Monday, June 28, 2021

Love & Hate

 Darryl Lewis

Theater Director and Diversity Coordinator


Most people think that the opposite of love is hate. They are wrong. It is oppression.


Can you find me in the photo above? It should not be hard. For most of my formative years, I was one of a handful of black students in the Wickliffe Public School System. I attended Lincoln Elementary School, Wickliffe Junior High School, (before the name change to Middle School), and eventually I graduated from Wickliffe High School, in a class of approximately 350 students. There were many things I loved about attending the Wickliffe Public School System, but something, unbeknownst to me at the time, was missing. In the past few weeks I have scoured my memories trying to find something familiar, something with which to connect. It was a bit of a surprise to me that I would come to realize that I never had a teacher, K-12, that was black and/or brown like me. Every single teacher was white.  I also started to recall that on many days, I felt great shame and I often wondered if being born black and/or brown was a curse from God. Please know that I do not make these statements in an attempt to cast a net of blame on anyone. I am just relating my own experiences in an attempt to help anyone that cares to know a little more about my life journey because, of course, that will lead me to being the person I am today. 


I can recall two stories that may shine a light on the cause of that shame. In one particular grade school writing assignment, we were instructed to write an essay. The topic of that essay was what we had eaten for dinner the previous night and breakfast that morning. I completed the assignment and the teacher would soon read each essay out loud to the class. I remember hearing very different dinner and breakfast foods being consumed by my classmates. They wrote about pizzas, cheeseburgers, french fries, pop tarts and frosted flakes. When the time came to have my assignment read out loud, the teacher revealed that my family had eaten collard greens, fried chicken and cornbread for dinner and grits the next morning for breakfast. The class erupted into great laughter. I was mortified. I’m sure my memory is a little foggy on the next point, but I seem to recall any lesson dealing with the history of black and/or brown people including images of mostly naked people of color from the continent of Africa. They were  adorned with tribal accessories, holding spears, dancing wildly to drum beats and speaking in a particular way. We spent a good deal of time talking about the trans-atlantic slave trade. Those images were unsettling and created a sense of great shame. I also seem to recall that anytime lessons were of people that were not black and/or brown, these people were always doing great things, writing great stories and poems, creating great works of art, starting countries. They were always well dressed and always well spoken. 


I now understand that because I was one of those black and/or brown person’s, my feelings of shame were not the only feelings to manifest through these lessons. My other classmates that were not of black and/or brown coloration were being filled with a different sense of being, of higher station. These lessons, while not intended to produce this effect, were well learned. I remember on many occasions being called a “spear-chucker” on the playground during recess. When this was being addressed with the class, we were all told that “sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt you”. But of course they do. 


After graduation, I attended University in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was the first in my family to do so. For four years at Mercyhurst University, D’Angelo Conservatory of Music, I studied the greatest composers that have ever lived. I studied Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Verdi, Puccini, Strauss, Ravel, Vaughn Williams and many others. Every composer we studied was white and every professor I had was white. I started studying piano at the age of eight, and that instructor was white. I had two wonderful teachers at the Willoughby School of Fine Arts, (whom I love and adore), they were both white. I have had many jobs outside the world of education and performing arts, and all of those supervisors have been white. All of them. I understand this is mostly because of where I grew up, but what is the long term effect of never seeing something familiar in a position of authority or scholarship? How does one know or think to become a teacher when that role model has never been seen? How does one grow to show empathy, sensitivity, and cultural awareness and understanding when that has never been on display?


Black students who'd had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college—and those who'd had two were 32 percent more likely. The findings, led by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and American University, were published in a working paper titled "The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers" by the National Bureau of Economic Research. What has been the long term effect of a eurocentric curriculum at the Wickliffe City School system? How does every student find themselves represented, or absent, (invisible) from that curriculum? Does the representation make each student feel encouraged or diminished? What if we taught the truth in our curriculum? We recite, “with liberty and justice for all”. History teaches us that has never been the truth.


I want to tell all of our students, faculty, staff and the families of anyone black and/or brown, anyone that has ever felt marginalized by an invisible cage of oppression. You now have a seat at the table. We see you. We hear you. We believe you and we will do something to make AOA a campus that chooses to include rather than exclude. Dr. Goodman has boldly declared that AOA will be an “anti-racist” campus. If oppression is the antithesis of love, then it will take an act of love to move in an equal and opposite direction from oppression. 

