In reflecting on this reunion, I have realized how much The New Western Energy Show and AERO have influenced my life. Those public school workshops with kids all those years ago, and summer workshops in city parks, kick-started my career and life-long passion in educational theater. I began to see that not only could important concepts be fun, and interactive, but theater-based strategies could also help kids literally step out of their own ‘shoes’ and gain new perspectives about themselves and the world around them. Also, the New Western Energy Show taught me powerful lessons about activism through community.
Invigorated with a new focus after the NWES, I went back to college and earned, first my B.A. in theater at the University of Washington, and then my M.F.A in theater education at Arizona State in Tempe. Then I tried to make a living! This resulted in a series of short and long-term adventures. First, back in Seattle at various theater companies, and then to a small theater company on Maui where highlights included, learning pottery at a famous art center on the side of Haleakala in my limited spare time, and flying to Molokai once a week to teach kindergarteners drama. Eventually, I got serious island fever, and moved back to Seattle where I couldn’t quite make a living again (oops), so I took a job with an educational theatre company at New York University that I had fallen in love with, Creative Arts Team, CAT, in New York City. (Gulp).
Thankfully, this huge, seemingly impersonal city, as well as the CAT family, took me in. I fell for the city’s gritty, artistic soul and over the years have become a New Yorker through and through. At CAT, with a mission as political NWES, I was able to found and direct an early childhood drama program that focused on providing very young kids in Head Start centers and public schools the ability to solve programs and engage with social issues through interactive drama programming. Thirteen years later, I left CAT to work both at Humane Educators Reaching Teachers, where I again used theater to teach about animal welfare, human rights and environmental ethics, and at Lincoln Center Theater Company, where I worked with a team of theater educators to hone a theater-based program for middle and high school English Language learners and their teachers. With an ever-present desire to be more a part of the lives of the immigrant kids and their families, in the midst of all this, I went back to school at Hunter College, and got a second Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I am just beginning my current adventure – teaching part-time at a lovely, progressive small public elementary school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where I am teaching immigrant kids using theater-based approaches, and writing about what I learn.
As for my personal life, four years after I moved to New York, I met my husband, Glenn Erikson. He is a fly fisherman, architect, college professor, and real estate developer (in that order). Seven months after we met, we were living together in Chinatown and raising his 11 year-old son, Erik together. Instant parent of a pre-teen! I hung in there, and after Glenn and I were married, I happily became the official stepmother to Erik and his sister, Annika who is 6 years older. Erik, now married, and 30 this year (another Gulp), still lives close by in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Annika married a Brit, and they live outside of London with their brand-new baby boy, Indy. Glenn and I split our time between Brooklyn and the Catskills, NY – where we relish in the dirt, river water, and clean air.
I am deeply grateful to the many of you who took a very young, fledgling, and rather spacy young girl under your wings all those years ago. You made a huge difference in my life. I am also very proud to have been part of an organization that continues to make such a profoundly important difference in our world.