Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There's No Place Like Our Time

I am delighted to introduce a dear friend of Our Time's, Dr. Nancy Crown. Dr. Crown is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan. She works with adults, adolescents and parents. Special areas of interest include deafness and developmental disabilities. Dr. Crown is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and on the faculty of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program at the William Alanson White Institute and the Derner Institute at Adelphi University.
--Taro Alexander


There's No Place Like "Our Time"
by Dr. Nancy Crown

I first became aware of the Our Time Theatre Company when a close friend, (who is way high up on my list of admired parents), invited me to a benefit performance. As the mother of an adult child with developmental disabilities, I was powerfully moved by what I saw. The kids were so expressive, so honest and so proud. I wish there had been an “Our Time” for my daughter. No doubt, she would have benefitted greatly.

As a psychologist who has worked with children who are deaf and those who have developmental disabilities (or both) and their families, I was deeply impressed by the unique opportunity these kids had been given. I thought about all of the painful “side effects” of stuttering for children and for their families. Our Time identifies itself as a “home” for people who stutter. As I watched the kids up on stage performing, that is exactly what I saw—kids, who I imagine, must feel out of place much of the time-- feeling comfortable and positive about being themselves, feeling a sense of dignity. Speaking as both a mother and as a psychologist, that is a rare gift.

In preparation for writing this piece, I went to all of my usual sources; general and psychology data bases, a vast and unfailingly resourceful online community of psychologists, the website for the Stuttering Foundation of America, my daughter’s former speech therapist, even Google. I came up with very little addressing the emotional and psychological effects of stuttering. It may be my bias, but this strikes me as a critically important area for parents and professionals to be thinking about.

When you have a child who struggles, your heart breaks in a million different ways. You watch as their challenges negatively affect their self-esteem, their social functioning, and their academic performance. You witness them shrinking from activities they are capable of, but that will cause them embarrassment or frustration. You see how their personality has to wind itself in and around their difficulties, and how much this costs them in the way of spontaneity, confidence and joy. You see, or hear about your child being made fun of, ostracized, bullied, and becoming fearful, anxious, sad and angry. If the problem is one that interferes with self-expression, such as stuttering, the situation is aggravated by the difficulty communicating about it, which leads to further feelings of frustration, isolation and shame.

Shame and isolation feed off of one another, and both lower a person’s self-esteem. A child who stutters may begin to think of him or herself as “a stutterer” as opposed to a speaker (Linn & Caruso, 1998). Adults and children make countless decisions based on the fact that they stutter, and these decisions can affect everything from what they eat (because saying “hamburger”, for example, at the fast food counter is too hard), to whether or not they answer the telephone, pursue a relationship or apply for a job (MacQuarrie, 1999). Not only does this significantly affect the quality and direction of their lives, but it takes a tremendous toll on a person’s sense of self, sense of efficacy and of having control over his or her own life.

As any parent of a child with a difficulty will tell you, the social fall-out can be devastating. Children who stutter fear speaking in public, meeting new people, reading aloud-- any situation in which they might find themselves unable function smoothly. This leads to anxiety and avoidance, which, while not the cause of stuttering, can certainly worsen it (Rackl, 2000). Anxiety about speaking can lead to generalized social anxiety (Patraka Ginsberg, 2000), further limiting a child’s opportunities.

If a child’s stutter is not alleviated by the time they reach adolescence, most parents realize that while there are ways to help, this problem is probably not going away (Rackl, 2000), no matter how well you love your child or how hard you chase down solutions. Finding room to process what this means for you and for your child—for his or her future--while keeping your family on track, running interference at school, and not forgetting about your other children if you have them, is next to impossible. It is not uncommon for one parent to believe that pursuing everything under the sun is the answer, while the other parent thinks a wait-and-see approach is best. Single parents have a particularly lonely and difficult journey.

The relief that accompanies discovering a place where your child fits in is simply enormous. Meeting other parents who “get” what it is to have a child who struggles, people who have wrestled with this problem, wept over it, and who live it —this is invaluable. When your child is understood, accepted and belongs, countless critical needs are met. First, there is the reprieve for parents of knowing their child is part of something, and engaged in a constructive way with peers.