This is my story and a small part of my personal journey. If you have a story you would like to share, I would love to hear it. Please let me know. dlewis@andrewsosborne.com


If you’d like to check out the article from The News-Herald on my new Diversity Coordinator position at Andrews Osborne Academy, you can find it HERE.




Friday, May 7, 2021

The Benefits of Outdoor Learning

Theresa Frisbie

Director of Lower School


As an eternal optimist, I have looked for the silver linings in the havoc COVID has caused over the last year, and one exciting benefit in the world of education is the renewed emphasis on the benefits of outdoor learning for children. For years, research has been continually emerging on outdoor learning and the advantages it provides students including:

Reducing stress

Increasing intrinsic motivation

Increasing physical activity

Increased concentration

Outdoor learning provides students with the opportunities to collaborate, problem solve and think creatively. Students must rely on one another, and instead of adults “fixing” problems for students, they come to rely upon their own ingenuity, gaining confidence in themselves and each other.

At AOA, we have always included outdoor learning to a degree in our curriculum, especially in our Lower School Science Labs. Our Science Instructor takes students all over our 300 acres on explorations of forests, meadows and a large river. Just hiking to the point of the lesson calms anxiety and brightens moods. Students have been challenged to build bridges, find animal tracks, identify birds and reptiles, look for water erosion and much more, all while being physical and out in the fresh air. Studies show this increases cortisol which in turn affects concentration and mood in a positive way.

Over the last year, we have expanded our use of our campus and the outdoors to mitigate the COVID virus and, even when we are no longer worrying about the spread of COVID, we have found this expanded use of our outdoor spaces so beneficial for our students that we will continue these opportunities indefinitely. Some activities and spaces have challenged students to problem solve and take risks in new ways while other spaces have just allowed us to take indoor activities outside, like our new log circle on campus. Classes have used the log circle for discussions, debates, presentations, outdoor band and more. Working outside on beautiful days enhances everyone’s moods and we notice a more positive energy in our students.

As summer approaches and you hope to keep your children’s learning continuing over vacation, nothing beats spending time outdoors. From playing outside, to structured activities, to reading a good book under a tree, students’ mental, physical and emotional health will benefit and grow. I encourage you to “push” your children outside whenever possible. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Hidden Benefits (and Loss) of Roommates

Stephanie Wismer

Director of Residential Life


If you have ever lived with a roommate, you have a story. Perhaps that story is one that sparked a lifelong friendship, or simply one that you lament and laugh over every few years at family gatherings. I have both. I infamously turned my first roommate experience into a slightly melancholy piano ballad, which multiple college friends of mine have requested I record for them. On the other hand, my second roommate was the Matron of Honor in my wedding. As a former college housing officer and current Director of Residential Life at Andrews Osborne Academy, I have collected others’ roommate stories for nearly a decade, and have seen first-hand how this experience can benefit students. And yet, I have never received a request more than this one: “I want a single room”.  


In the Covid era, boarding schools and colleges across the country have shifted their assignment practices to maximize single rooms out of necessity. We want a student’s “bubble” to be as small as possible to limit the spread of the virus. In essence, the pandemic has forced a trial run of what happens when many students get the rooming experience they thought they wanted, but perhaps not the one they needed. 


In my practical experience, there are few dynamics more indicative of how a student’s first year of college will go than their roommate relationship. The data supports this observation, as several studies have demonstrated. In a survey published in 2017 by Skyfactor, college students with roommates reported higher peer connections, social integration, and a higher GPA than those living in single rooms. A 2014 study out of George Mason University similarly underscored the important links between roommate relationships and student success and well-being. Successfully navigating a roommate relationship can lead to greater personal growth, enhanced social wellness, and improved ability to cope with academic demands. Simply put, even a mild social connection can have a massive impact.


Unfortunately, as the pandemic has persisted, students around the world have experienced significant and prolonged periods of isolation. A 2020 study from the University of Bath found that more than half of high school-aged students experienced some or significant increases in loneliness and isolation during the pandemic. Some psychologists believe these feelings will persist even after lockdowns end and the world reopens. In my experience, isolation begets isolation. This year, millions of students were not afforded the luxury of a roommate, a live peer to see and be seen by on a daily basis. After periods of isolation, instead of seeking out opportunities for social connection, many students continue to crave solitary time. In a post-isolation world, roommates have the potential to reinvigorate each other’s feelings of social connection, a critical aspect of their health that many have been forced to neglect. 


