Monday, July 30, 2012

Intern Spotlight: Zoe Travis

This week the Intern Spotlight shines on Zoe Travis.  Zoe is our Program Intern from Smith College through the Praxis program and a Brooklyn native.

Zoe stands tall at her first stilt lesson.
            I think it took me about five minutes to apply to be a Bond Street intern after reading the mission statement. This company uses theatre for healing and empowerment, has traveled all over the world and clearly has fun while doing it.  I read through the website in awe; I finally found the theatre super heroes I always dreamt about.
Let’s go back a couple of years. In high school, I spent at least four hours a day in acting class. I am so grateful for these hours: while I struggled to understand a character, I gained a profound understanding of myself.  After four years of playing characters who possessed a confidence that I admired, I snagged those qualities and made them my own. I graduated high school a noticeably different person, and a walking example of the power of theatre.
           Fast-forward three years, and I am sitting in a cozy, hard working think tank of an office, full of people who work to use the power of theatre around the world. As I sat across from Joanna for our first meeting, I knew that this would not be your typical internship- I would really contribute to the work of Bond Street, and really feel like a member of the team (or even family).
         The Bond Street office is a fascinating place. Even though we are all sitting in a circle and can easily swivel our chairs to have an impromptu meeting- I like to think about how all of our minds are somewhere else in the world. Every day I walk into the office, and try to immerse myself in Afghan culture as much as virtually possible.
Michael, Darielle, and Zoe pose
on BOND Street!
My current assignment is to write a proposal that would fund Bond Street’s Afghan Women’s Prison Project, a sustainable theatre program in women’s prisons in Afghanistan. The more I learn about the status of women in Afghanistan, the more committed I am to this project. While reading interviews of incarcerated women or writing the problem statement, I find myself becoming extremely overwhelmed or frustrated. There are so many layers to this problem; it’s hard to believe that any change is possible. I expressed this to Olivia, who I’m sure has experienced this many times, and she gave me great advice: to remember that the reason we are studying the problem is because we are proposing a solution. When I imagine the women in prison learning how to walk on stilts, or juggle, or performing plays that tell their stories- it’s hard not to smile. That’s what keeps me writing.
Ambling down Broadway.
   Everything we do here will one day be sent to a completely different culture across the world. When Michael taught me to walk on stilts, I was so nervous, had many self-doubts, and thought it would take me forever to walk on my own. Two hours later, Michael and I were strolling down Broadway, a couple feet higher than everyone else on the street. Even though they won’t be walking down Broadway, I know that I am sharing that initial sense of fear and then sense of accomplishment with hundreds of people around the globe. When Joanna demonstrated different acrobat tricks, and then said “your turn!” I always thought, “There is no way”. After she showed me each step, I gave it a try, and surprised myself each time.
I continue to realize that I am more capable than I thought, and that’s exactly what I wish for the women in Afghanistan. It’s incredible that by going to work to the same place each day, I continue to feel connected to people all over the world in a variety of ways. I look forward to the coming weeks at Bond Street- there is so much left to learn, and so many more exciting projects to work on. I like to think that this is the summer when I am learning how to use my theatre powers for good, and from the real super heroes themselves. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stilts Denmark: The Big Show

The Big Field - pre 30,000 scouts
The culmination of our week was the pre-show show for 30,000 international scouts in a very large field on the outskirts of Holstebro; not far, as the crow flies, from OdinTeatret. We could hear the sound-check wafting across the flat Danish countryside every morning. The closer neighbors must have been livid.

Front of Stage, waiting for orders.

I admit that my interest in the project, apart from the stilts, was that it seemed rather outside the usual venue for the theatre and I was curious to see how it would be handled: a huge crowd with the trappings of commercial and military overtones  (TV cameras and the rigid scout structure).   Indeed, the project was frequently referred to as "my nightmare" by those in the know. We came to expect each rehearsal to start with a sigh, a roll of the eyes, and the words, "There's been a change". From the performers side, however, we generally felt good hanging out with cool, talented people, and we were used to challenges (we were, after all, stiltwalkers) so, okay, whatever. 