Socialization is a vital part of learning and development at every age. For a child who stutters, the opportunity to join a community of peers where he will not be made fun of, where she will be given as much time as necessary to say what is on her mind, where the child gets the clear message that what he or she has to say is important, this does more than merely provide invaluable socialization experiences. It also eases some of the injury sustained in the course of day to day life in the wider world. Involvement with others who stutter can reduce the loneliness and stigma. It can also be very helpful to share feelings, experiences and thoughts with others in a non-threatening environment. Openness about stuttering has been found to have a positive impact on relationships and self-esteem (Linn & Caruso, 1998) and enables the person who stutters to use fluency-enhancing strategies, such as slowing speech or pausing to restate muddled words in public. (MacQuarrie, 1999).

For someone who stutters, living in a world of people who don’t, results in constant comparison. This can lead to an over focus on the problem and a resulting devaluing of the self (Linn & Caruso, 1998). However, in a community like Our Time, where almost everyone stutters, dysfluent speech can become part of the background. Kids are given the opportunity to shine. They showcase talents, express strengths, feel recognized and appreciated for who they are. Their stutter is only one part of them. Further, and vitally important, is the opportunity to reverse the passive, out of control feeling of being someone saddled with a stutter by becoming someone who teaches others about stuttering and raises awareness. This is uniquely empowering.

I don’t know if it is true for children who stutter, but those with developmental disabilities and children who are deaf often do not have the opportunity to meet accomplished adult role models. The importance of meeting and interacting with others who have successfully dealt with the very issues you are facing cannot be overstated. Adults who stuttered as children and those who still stutter give children someone they admire with whom to identify. The very fact that these role models are leading full lives becomes a hedge against hopelessness and something to strive for that, perhaps for the first time, feels within reach.

Isn’t this what every parent wants for their child? That they learn to face their difficulties with grace and deal with them, find their strengths and pursue them, and do so in the context of meaningful relationships and experiences? We should all be so lucky to have a home like Our Time.

References

Linn, G. , & Caruso, A. (1998). Perspectives on the effects of stuttering on the formation and

maintenance of intimate relationships. Journal of Rehabilitation, Vol. 64.

MacQuarrie, B. (1999). The lonely battle of adult stutterers: Speech therapy may help, but

Most struggle alone with condition that has no ‘cure’. The Boston Globe, January 3.

Patraka Ginsberg, A. (2000). Shame, self-consciousness, locus of control, and perceptions

of stuttering among people who stutter. Journal of Genetic Psychology, December.

Rackl, L. (2000). Silent on the sidelines. Daily Herald, July 3.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Save the Date!

Our Time Theatre Company’s 7th Annual Benefit Gala
Capturing History, Celebrating Dreams

Monday, April 13, 2009

7:00pm Performance followed by dinner and auction

Skirball Center for the Performing Arts & Rosenthal Pavilion at NYU


This event will celebrate the achievements of world renowned photographer Howard L. Bingham, and the hopes, dreams, and voices of the youth of Our Time.

Howard L. Bingham (Photo by Douglas Kirkland)

Please join us for a one-night event paying tribute to the personal photo-biographer of Muhammad Ali. Mr. Bingham’s work has been published in magazines and periodicals, including: Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People, Ebony, and others.

The evening will feature an original performance written by the young people of Our Time.

Participating Artists
(scheduled to appear as of February 11, 2009)

Lauren Ambrose, Talia Balsam, David Alan Basche, Michael Cerveris, Maddie Corman, Nadia Dajani, Ned Eisenberg, Dominic Fumusa, Lauren Graham, Kate Jennings Grant, Kathryn Grody, Gregory Allen Howard, Adriane Lenox, Ilana Levine, Tiffany McElroy, Matthew Modine, Kelli O’Hara, John Oliver, Rosie Perez, Alysia Reiner, Ron Rifkin, Alice Ripley, Ken Roberson, Ramon Rodriguez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Amy Ryan, Ed Sherin, John Slattery, Fisher Stevens, Mary Testa, Callie Thorne, Jeffrey Wright, Cast members from Spring Awakening & the Youth of Our Time

For more information or reservations, please contact us by:

Telephone: (212) 414-9696
E-mail: gala2009@ourtimetheatre.org
Or visit our Gala Web Page.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Everett Bradley and President Barack Obama

Tonight, Everett Bradley, Our Time's Musical Director, will be performing in front of President Barack Obama with Jon Bon Jovi at the Commander-in-Chief Ball.