Without a doubt, the pandemic has presented challenges to mental health, and yet, I have never witnessed more resilience from a community than I have seen at AOA this year. Unlike many residential schools, we welcomed back our boarding students in August with a commitment to house them without interruption as part of our Year-Round Care Pledge. We instituted daily health screenings, navigated ever-evolving quarantine guidance, coordinated student medical appointments and testing, and have recently been able to expand our activity offerings, all without disrupting our students’ ability to learn in a hybrid model. Our Residential Curriculum has also been reconfigured to better prepare boarders to live with others and manage their anxiety around the college transition whenever possible. In a year without roommates, our students continue to learn what it means to live in a community, and see conflict resolution and restorative justice practices first-hand. The moments when a student feels part of and invested in a group have never been more meaningful or important. 

Whether your student is heading to college in the fall, or simply set to resume in-person learning in the near future, I cannot emphasize enough the value of daily in-person connection. While your student may wish to avoid the awkward dynamics that can arise when sharing a room, as we have reviewed, it is overwhelmingly to their benefit to opt into this experience. When it is safe to do so, AOA will resume a wide range of additional practices designed to help students overcome loneliness and restore a sense of connection to the wider world. Most important among these will be the resumption of providing every student the opportunity to have a roommate. And thus, the tradition of gathering roommate stories will continue on.

 

For those seeking further advice from a former collegiate housing officer regarding the college transition, I have shared some of my top tips for students and parents below.


For Students:

Establish a routine now and take your self-care seriously. Most young adults do not know what to do with the excess time they have after high school. That lack of routine impacts their ability to focus, eating and sleeping schedules, and overall ability to function at their best in college. Schedule time for studying, exercising, relaxing, and yes, even sleep. Take those scheduled times as seriously as your school schedule and extracurricular activities. Students who take care of themselves will always outpace those without that same balance.


Ask questions and seek out resources upon arrival! The most successful college students advocate for themselves. Between time and financial management training, success coaching, study tips, and counseling sessions, there is so much available for free on college campuses and in the surrounding communities to support you.


Your college roommate does not need to be your best friend. In fact, in most cases, it is more beneficial if they are not. Your college roommate needs to be someone that you can live well with. Often, that has more to do with when they go to sleep and their noise level preferences than how many friendship boxes they check off.


Conflict is inevitable. Too many first-year students request room changes to avoid conflict and those students typically end up more unhappy than they were to begin with. Before the honeymoon period is over with your new roommate(s), have an honest conversation about how you plan to share space throughout the year. Although it may add to your anxiety in the short-term, this is a best practice that will make life much easier down the road!


Discomfort and personal growth often go together. Please do not measure your success in college (or high school) by how comfortable you can become. Students who only surround themselves with similar, like-minded people and only experience things they already know they like will not grow as much as those who challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zone. Your college may be the most diverse community you have ever lived in, and the more you expose yourself to different people and perspectives, the more you will transform yourself. This is not to take away from the importance of self-care or finding affinity space, but a reminder to embrace discomfort and be open to the wonderfully diverse world we live in!


For Parents and Advocates:

Ask questions and listen. I can understand wanting to solve problems for your child, but what they often need is to feel empowered to advocate for themselves and seek out their own solutions. College is about starting that transition to independence. If they tell you they are upset with how something is going, you can first support what they’ve said with a statement like, “I can see why you feel that way” and then ask a follow up question like, “Have you shared this with anyone at the school?”


Remind them they are not alone. It can take awhile to find true friends, and feeling lonely or homesick during these times is very normal. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to remind your student that they are not alone, and that there is a long list of people at their school that are there to support them. This list may include their RA or another student leader, Hall Director, Advisor, or counselors on campus, depending upon what they need.


There is no “best” residence hall on campus and your student will learn to wake up on their own. For the record, no college I have worked for has ever had a “best” residence hall. In my experience, some of the happiest and most tight-knit communities were formed in older buildings with cinder block walls and community bathrooms. If your student has a good relationship with their roommate, the shape, size and age of their room will quickly become inconsequential to their happiness. Regarding my other note above, I promise you that no college administrator I’ve ever known would agree to wake your child up every morning. Just make sure they have a loud alarm and let them take it from there!




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Return of the Horizon - Summer 2021

Scott McNevan

Director of Athletics, Assistant Head of School, Residential Life, and Co-Curriculars


Have you ever wondered how long it takes to become a pilot?

There are different requirements for various types of pilot’s licenses, but to specifically become a commercial airline transport pilot, the FAA requires over 1500 hours of training.  It can take years to accomplish this and there’s good reason for such a significant requirement. 

Commercial pilots must be trusted to transport human lives safely, regardless of conditions, with or without a visible horizon.  