The Stick Figures at the top of the hill.
The stilters with the toughest job were the five "stick figures", so named because of five 15' flexible tubes strapped around their bodies. It took about an hour to dress them up and strap them in, after which it was nearly impossible for them to sit anywhere. They were positioned to appear on top of the only hill in all of Holstebro, from which they descended and walked the length of two football fields to the front of the stage where the rest of us were going through various bits and routines. 

Jay and Helen of Carpetbag Brigade. 
The odd rings were played with in
rehearsals, but not used in peformance.
I was pared with Helen A of England, who came along with a Victorian style costume. It was the general consensus of the group that my costume blended best with hers, particularly if you squinted your eyes to the point of closing them. 

We got to mix it up with Jay and Helen G of Carpetbag Brigade, creating a rather absurd-comic-drama that had three parts: me and Jay dancing a tango and generally harassing the audience, me and Helen G in a mad scientist power-struggle with electric hand jive and bondage, and me and Helen A with a proper circumspect adagio (I don't know what Jay and Helen A were up to while me and Helen G were zapping each other). Center in-front-of-stage were the four members of the Colombian group Nemcatacoa Teatro who pretzelled themselves into amazing tableaus and feats of counter-balance. In addition to our antics, Deborah Hunt's masks and giant puppeteers danced in the aisles while the Jasonites underscored the visuals with rousing song and percussion. 

Maskers and Giants created in Deborah Hunt's workshop.
The evening was cold and moist with the threat of rain, an uneven surface underfoot and the insane din of commercial television production all around us, with images projected on two large rock-concert screens left and right.  Our hard working directors were incensed that there were almost no projections of our work on the screens, nor thanks or acknowledgment of our work coming from the MC's on stage. Instead, advertisements were broadcast and camera shots of the crowd prevailed, prompting spontaneous "woo-hoo"'s whenever the scouts saw themselves. It was a performance for our times: live, passionate, community inspired artists vs. the cold modern technology of mass media. 

The Scouts arrive - pretty orderly, actually. 

We engaged and delighted the audience members who caught our acts without distraction; the battle was not lost, though we were out-gunned. I felt a little like the fly vs. the cannon; they may make the louder noise, but HA, they can't maneuver fast enough to kill us. We live to fight again.

Much love and many thanks to our fearless leaders, Julia, Tage, Donald and Deborah, the music of the Jasonites, the Odin staff, the puppeteers and maskers, and especially to my compatriots on the stilts. This was fun. I'd be happy to share the studio and the field with you all again anytime.

Stilts Day 6 - The Holstebro Pageant

First, a bit of history.   From what I've been told, Odin Theatre's amazing international performing arts center was founded via a letter from a nurse who saw their work in Copenhagen. Duly impressed by their performance, she wrote to her hometown mayor in Holstebro, suggesting that if he invited the company to relocate to their fine but sleepy town, it might boost tourism. Despite the fact that he never heard of the group (and rarely came to see their future shows) the mayor, a dedicated supporter of the arts, readily agreed and the rest, as they say, is History. When the nurse passed away some years ago, many of the beloved characters of Odin's productions accompanied her funeral procession.

Holstebro - empty, as usual.

I don't know anything about the ultimate economic impact of the theatre to Hostebro, a town of about 25,000 people. Where those people are, I have no idea. There are plenty of tidy houses around, and the businesses and shops are staffed with clerks. But in my few forays into the town's business sections I've been surprised by how empty the streets are. 

We were scheduled to perform a street pageant on Friday -- but for who?

But never fear, for if you beat a drum and flash some color, people will show up, and they did:

Pre-Pageant Assembly - Helen (on stilts) and Maskers

Street action and the gathering crowds.

The Colombian group Nemcatacoa Teatro on the church steps.

Stilts in Denmark, Days 4 and 5

My quip a few days ago about feeling great and in top form has come back to bite me as I now have a head cold and have lost my voice. But one of the kitchen saints has taken pity and supplied me with lemon and ginger for tea, and another has promised to bring me schnapps from home. Having already suspected my lack of essential vitamins may be playing a part in this malady, I stopped at the grocery store today to purchase some beer and chocolate to supplement the otherwise excellent meals.