Congratulations Everett! We know you will rock the house and have a great time doing it. If you get a chance, would you mind sharing this poem with the President ... it was written by Our Time Alumni Jonathan Greig about a year before Barack Obama began running for President:

Who says I can’t write a play
Who says I can’t be a valedictorian
Who says I can’t build an airplane or be an astronaut
Who says I can’t act in a play
Who says I can’t make tons of friends
Who says I can’t be President
They may say it
But I don’t
Because I know I can

What will you be doing tonight?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Our Time Questions with Liz Tuccillo

Liz Tuccillo, on the right, during one of her many trips around the world

Periodically, we will interview members of the Our Time and Camp Our Time family (company members, alumni, honorees, participating artists, the board, volunteers, staff, donors, parents, campers, counselors, etc.) by asking them the same 20 questions. Which will now be known as THE OUR TIME QUESTIONS.


Our fifth interview is with Liz Tuccillo. Liz is an accomplished writer perhaps best known for her work on the HBO comedy series Sex and the City and for co-authoring (with Greg Behrendt) the best-selling book He's Just Not That Into You. She also wrote Fair Fight and Joe Fearless (which are two of Taro's favorite all-time plays).

Liz is involved in MANY ways with Our Time: Liz is a Board Member, a volunteer, a playwright teacher/adviser for our One-Act Play Program, a host for many cast parties and other Our Time events including an unforgettable afternoon with Our Time Gala Honoree Bill Withers and the Our Time kids. She is one of Our Time's most important friends and we are all SO THANKFUL to you, Liz for EVERYTHING that you do for us!


1. Favorite Food: Very hard to say, possibly French fries

2. Favorite thing about Our Time: The love, baby – all the love!

3. Favorite place I’ve been: Reykjavik, Iceland

4. Place I’ve always wanted to go: The Grand Canyon! And all the other National Parks out west as well.

5. Favorite Movie: I don't know if I can say I have a favorite movie. The two movies that come to mind that have affected me the most have been Ordinary People and The Lives of Others.

6. If you were trapped on an island for three years, and you could only listen to one recording artist, who would it be: Stevie Wonder. Does that make me really old?

7. Mac or PC: Mac. Does that make me really young and hip?

8. Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate, c’mon.

9.
Cats or Dogs: Neither, really. Don’t tell anyone, I think people will hate me.

10.
Favorite Our Time moment: Recently – Tom singing Neil Diamond at the One-Acts! I mean talk about a magical moment!

11.
What do you want to be when you grow up: Completely satisfied with my life and unafraid.

12.
Who would play you in a movie: Tina Fey. No wait. I think what I really mean to say is that I want to be Tina Fey.

13.
Favorite Book: Um. “He’s Just Not That Into You.” What? What????

14.
Favorite sports team: Giants right now. So obvious, I know.

15.
What advice do you have for people who stutter: Hang around Taro and Our Time for the rest of your life.

16.
What advice do you have for people who don’t stutter: Hang around Taro and Our Time for the rest of your life.

17.
Favorite TV Show: 30 Rock. I WANT TO BE AS FUNNY AS TINA FEY.

18.
Favorite Play or Musical: Six Degrees of Separation was pretty amazing. And Rent. That’s right!

19.
If you were President, what would your first official act be: Shutting down Guantanamo Bay, getting all the prisoners to trial or releasing them.

20.
Where do you see Our Time in 10 years: That is a very difficult question as I am not clear how much the company can expand, if we are not able to clone Taro into twenty different people. But what I do see, is an amazing, thriving, huge camp for kids who stutter, and their friends and siblings. And a space – for rehearsals and offices.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Letter (a follow up to "TALK, TALK, TALK!")