The horizon is an apparent line separating the earth from the sky.  It divides all viewing directions based on whether it intersects earth’s surface or not.  For most of us, that view is important.  The visible horizon provides valuable information about what lies ahead of us.  Without it, we can lose our bearings and drift off course.    

When a pilot ‘loses their horizon’, they simply rely on those 1500 hours of training.  They transition in the cockpit to flying with instruments, able to safely navigate the darkness or cloud cover, continuing on towards their destination with conviction.  In other words, they can make decisions not based on what they see, but on what they know to be true.    

FLYING BLIND

We will all remember the year 2020 for as long as we live.  The year of the COVID-19 global pandemic.  The year all the instruments in the cockpit stopped working.  We were left to fly blind.  

It all seemed to happen so fast last spring.  Travel paused, learning and working from home, no congregating, everything cancelled, masks, disinfecting, distancing…it was surreal.  

And to make matters worse, many of our ‘instruments’, our tried and true decision-making criteria, were no longer dependable.  How could we problem-solve responsibly with so little information?  How could we function safely and know what was healthy with so much changing each week?  For many, many months now we’ve lived in these questions, navigating our pathways carefully, with very little confidence about what lay ahead of us.   

The experience has tested us.  It’s been exhausting emotionally and physically and socially.  It’s forced us to accept and adapt to a new normal that we despise, one that involves morning temperature checks and health screenings and quarantining, one that’s minimized the connectivity our AOA community normally thrives on. 

At times during the past year, we’ve lost faith in both what we see and what we know.  Truly a worst case scenario, even for the most well-trained pilots among us.  

VAN GOGH 

‘If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost.  That is how I look at it.  Keep going, keep going, come what may’  -Vincent van Gogh

We have kept going.  We’ve put one foot in front of the other, day after day, all doing the best we could, embracing the ambiguity, betting on ourselves, and believing we would come out of this stronger as a school.    

There’s something happening now.  We’ve trusted the process and it’s finally paying off.

After a full year of adjusting to protocols, working together through the remote and hybrid learning, dealing with the disruptions and contact tracing and zoom meetings...our flight instruments are coming back to life. 

Sure it’s currently February and freezing outside, but the promise of approaching spring weather and sunshine and warmth is comforting.  Welcome thoughts about baseball,  softball, tennis and fresh air and getting back outside are coming alive in our minds.  Vaccinations are becoming increasingly available and will continue to roll out to the public more each month.  Regaining some sort of our normalcy, which once felt like a dream, is starting to feel more and more possible. Optimism is growing.   

THE SUMMER SOLSTICE

Sunday, June 20th is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  Each year, this June solstice occurs, marking the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere.  It is a day many look forward to annually, but this year is different.  

It’s not just about enjoying the sunshine or the longer evenings outside.  This year it will be about something much more important.

Summer 2021 is about the return of our horizon.  

It’s about getting back on course, finding our way again, and re-calibrating our path forward.  It’s about taking what we’ve learned and making plans safely and responsibly to reconnect with our community again.    

This summer at AOA, our students will have a full menu of safe, fun camp options to choose from.  Reconnect with us.  Plug back in.  We can’t wait to see your student in June.

The horizon has returned. 

AOA summer camp details will go out early March in the school newsletter and on social media.  Registration will soon be available on the school website.   


 






Monday, December 14, 2020

Three Degrees of Separation: Sharing the Gift of Giving

 Maureen Ischay

Chief Development Officer 


As we near the end of the year, many of us will ask, or be asked, “What did you get?” The act of giving and receiving is, in itself, an offering that strengthens the relationship between giver and receiver. When we take a moment to focus on the recipient, we are allowing ourselves to reflect on the bond we share and show the recipient that you were thinking of them.

When we give to others, it benefits not only the recipient but also us as the giver. Giving connects us to others in a very special and unique way and, quite honestly, makes people happy! Too often we may be tempted to say “I don’t need anything” when asked. In fact, I said this just the other day within my own family. But, upon reflection, I realized that I was depriving that person of the joy that can come from giving – I was potentially taking away from him the opportunity to say, “I care for you so much that I wanted to give you something that would let you know.” Don’t worry, I quickly gave him some suggestions the next day

Did you know that the act of giving can spread by up to three degrees? That means, when you behave generously you can inspire others to behave generously later – from person, to person, to person, to person! Wow! What a gift that is! It’s nice to think that an act of generosity can have such a ripple effect within a community!

