Monday, December 29, 2008

St Louis Symphony Orchestra Presents The Wizard of Oz

In the last year or so, the St Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) has been designing new programs and series in an effort to attract new audiences into Powell Hall to support the musical endeavors of the SLSO. If you haven't checked out what they're doing this season, please click here. I guarantee that you'll find something that fits your style.

One of these new SLSO series is called SLSO Presents. As part of this series, the SLSO was performing the The Wizard of Oz score live while simultaneously showing the movie. I immediately bought tickets since my kid LOVES Dorothy Gale and all of the Oz characters. She's only recently turned 4 yet we've already spent two Halloweens, two birthday parties, and countless other unofficial opportunities dressed as Dorothy.

On Sunday, Oz day arrived. We brought along the grandmas and headed to Powell hall on North Grand. Here are some highlights.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Theatre for the Kids

In some ways, teaching and acting are one in the same: you get into character, learn your script, and perform, sometimes to an appreciative crowd, sometimes not. It's precisely for that reason that I thought I could never love teaching and, now, that I do.

Don't get me wrong. Acting, as in the real art of acting, is not in my blood. But, I do love going to the theatre. Bill and I have had season tickets at the St. Louis Rep for almost 10 years now. At least once a season, we'll see something at the Fox or the Stray Dog Theatre or the Muny too. While we mostly see productions intended for older audiences, we started attending children's theatre and kid-friendly productions too when Wee Willa was about 18 months old. In case you're wondering, Willa's first show was The Wizard of Oz.

Last year, we bought season tickets for the Piwacket Theatre for Children which performs at the Black Cat Theatre in Maplewood. Piwacket is professional theatre that is informal and family-friendly. Each Piwacket production brings to life a classic, yet popular tale that everyone remembers from childhood (with a strong character education make-over). You and your kids will both give Piwacket a thumbs up because fidgeting, walking around, talking, and bathroom breaks during the production are not just acceptable, they're the norm.

If polished is more your style, then I would recommend the Imaginary Theatre Company. The Imaginary is the Rep's traveling theatre company for kids and they come home to perform a few times during the year. Like Piwacket, the Imaginary brings to life classic children's tales using simple sets, a few props, and great acting. Unlike Piwacket, the Imaginary's story selections, adaptations, and productions are a bit more sophisicated (think Robin Hood rather than Jack and the Bean Stalk). And, unlike Piwacket, the productions are not interactive, you have to sit in a real theatre seat, and talking, coughing, bathroom breaks, and the like are discouraged. But, did I mention that it's more polished? Previously, we've seen The Velveteen Rabbit and The Ant and the Grasshopper. Yesterday, we saw The Little Fir Tree. In addition to the polish, the Imaginary offers an opportunity to create art and crafts before the show and a chance to meet the actors/characters for photo ops and autographs afterward.

The only company that we haven't had a chance to see yet is the Metro Theatre Company but we've heard great things about them. In fact, I think that a wife of colleague of mine is an actor with this company. Any others that I've omitted?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Movies and the Mall

The Henske Three has officially started Winter Break! Yes, that was a resounding woo hoo that you just heard. Friday night and Saturday were filled with parties, wedding, and other activities but yesterday was wide open--but it was ~10 degrees! Good day to see a movie.

We picked The Tale of Despereaux, which was not showing nearby but was playing at the AMC in Crestwood Mall. I'm not a big fan of malls in general but I especially hate Crestwood Mall. Sorry, but it's true. Too many turns to get to it. Too poorly designed (how long is that mall?). Too boring: no unique stores; no reason to go.

Which brings me to the point of this entry. Have ya been to Crestwood Mall lately? Obviously, I'm no regular but, in the last year or two, I've had to go to there a couple of times. Business was really creeping along back then but nothing like yesterday. Seriously, not even a small crowd on one of the three last shopping days of the season! And, it was a weekend day! I'm guessing, aside from employees, there were maybe 30 people in the entire mall. No lie. And it was cold in there. I'd wager that the management company, whoever that is now--Crestwood is no longer a "Westfield Shoppingtown"--quit heating the mall to save a few bucks. Probably a good decision considering that there are only about 20 mall stores left.

Oh yeah, The Tale of Despereaux was a great little film!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins by Steve Olson

The main point of Olson's research can be summarized into one simple but enormously important sentence: Race is a social construct. If you'd like to know why or you disagree then I urge you to read Olson's book. Its well researched, well written, and well worth the time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Break Art from the Dutch and Reflections from the Grind

Hendrick Avercamp, Winter Landscape, late 16th century, Oil on wood

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Hunters in the Snow 1565; Oil on panel

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap 1565; Oil

From Pieter to Rubens to Rembrandt, I love the art of the Dutch. At the end of every first semester, as I embark a short, but necessary, reprieve from the grind, I'm always reminded of the lovely 16th and 17th century winter scenes done most exquisitely by the Dutch. Aside from the evocative appeal of the Dutch landscape, I'm not sure what else it is that beckons me back each winter.

So, here I sit tonight, on the eve of the eve of the winter solstice, studying those Dutch Masters. And, I realize that sometimes it's difficult not to get caught up in the past. That, sometimes, reflection must occur, even if you don't like to go there. And, I rarely do.

That said, this is what I think:
I eliminated the complaining and the whining and got right to the heart of that meat, which is where I realized that I've had a really great year so far. Minimal stress (unless you count arguing with Welker about religion...the guy self-admitted knows nothing), minimal frustration (well, kids are still children even if they stand taller and bark louder than you), and minimal regret (as in I'm glad that I took this job). Not perfect, but what ever is?

I can also say that, thus far, these things have made me extremely happy, appreciative, and bowled over with tears, joy, and pride: helping Dando cast 2 plays, spending another 1/2 year with the kids in my Lunch Crew (go Class of 2009! Good Luck Brandon!), working diligently, writing some of the best damn curriculum that I've ever seen (yeah, I'm boasting), being able to moderate real, thought provoking debate from "underprivileged" kids who can *surprise* use words like globalization, unilateralism, and coup d'etat and know what they mean (well, at least most of them), having the respect of my colleagues (the ones that matter), and forcing myself to rise above the shit so that I can admire the beauty and artistry of what the kids do and I do everyday (sometimes tough to do). And, trust me, this is the short list.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bloggin' Blah's

Since starting this blog in 06', I've never been at a loss of an adventure, an opinion, a photo, or any other reason to blog. But lately, I find myself with a serious case of the bloggin' blah's. I have suspicions why this is so, but I'll keep them to myself for now. In the mean time, here is a photo of two of my three favorite mammals.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pony Cake and Presents

12:04 pm, December 08, 2004. Willa Katherine Henske was born. 4 years ago today. Happy Birthday Willa!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prop 8, The Musical (Funny, Funny Stuff)

I removed the video because it's all over the internet now. But if you haven't seen Jack Black and his Hollywood crew doing Prop 8, The Musical it is very entertaining. To watch it, click here.