Happy New Year! I hope 2009 brings you much peace, joy, good health, and love.

Since my last post, I have had the opportunity to sit down and draft a letter of complaint to the CEO of American Airlines. I will keep you up to date on any response I get from Mr. Arpey or American. Thank you so much for the outpouring of comments and emails of encouragement and support! And now, without further ado, here's the letter:

Gerard J. Arpey, Chairman & CEO
American Airlines
5908 Avion Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90045-5622

January 1, 2009

Dear Mr. Arpey:

I am writing to convey my profound sense of sadness at the treatment I received at the hands of American Airlines last week. I am not unhappy merely because of the fact that I was treated rudely by your employees or inconvenienced by your airline during my journey, although I could write you an entire letter dealing with a litany of complaints that stem from the utter lack of professionalism that I experienced over and over again. However, this is not that letter. This letter is intended to bring to your attention a single instance of indignity that dwarfed the others, spoke to a deep lack of training and understanding on the part of your employees, and positively shocked me with the level of ignorance and unkindness that it betrayed.

Let me begin by explaining that I am one of the 60 million people in the world who stutter. Over the course of my life, I have experienced many instances of being teased, mocked, cut-off, interrupted, or laughed-at because of the way I speak. Nonetheless, I was absolutely taken aback by the breathtaking insensitivity of an American Airlines representative who I encountered on December 22, 2008 at LaGuardia Airport as I attempted to check in for my flight to Dallas Fort Worth (Flight Number 745 departing at 1:10pm).

The check-in area was understandably busy, filled as it was with hoards of passengers bound for holiday destinations. Unfortunately, your company seemed to be entirely ill-equipped to efficiently manage the crowds, and things were borderline chaotic. I was certainly not the only customer there who was completely mystified as to which incredibly-long line to stand in or where to check our bags after finishing our self-check-in. Not wanting to have my wife or toddler stand unnecessarily in the wrong line and potentially miss our flight in the confusion, I sought out the counsel of a roving American Airlines employee.

As I approached the representative, I asked if it was alright for me to ask her a question. She turned to me, stopped walking and said, "Okay." At that point I said, "I just printed our boarding passes and I was wondering w-w-w-w” (that's right, I had a stuttering block on the word “which” as I attempted to inquire which line we should be standing in).

As I was trying to get the word out, the American employee abruptly barked, "TALK, TALK, TALK! I DON'T HAVE TIME!” At the same time that she was interrupting me she was backing away from me. When she was finished with her remark she turned her back on me and walked away.

I cannot overstate to you how disturbing this incident was. Not only was it insulting, degrading, and humiliating to me personally (to say nothing of the inconvenience, as I had yet to find an answer to my simple and politely stated question), it also tells me that other people are at risk of being victimized in this way if even one of your employees has failed to comprehend the basic rules of civility and compassion.

The anger that this incident has aroused in the stuttering community in the week and a half since it occurred is palpable. After posting about my experience on my organization's blog, I have received comments and emails from people who stutter and non-stutterers alike who are angered, sickened, saddened, and vowing to avoid your airline from now on. One reader pointed out that what happened to me is “as appalling as saying 'walk walk walk' to someone who is wheelchair-bound.”

It is on behalf of everyone who suffers from speech disorders or any kind of disability that I write this letter of complaint and beseech you to make up for the inexcusably rude and ignorant behavior of your employee. As the Founder and Director of a renowned non-profit organization, Our Time Theatre Company, my life’s work centers around making the world a more compassionate and understanding place. Our Time Theatre Company is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping kids who stutter turn fear and shame into confidence. As you will read in the enclosed information packet, Our Time has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, as well as on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and the Today Show.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer to meet with you personally so that we can discuss the ways in which American can integrate disability awareness and the concept of sensitivity and patience to its training of employees. In addition, I would like to offer to conduct a presentation to your employees about what stuttering is and what are some more appropriate ways to respond to people who stutter.

Meanwhile, I can assure you that my company will steer clear of booking flights on American Airlines (we tour with our large group of young performers and staff frequently, to domestic as well as international destinations).