There are many ways to give and not all of them revolve around money. You can give of your time; you can give your warmth and friendship; or, you can give a listening ear or shoulder to lean (and who couldn’t use THAT this year!).

Over the years it has been obvious that the families, alumnae, alumni and friends of Andrews Osborne Academy are gift givers. I was amazed, during my first year here, how quickly people would ask faculty and staff “what can I do?" or “what do you need?” Whether it was planning and executing “Night at the Races,” volunteering many hours to construct the sets for “Mamma Mia,” or donating food refunds back to the school, the AOA community always rises to the challenge and exhibits countless acts of gift giving! Last year, as everyone’s lives were turned upside down in March on the front end of a national pandemic, your generosity allowed us to surpass our annual fund goal for the first time in several years.

It is far too easy to become cynical today and think the gift we offer will have no impact. But, I would encourage you, as we try and put 2020 behind us, to remember that through giving you have the power to touch the life of another person and you can affect them in ways you may never completely be aware of. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a large measure of happiness in the process. 

I wish you all a peaceful and healthy holiday season spent with those you cherish doing things you love!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

College in the COVID Era - Why it's not all bad news!

Melissa Nipper

Director of College Counseling


“ Mrs. Nipper, I feel like my college plans are all over the place!” This was a conversation I had with one of my seniors while we reviewed their common application and college list this past week.  What this student is experiencing, having plans seemingly ‘all over the place and with no obvious order,’ is EXACTLY the right way to look at the college process in this year like no other. Here’s why. 

The Class of 2021 watched closely as they saw their peers in the Class of 2020 get excited about their college acceptances while making plans for where they would be in the fall of 2020. The underclassmen also watched as more and more colleges announced they would be closing residence halls, move to on-line classes or offer a hybrid learning style. They watched as more of their peers decided to take a gap year, or remain at home while all their newly bought dorm items sat, packed away, untouched. And, they watched as so many of the Class of 2020 forged ahead with optimism at the hope of the world returning back to normal and in turn, being able to have their expectations of a traditional experience college realized. 

The Class of 2021 is going about the college search process in a much different way this year. They are still looking at their dream schools. YES- STILL APPLY I tell them. But, they are also cautious about not knowing just what life will look like on May 1st of 2021, when they have to commit to a college. So, they are also looking at more options closer to home, adding more state schools to their list, and even considering two year community colleges as a backup ‘just in case’. So, while their college application list may not be the traditional cluster grouped in specific desired locations, the Class of 2021 is on their way to being the best prepared graduating class in terms of planning for the future and all the scenarios it may bring. 

How students are creating their application list is not the only area to be impacted by Covid. While spring of the junior year and summer before the senior year are the optimal times to visit colleges, these visits had to be put on hold or cancelled all together based on college regulations. Although unfortunate, this has had an upside. The inability for students to visit college campuses has forced all colleges to create and improve upon their virtual content. Where visiting a college in California may not have been very economical for a junior from Ohio, now, there are live virtual tours, student led panels, increased opportunities for interviews and so much more - allowing these students to increase their ability to ‘visit’ and learn about so many more colleges than what previously was available. Does this replace the feeling of seeing a school in person, no, BUT, it does give context to students and parents until visiting live is a possibility again. 

Let’s talk about testing policies. SAT and ACT tests have gone hand in hand with college admissions since 1959! In the past decade, some colleges and universities have moved to a test optional policy. However, for the Class of 2021, over 70% of all colleges and universities in the US are test optional or test blind. This number changes almost on a daily basis while many colleges have altered their testing policies even beyond the current senior class to extend to the class of 2023. For colleges that have not made specific determinations about their testing policies going forward, they are saying that this admissions cycle will lead them to determine what additional changes will be made for the upcoming years. Imagine a world without the stress and anxiety of taking a 4 hour test early on a Saturday morning. I for one think that is pretty awesome! 

College admissions counselors admittedly confess that they are still learning too. In a recent NPR interview, Jeff Schiffman, director of undergraduate admissions at Tulane University, said with a sigh "I don't even know where to begin," "We're going to have to hit the reset button hard on this one. It's going to take a complete retraining of how we review applications and what we're looking for. We're kind of figuring it out as we go." While November and December are the months when the early action and early decision 1 applications get read and reviewed, I am confident that college admissions offices will determine what they need to do moving forward in the years ahead. 

