In March of this year, Maggie hit a new level of design and craftsmanship. Puppetry is not really her forte, but she was tasked with designing and creating Sandy, the beloved dog and constant sidekick of Annie.
I have to admit, watching the design process is painful. It can seem like it will never really come to fruition. There were a lot frustrating late nights and frantic runs for new and different hardware. I believe with each of these creative project, Maggie’s character grows in obvious ways. Her tenacity is fierce. Her dedication is intense. Her process is long and arduous. But she always pulls out these amazing things- and I couldn’t be more proud of the artist she’s becoming.
Watching the audience react to Sandy was awesome. Little kids would wave and call out to her as if she was alive. And after the show, Sandy was swamped with fans. Of course, none of Sandy’s animation would have been possible without the incredibly talented puppeteer, Esseney Smith. She jumped into the role days before the show and made Sandy a star!
Another great show produced by Courtyard Theatre was Oklahoma Jr. It was so fun to see Maggie’s creations up on stage AND Poppy performing as Ado Annie. She stole the show with her hilarious acting and brilliant vocals.
See the goose on the right? One of Maggie’s characters come to life.
Maggie also had her first opportunity to work as a puppeteer with an amazing, life-size horse puppet which was originally created for War Horse.
Maggie played Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother in Sondheim’s Into the Woods last year produced by Courtyard Theatre.
But her work wasn’t only in costume and on stage, but also on the set and designing a few costumes. It amazed me to see her work move from sketched designs to real life. I’m seriously blown away by what her mind comes up with. We are incredibly thankful for the relationship she has with Chris Rose of Abstractaco Studios. He is the mastermind behind most sets used by CY and he allows high school students the opportunity to work as interns in his studio.
Maggie spent a lot of her summer building these gigantic foam trees, carving and hand painting. They were awesome.
She also designed the costumes for the character trees.
Maggie started working with Courtyard Theatre several years ago. Lion King Jr brought a new level of commitment and creative design work, which has been the catalyst for her decision to pursue Theater Design and Technology and Stagecraft in college.
Maggie was in a private school just as the rehearsals for Lion King began. She was working on a project for a class and came up with a face mask, similar to a masquerade mask, made of cardboard, paint and ribbon.
We happened to mention this project to the Director of CY and she asked Maggie to think about designing some headpieces for Lion King Jr. This invitation to create launched Maggie in a new direction, one which would include many late nights in the garage, 783 hot glue sticks, and lots and lots of cardboard.
Maggie’s Lion King Jr headpieces have been loaned out to several local children’s theater groups and are currently being used by a theater company in Canada.
My Poppy is pretty special. She’s hilarious, thoughtful, kind, and incredibly smart. Although she’s a performer with nerves of steel, she’s also sensitive and emotionally mature. She takes criticism in stride and rarely requires disciplining. She works hard, practicing her instruments every single day and spends the rest of her free time taking care of animals or writing novels.
She was recently assigned a “self reflection” essay for her school coop. I loved what she wrote and thought I’d share.
I’ve Got a Mansion, And More by Poppy Teague
How have I changed this year? is a question that one doesn’t ask oneself unless they are required to write a paper on the topic. This year, or I suppose last year, on New Year’s Eve I gave a speech. I asked: What if this is it? What if this is our last year on Earth? What if this is the year that the Lord comes and we are judged by him? Well, what do I look like to God?
Last year, in Challenge B, we read a short story about a mansion in heaven, written by Henry Van Dyke. A selfish man died and went to heaven, and while he was led along the golden streets with the other deceased, he noticed that each individual’s eternal mansion reflected the way they had lived. With this in mind, the man felt sure that his home would be the grandest of all, but when he saw his home he was disappointed. His mansion was a shack. Broken and small. The man realized that this was how his life had been.
Not everyone remembers this story. But I do. Last year my great grandmother, Nana, died. Before she passed away my mother and I visited her in the nursing home. Nana didn’t want to be in a nursing home, and my grandmother hadn’t yet told her that she would never be able to go back to her own home, and that her things were being divided among her descendants as they spoke. Nana made a few friends in the nursing home during the few weeks before she died. One such friend was a small woman with white hair, who would hum to herself all the time. She told my mother that she used to have red hair like hers about ten times, and we deduced that she had Alzheimers. Her son came to sit with us at the lunch table. “What are you singing, momma?” he asked her. The small old woman looked up at her son, smiled gently and he sang the words with her.
“I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old. And someday yonder, we will never more wander, but walk the streets that are purest gold…”
When they finished, the mother was crying. Wiping her tears, the son asked, “Why are you crying, momma?” Of course, she couldn’t remember. But I did.