Once I was on board my flight bound for Dallas, I was struck by a column entitled Being There: Our Employees Go the Extra Mile, printed in the December 15, 2008 issue of American Way Magazine. In the article, an American Airlines employee is profiled for her dedication and excellence, and is quoted as saying “being kind to people makes customers happy and keeps them coming back.” I couldn’t agree more, but I also cannot imagine a larger disconnect between what a company professes to believe and how that vision is carried out in reality. As the Director of an organization that works with people every day, I understand that unforeseen things happen, chaos happens, weather happens, but there is never an excuse for unkindness, incompetence, insensitivity, or discrimination.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Taro Alexander

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"TALK, TALK, TALK!" Taro's Holiday Travel Story

On Monday afternoon my wife, son, and I flew from New York City to Jackson, Mississippi to spend the holidays with my wonderful in-laws.  When we arrived at the American Airlines terminal at LaGuardia Airport in New York City it was a madhouse.  There were many, many long lines and it was quite confusing to everyone which line to stand in.

After asking a few other people on line what the deal was I determined that the first step was to find an empty kiosk and do the self-serve check in.  Step two would be to stand on an over-one-hour-long line to drop off our bags. But which over-one-hour-long line was the right one?  I certainly did not want to stand in the WRONG over-one-hour-long line!

As I was walking back to my wife and son with our newly printed boarding passes in hand, who should I see but an American Airlines employee.

So I said, "May I ask you a question?"
She turned to me, stopped walking and said, "Okay."
So I said, "I just printed our boarding passes and I was wondering w-w-w-w-w- (that's right, I had a block on the word "which").  
As I was trying to get the word out, she said, "TALK, TALK, TALK!  I DON'T HAVE TIME!"  
At the same time that she was interrupting me she was backing away from me.  When she was finished with her remark she turned her back to me and walked away.

This was certainly not the first time this kind of thing has happened to me or to other people who stutter that I know.  But it was still shocking, frustrating, maddening, and sad.

Needless to say, American Airlines will be hearing from me.  She picked the wrong person to interrupt and walk away from.  

I wanted to share this experience because I know this kind of thing happens all to often and it is important for people who stutter to remember that we are not alone in being discriminated upon or treated unjustly because of the way we speak.  I would love to hear from those of you who have been on the receiving end of unthinking or cruel comments.  Take a moment to leave a comment sharing your story, and keep in mind that you're never alone, and there's never any excuse for someone treating you rudely because of your stutter.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Our Time Questions with Chelsea Lacatena

Periodically, we will interview members of the Our Time and Camp Our Time family (company members, alumni, honorees, participating artists, the board, volunteers, staff, donors, parents, campers, counselors, etc.) by asking them the same 20 questions. Which will now be known as THE OUR TIME QUESTIONS. 

Our fourth interview is with Chelsea Lacatena. Chelsea has been an important part of Our Time since the very beginning.  Chelsea was the first Our Time employee and is now the Associate Artistic Director of Our Time. Our Time would not be as groovy without her.  THANKS CHELSEA!!!

1. Favorite Food: I could eat pizza everyday

2. Favorite thing about Our Time: just one?! Hmmm… the LOVE!

3. Favorite place I’ve been: Ireland

4. Place I’ve always wanted to go: Italy

5. Favorite Movie: Clue

6. If you were trapped on an island for three years, and you could only listen to one recording artist, who would it be: Stevie Wonder

7. Mac or PC: Mac

8. Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate

9.
Cats or Dogs: er… neither.

10.
Favorite Our Time moment: My favorite Our Time moments are when it dawns on the new members how amazing the experience of being in Our Time is. You can see them becoming more comfortable with the group each week, more confident, and participating more. Then they start the process again, warming up to the theatre, and then they shine in front of the audiences when the show finally opens! Then they “get it” and are able to help the NEW new members when the season starts again!

11.
What do you want to be when you grow up: still trying to figure that out!

12.
Who would play you in a movie: Amy Sedaris

13.
Favorite Book: To Kill a Mockingbird

14.
Favorite sports team: Yankees

15.
What advice do you have for people who stutter: Speak from the heart & people will listen! Don’t let your speech interruptions dictate your behavior, people are more willing to listen than you may believe, especially if you’re being honest and speaking from the heart.