Here are a couple articles that I have found very interesting about College in the COVID Era:

How the Coronavirus has Upended College Admissions

High Stakes College Recruitment Goes Virtual- and Zoom Fatigue Sets In

So, although college admissions in the Covid era is far from normal, I remain optimistic about the process, the choices, and the grit and resilience of our students. Yes, when putting a college list together, students  may be ‘all over the board’ and to that I say- GOOD FOR THEM! 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Who Moved My Theater?

Darryl Lewis

AOA Music Instructor and Theater Director

In 2005, I stood backstage at the original Dobama Theater. Before Dobama moved into their beautiful Cedar Road location they were located in the dusty basement of the Winking Lizard on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. My lines were memorized, I was in good voice and, with the help of Joseph Hammer, our Director, I felt good about the character that we created. 

It was Friday, opening night and there wasn’t an empty seat anywhere in the theater. It was pitch black backstage but I could hear the patrons talking as they waited for the show to begin. I positioned myself just barely off stage so the audience could not see me. I was nervous and excited at the same time. This was my very first acting gig with no singing.  At any moment I would hear a recorded message reminding audience members to turn off their cell phones, the stage lights would change and that would be my cue to enter and start talking. It was the regional premier of the award winning play, The Exonerated, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, a married couple who are both actors and writers. Written in 2002, this award-winning docudrama was culled from interviews with more than forty former death row inmates nationwide, as well as from public records, that included legal documents, transcripts and letters. The Exonerated premiered in Los Angeles in 2002. During the course of the run, many big-name actors, including Richard Dreyfuss, Mia Farrow, Gabriel Byrne, Jill Clayburgh, and Sara Gilbert, appeared in the play. Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Aidan Quinn, and Delroy Lindo starred in the adaptation of the play for Court TV. For the Cleveland premier, I would soon be surrounded by audience members on three sides. Those patrons in the front row could stretch out their arms and touch me if so motivated. This was “in your face” theater and it was showtime. I heard all of my cues, entered a bare stage with my tweed cap, hit my mark and said the following:

This is not the place for thought that does not end in concreteness;

        it is not easy to be open or too curious.

It is dangerous to dwell too much on things:

to wonder who or why or when, to wonder how, is dangerous.

How do we the people get outta this hole, what’s the way to fight,

might I do what Richard and Ralph and Langston’n them did?

It is not easy to be a poet here, Yet I sing.

I sing.

I played a character named Delbert Tibbs and functioned as a sort of Chorus, fading in and out of the action. A black man in his late fifties with a personality like an old soulful song: smooth, mellow, but with a relentless underlying rhythm. He has a great sense of humor. He’s from Chicago and he was on death row. All of the main characters in this play have spent time on death row for crimes they did not commit. Delbert speaks in poetic phrases and spells out a warning. He is thinking out loud about the best way to approach the problem. When he refers to Richard and Ralph and Langston he is referring to African American authors who speak out boldly in their works about racism. Other characters would soon join Delbert on stage. Each taking their turn, telling their individual stories that landed them each on death row. It was a powerful, moving evening of theater when audience members realized that none of these individuals were actually guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted. They are The Exonerated.

The original Dobama Theater had one main entrance, so patrons and actors often mingled when exiting. On my way out of the theater a young lady stopped me at the doorway to share  congratulations and say thank you. She said that this play had caused her to re-think her prior thoughts on capital punishments. She had no idea that so many innocent people were incarcerated, and some executed. She was having a change of heart and I was proud to have  something to do with that change. I was learning that the best art can do more than entertain us. It can engage, enlighten and challenge our points of view.

Theater has long been a place where one can advocate for social awareness and giving voice to the invisible. Today at Andrews Osborne Academy in the school year 2020/2021,  we will lean into the many challenges before us. Acknowledging that we are living with formidable circumstances for public performance and safety. We have been working through the summer to figure out how to best serve our student performers, designers, technicians, and our entire AOA community while preserving a real performance experience through Music & Theater. While our emphasis remains on safety, we are continuing to move forward with productions that are exciting and challenging to both our student population and our patrons. We will build on the groundwork laid by past AOA productions of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank and Laramie Project. Productions in the year 2020/2021 will undoubtedly look, sound and feel different, but we will embrace technology. We will follow all CDC and AOA guidelines. We are a creative force and we will adapt, re-imagine and grow into this new normal. My personal passion of giving students a world class theatrical experience is still alive. So we will challenge ourselves to be innovative and look for new ways to create and protect one another. This is a time for us to learn new ways to express ourselves and forge ahead into the unknown showcasing our passions with renewed vitality. Like many who have trod the boards before us, we have something important to say and the time is now. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements from AOA Music & Theater 2020/2021.