Molly was inspired to continue to enhance her skills through her middle and high school years as she continued to work with Clear Space and their teachers in every way possible, challenging her and motivating her to move to a new level of performance. In her freshman year of high school, Molly was performing a solo with Clear Space’s Broadway Bound On Tour program: “If They Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity. After several grueling rehearsals, Ken (the program’s director and choreographer) encouraged, “I’m not going to pay for seats when you get to Broadway!” This was her moment. Well, if he thinks I can do it … Regardless, this was obviously hard work. Maybe the Oscar would have to wait a few years …
Molly is currently attending one of the top acting programs in the country at Towson University. She was the only freshman cast in a main stage production (as one of two women in the whole cast, I’ll add). Molly is excelling academically and in performance. Meryl Streep, watch out!
Those of you who may know me a little too well know that I could continue with my dramatic storytelling for several hours. I’ll spare you now and just ask you to take me to lunch at a later date. I’ll leave you with one final scenario.
Mrs. Jones lives in Lewes. She moved here 8 years ago from New York, where she attended the theatre often. After moving to Delaware, she knew that she would have to travel north (at least to the city of Wilmington) to attend high-quality theatre. She heard about Clear Space through some friends, and, in turn, attended their rendition of Rodger & Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC in the summer of 2008. Since then, she has seen every show, and has let her neighbors and friends know that they should do the same. Every show has captured her in a way that leaves her talking about it for weeks, more than comparable to what she’s seen in the city. Recently, after seeing Clear Space’s holiday tradition of SCROOGE!, she was having a chat with Mrs. Smith about something she heard in the curtain speech that she simply hadn’t put together before. “Clear Space’s ticket sales only cover a small portion of their costs. Even with the educational programming they have, a large portion of their income is left to individual contributions from the community.” The two women thought about what a difference Clear Space has made not only in their own lives, but in students’ lives and in their community - through high-quality performing arts. They decided to become a member at the Sponsor level, donate $100 each to the organization, and help Clear Space continue to do great things. After all, ‘tis the season.
25,000 people saw Clear Space perform over the past year. If each of those people donates only $11, we would cover necessary operating costs, moving towards permanent sustainability.