16.
What advice do you have for people who don’t stutter: LISTEN. Just relax and don’t judge, or get all freaked out if a person you are talking to is stuttering

17.
Favorite TV Show: 30 Rock

18.
Favorite Play or Musical: Gypsy

19.
If you were President, what would your first official act be: 4 year supply of Ben & Jerry’s stocked in the presidential freezer

20.
Where do you see Our Time in 10 years: In our own beautiful building with rehearsal spaces, computers, a theatre, and an office where we can do everything under one roof… OUR HOME!

Our Time Blast From The Past #2

Here is an Our Time classic.  This photo was taken during Our Time's first performance in 2002.  Original company members Corom and Donny (then 13 and 12) are now both in college and doing great.

Are there any original Our Time audience members out there who remember seeing this show?  If so, what do you remember from that weekend in June, 2002?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Check out Our Time on StutterTalk.com


Our dear friends Peter & Eric (from StutterTalk.com) attended our show this past Saturday and recored an awesome, in-depth podcast here.

Be sure to check it out to hear behind the scenes fun and great interviews with Musical Director Everett Bradley, Tom, Danielle, and others.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We hope you enjoy these great photos by the amazing Liz Rubincam. These were all taken this past Saturday night at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Congratulations once again to Danielle, Tom, and Edward for writing and directing three fantastic plays!

Tom, Edward, & Danielle during the Q&A


Photos from A Playlist Worth A Thousand Words written & directed by Danielle Diesu (starring Marianne Hagan, Armando Riesco, Pancho Gutstein, Kristine Stolakis, Tim Short, Victoria Perlman, Laurel Steinhauser, Ryan Millager, Emily Whyte, Meg Hart, Jonathan Greig, Keith Russell, and Andre Gillyard)








Photos from Cherish Every Moment written & directed by Tom King (starring Jace Alexander, Joel Higgins, Maddie Corman, Taro Alexander, and Joseph Popovich, Jr.)












Photos from Mendacity written & directed by Edward Mawere (starring Keira Naughton, Emily Whyte, Carl Danielsen, Ryan Millager, and Noah Cornman)




gettin' hype before the last show
Jackson & his pop

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Our Time Questions with Doug Filomena


Periodically, we will interview members of the Our Time and Camp Our Time family (company members, alumni, honorees, participating artists, the board, volunteers, staff, donors, parents, campers, counselors, etc.) by asking them the same 20 questions. Which will now be known as THE OUR TIME QUESTIONS.

Our third interview is with Doug Filomena. Doug has been Our Time's Lighting Designer for years and is an all around awesome person. Doug is also a person who stutters. Last week, Doug created beautiful light for our one-act plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre. My favorite quote from Doug last week was, "Let the process come to you." Thanks for all that you do Doug!

1. Favorite Food: grilled sardines

2. Favorite thing about Our Time: Taro’s and the Kid’s energy

3. Favorite place I’ve been: Rome, Italy

4. Place I’ve always wanted to go: back to Rome

5. Favorite Movie: Style Wars

6. If you were trapped on an island for three years, and you could only listen to one recording artist, who would it be: Fela Kuti

7. Mac or PC: MAC

8. Chocolate or Vanilla: chocolate

9.
Cats or Dogs: cats

10.
Favorite Our Time moment: Seeing Ned’s play performed last year

11.
What do you want to be when you grow up: an archaeologist, like Indiana Jones

12.
Who would play you in a movie: John Cusack

13.
Favorite Book: The Wind Up Bird Chronicles

14.
Favorite sports team: Pittsburgh Steelers/New York Mets

15.
What advice do you have for people who stutter: Just keep going. Think of yourself as being perfectly normal, because you are.

16.
What advice do you have for people who don’t stutter: don’t ask me if I am OK.

17.
Favorite TV Show: Shark Week

18.
Favorite Play or Musical: Fences by August Wilson

19.
If you were President, what would your first official act be: Universal Healthcare

20.
Where do you see Our Time in 10 years: still working and doing its thing, but with a much, much bigger family and a lot more love to go around.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What a Weekend!