The next day I came back to the nursing home and played the song for the woman on my ukelele. She didn’t remember why I was playing it for her, but I did. After I sang for the woman I went to find my Nana. When I approached her, she looked up happily. “Have you come to take me home?”
I dodged around the question, trying to be tactful, but when my grandmother took over I fled the scene. I couldn’t bear to tell my great grandmother she couldn’t ever see her photo albums of her children again, that she wouldn’t ever again use the communion plate she had built for herself out of tinfoil and a pie pan when she was unable to go to her church anymore. She soon wouldn’t remember these things anyway, but I would.
What do our mansions look like? What have we done to deserve God’s love? Sure, God loves us unfailingly if we love him, but how do we prove our love? I wondered if I had built my mansion or destroyed it.
Let’s pretend this is the year God is coming, and that one of these day, perhaps in the next few minutes, the sky will open up and God will come down in a ball of fire and choose who are his people and who are not. Who of us has forsaken God? Sometimes we don’t remember God. When we have tough situations we try to solve them in our own way, forgetting that we literally have supernatural help at the tips of our fingers, and a book of answers given to us by the Creator of the universe.
This year I made a resolution to build my mansion. To be a better friend, to think before I speak, to use kindness. Not everyone will remember these things, but God will, and I remember God.
Not jumping into judgement and disgust, but realizing that like us, they have context, one that may be a thunderstorm of trauma and pain.
Bruised and abused bodies before they knew how to read.
Words that rooted and defined and shaped the broken soul sitting beside you on the bus or passing on the street.
We don’t want to meet eyes in case their crazy is infectious, catching.
But what if we didn’t look away.
What if we weren’t afraid to shake their hand, share a drink, sit beside and listen.
Words might tumble out.
I know I’m not alone in wanting the best for my children. I want them to grow up to be amazing humans.
Yet taking the time to put pen to paper and define “amazing” is a bit challenging.
What does an amazing human look like?
Strong but humble.
A continuous learner.
Willing to stand up for the forgotten, for the underdog, for the displaced and disabled.
Dependent on the Father for self worth and security.
Wonder filled and adventurous.
Once the list is formed, one has to wonder, “how can I teach my children all these things?”
The easiest hardest part is modeling the behavior we want to see in our children.
If I want my children to respect those around them, it starts with me putting my phone down and looking the server or sales representative in the eye and using polite and gracious words.
If I want my children to be curious and well read, they need to see me devouring books, discussing my beliefs, and devoting time to studying subjects of interest.
If I want them to love and serve their neighbors, they need to see me forming friendships within our community, meeting needs of the elderly, and volunteering to help those around us. We know 20+ families in our neighborhood. We know when someone passes away, when a home catches fire, when someone is in need. We shovel snow and grab groceries for our older neighbors and share meals with the widow next door. We pray for the neighbors we know who are hurting and ask the Father to reveal to us needs that we as a family might be able to meet.
But if I model bias and disdain, why would my children do anything different?
If I want my children to turn their hearts toward the Father, yet they never see me spend time in His word or on my knees in prayer, how will they know the transforming power of His love and presence?
If I disappear into screens and online connections and ignore those right in front of me, why should I expect my children to practice self control and live in the real world too?
If I allow fear to determine who is worthy of my attention, time and resources, what are the chances they will grow in compassionate and empathetic people who are brave and willing to advocate for those without a voice?
Modeling responsible behavior and kindness is crucial to growing our kids in a difficult world. Expecting our schools or neighbors or churches to train our children in good habits and fine character is just not realistic or their responsibilities.
It starts at home. It starts with us.
And the reward is two fold- we also improve ourselves by setting goals and standards of behavior, and we grow in compassionate for others and become more well rounded and present human beings.
Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
These are some of my favorite people on the planet. It’s always fuzzy when we try to remember how long we’ve been friends… five years? six? I guess I can hardly remember a time I didn’t talk to my Jessie.
She is one of those faithful and loyal friends. The kind who would offer to kick knees in or bring over emergency chocolate. Jessie tells the truth, even when the truth is hard or unpopular. She believes the best in folks.
She just doesn’t give up on people.
I’m so glad too. Because I know she won’t give up on me.
I feel so lucky to be able to do Jessie’s family portraits. Photographing her people is always fun, even though she swears it’s going to be crazy town. Maybe it is a little crazy… but it’s the sweet, amazing, joy filled crazy that makes me wish the sunset wouldn’t happen so darn fast.
oh and p.s. Jessie is also a super talented photographer!