The cast of Mendacity, written & directed by Edward: (from l-r) Noah Cornman, Emily Whyte, Edward, Keira Naughton, and Carl Danielsen

The one and only Keira Naughton

Wow! What a weekend it was for Our Time! We just completed three successful performances of One-Act Plays at the beautiful Cherry Lane Theatre, written and directed by three teens who stutter: Danielle, Tom, and Edward. It was a spectacular weekend of art, theater, courage, music, celebration, and love. A huge congratulations to our three writer/directors and an enormous THANK YOU to everyone involved in the production, we could not have done it without ya!

And of course, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES to everyone who attended the shows. It was wonderful to perform to three packed houses.

We hope you enjoy the fun photos above from the amazing and ever-talented Our Time volunteer Ryan Millager.

Please check back soon for more cool posts about the One-Acts.

PS - What was your favorite moment from this past weekend?

Friday, December 12, 2008

An Invitation from One-Act Writer/Directors

Three One-Act Plays

A Playlist Worth A Thousand Words
Written & Directed by Danielle Diesu

Cherish Every Moment
Written & Directed by Tom King

Mendacity
Written & Directed by Edward Mawere

Performances are on Friday, December 12 (8pm) and Saturday, December 13 (2pm & 8pm) at the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce St., NYC)

Tickets are $12. Please call (212) 414-9696 for more information. We hope to see you there!

Opening Night, a short letter from Taro

Dear readers,

I have been a professional actor in New York City since 1991. I have had the pleasure of performing on many Opening Nights of a show. It is always an exciting, scary, nerve-wracking, pressure-filled, heart-pounding, and (usually) triumphant experience.

As the Founder and Artistic Director of Our Time, I have had the complete joy of witnessing and taking part in 15 Our Time Opening Nights in New York City since 2001. It is hard to describe the feelings on the morning of an Our Time Opening Night. My stomach is tied into a great big knot, I am exhausted from the 12 hour plus days at the theater, my mind is racing with a million things that still need to get done that day ... but the most prominent feeling is one of deep pride and little kid excitement!!!

Tonight, will mark our 16th Opening Night show in New York City. I woke up very early and I felt like it was Christmas morning! Tonight, Our Time is presenting three original one-act plays written and directed by three teen members of Our Time: Danielle, Tom, and Edward. Their fantastic new work will be performed by an accomplished group of professional actors who are all volunteering their time for this project. The show will be at the beautiful and historic Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village of Manhattan. I honestly wish everyone in the world could be there tonight. I wish everyone could come and support these three young, amazing, talented, brave, smart, articulate, caring, passionate, and dedicated young artists.

Danielle, Tom, and Edward have come a very long way during this program. Last night, after our dress rehearsal at the theater, they sat on stage and gave notes to all the actors, designers, and crew. They were on stage speaking to a theater filled with professional artists, speaking clearly, calmly, smoothly, while stuttering quite well. They were brimming with a confidence that felt new, strong, and powerful. They were coming into their own and it was beautiful.

If you live in or near New York City and you are free tonight at 8pm (or tomorrow at 2pm or 8pm) come on down to the Cherry Lane Theatre on 38 Commerce Street and be a part of the Our Time magic. If you can't make it, no worries. We'll be sure to tell you all about the shows next week.

Thank you for your ongoing support and I hope to see you this weekend!

Taro

PS - What Opening Night stories do you have?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Time Blast From The Past #1

Every now and then, we will post an oldie but goodie Our Time photo. Here are two shots of Dashawn, taken in July of 2006 in Dublin, Ireland. We went there to perform at the International Fluency Association's World Congress. It was an amazing trip and one that we will never forget. We look forward to more international travel in the future.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Our Time Questions with Peter Reitzes

Periodically, we will interview members of the Our Time and Camp Our Time family (company members, alumni, honorees, participating artists, the board, volunteers, staff, donors, parents, campers, counselors, etc.) by asking them the same 20 questions. Which will now be known as THE OUR TIME QUESTIONS.

Our second interview is with Peter Reitzes. Peter is a long-time Our Time supporter, a speech language pathologist, an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University, the Co-host of StutterTalk.com podcast, the Co-editor of The Journal of Stuttering Therapy, Advocacy and Research (JournalofStuttering.com), and a person who stutters.

1. Favorite Food: Anything but olives! I love Mexican food (tamales, tortas, etc.)

2. Favorite thing about Our Time: I get to meet and appreciate so many cool and talented people who stutter.

3. Favorite place I’ve been: Israel

4. Place I’ve always wanted to go: Outer space (no joke, I want to be the first stutterer in orbit).

5. Favorite Movie: Star Wars

6. If you were trapped on an island for three years, and you could only listen to one recording artist, who would it be: The Hold Steady

7. Mac or PC: What’s a Mac?

8. Chocolate or Vanilla: Vanilla with peanut butter cups and M & Ms.

9.
Cats or Dogs: Both. Seriously, I could love a squirrel, no joke.

10.
Favorite Our Time moment: Years ago, seeing the Our Time band respond to an actor’s stuttering by holding the music for a bar or two and staying with the actor through the block. When the actor finished the stutter, the band played on.

11.
What do you want to be when you grow up: A good father.

12.
Who would play you in a movie: A good looking bald dude. Is Harrison Ford bald yet?

13.
Favorite Book: Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad

14.
Favorite sports team: The Philadelphia Eagles

15.
What advice do you have for people who stutter: Stuttering is allowed.

16.
What advice do you have for people who don’t stutter: Support Our Time! And, it’s good to talk about stuttering with your friends and children. Even if that makes us stuttering folks uncomfortable sometimes, it shows us that when we are ready, you are there.

17.
Favorite TV Show: Battlestar Galactica (not the old series, the new one)

18.
Favorite Play or Musical: Our Time shows.

19.
If you were President, what would your first official act be: I would try and appoint an equal number of people from both political parties, men and women alike. I want to live in a non-partisan country in which we look for common ground.

20.
Where do you see Our Time in 10 years: I see Our Time changing lives and making this a better world for people who stutter, our families and friends. Our Time is like pizza, it is always good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This Holiday Season I Hope

This past Saturday, the Our Time kids wrote the following at the top of a blank sheet of paper in their journal, "This holiday season I hope ..."

What followed was amazing, beautiful, funny, insightful, and fun! After each kid wrote what they hoped for in their journal we came back together as a group. Each kid was given three options:

1. not to share what they had written with anyone
2. read out loud (or have someone read out loud) what they had written to the group
3. read out loud (or have someone read out loud) what they had written to our Flip video camera for a possible post on the Our Time Blog.

How many of you would think that a group of young people who stutter (kids who often do not raise their hands in class for fear of being laughed at) would overwhelmingly choose to read what they wrote themselves straight to the camera? Well, most of the Our Time kids did. And they were very excited about sharing what their hopes are with all of you.

We hope you enjoy these three short clips of Adam, Joseph, and Tyler (who chose to have Ryan, an Our Time volunteer, read his hopes as Tyler danced around the room.)

PS - What do you hope for this holiday season? Post a comment to this post and let us know.





Monday, December 8, 2008

The Perfect Holiday Gift!


Still Looking for the Perfect Holiday Gift?

&

Want to Support an Important Organization in the Spirit of Charity?

We have the perfect solution!!!

Donate to Our Time in honor of a friend, colleague, or loved one, and we will send a beautiful (secular) holiday card notifying them of your generous gift on their behalf.

With each donation (100% tax deductible), you are not only giving a thoughtful gift to one person, but to all of the kids who benefit from Our Time's programming.

Our Time is a non-profit organization that provides an artistic home to youth who stutter, promoting confidence and self-acceptance in all of its participants.

Click here for simple instructions on how to donate as a holiday gift! Or for more information, please call (212) 414-9696.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Our Time!

Cover of Holiday Card
(this photo is of the Our Time company
at Jon Bon Jovi's personal recording studio. We went there to record songs for our upcoming CD, photo by Mikiodo.)