My Danish Doctor administers an ancient
and effective cure for sore throats.
Work continues to develop, slowly and in fits and starts. in addition the big performance on Sunday there is a pageant to be done on the walk streets of Holstebro on Friday afternoon: we take city hall at noon. There are some 55 actors to coordinate, performing songs, dances, stilting and manipulating six giant paper mache animal totems. During these days we have achieved two full company walk-throughs in the spacious Red Studio, as well as outside in the nearby field. Typical of such events, a lot of material is worked on (costumes, props, acts) that ends up modified, rearranged and finally cut as the space and time restraints become more obvious. There has also been some injury to knees and backs that adds a level of anxiety. Still, I'm impressed by the work of the performers and directors and designers - this gig is not an easy assignment given the scale and unknowns - but I do feel it is coming together.

Though there hasn't been as much opportunity to exchange techniques and develop ideas among the stilters within the studio structure, it has been a boon just to see the work the others have brought and talk shop at meals. I had forgotten all the cool counterbalance moves that can be done, lifts and turns, tricks for getting up and down, techniques forgotten but still within reach.

It is also a joy to see the work demonstrations of Odin's Julia Varley, presented over the last nights; it is for me a reminder of the explorations of voice and physical gesture that informs their work and set us on our own course many years ago. She ended the voice demonstration with an improvisation that was a masterpiece painted with the colors of Bach, Coltrain, and Amazon Rainforest.

Pageant tomorrow. More to come. 

Ensemble assembled to get the marching orders for the Holstebro Pageant.

The Plan of attack.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Intern Spotlight: Darielle Shandler

This summer, our wonderful BST interns are blogging about their experiences in the New York office. Darielle Shandler, our Arts Administration intern from Drew University, writes this week about her experience.

Darielle steps out as a BST intern!
This is the story of how I started working for Bond Street Theatre. I grew up in a small town in the south and always wanted to work in the bustling metropolis of Manhattan. This summer I finally had the opportuity to apply for internships in the city I have loved from afar for so long. When I was hired at Bond Street, I couldn't believe I would get to work among the people who use theatre in such wonderful healing ways. Once the summer hit, I made the long journey from home to find my place in New York City. I explored the crisscrossed streets until I reached Bond Street and Broadway. Behind the unassuming store front there is a mountain of stairs to climb - even the most fit of us might loose their breath - but it doesn't matter once you reach the top. A small sign greets you with a request to remove your shoes. Strange to me at first, but it immediately set a tone of comfort and ease that permeates throughout the Bond Street offices. Stepping, barefoot, into the airy sunlit loft, you can't help but feel at home. The floors are covered in rugs from Afghanistan and the walls are covered in maps and pictures from trips around the world.

As I step further into the room I am greeted by the those who make Bond Street run so smoothly. First, Olivia, Queen of Communications, welcomes me to the office. A young beautiful grad student, she always has answers to my questions and is the person I turn to for my next assignment. She tweets, blogs, and posts, making sure the inter-webs know of the work Bond Street is doing thousands of miles away. I most closely connect with the work she is doing because marketing is the area of theatre business I am most interested in. Next, Joanna, her majesty the Artistic director, looks up from her work. A petite woman with voluminous red hair, clad in a simple dress, she wishes me a good morning. Throughout the day, she lets us in on the news from around the world, all while making sure the grant reports are written and updated. I am in awe of her because she has been a part of the company since the very beginning and she knows all of the ins and outs of what Bond Street does. Finally, Michael, the Lord of Numbers and Technology, swivels around in his chair to wave hello. He is hidden in his alcove of books and double screened computers. He is perched, contorted, on the little wooden chair, every once in awhile ruffling his fluffy gray hair while pouring over the numbers and budgets that keep Bond Street up and running. I like working with Michael because he knows so much about design and editing programs and I feel as if I can always learn something from him.

Darielle stands tall at her second stilt
walking lesson with Michael.
Every day, I work hard to help Joanna, Michael, Olivia, and Bond Street accomplish anything they need. I am ecstatic because working here isn't like any other internship, filled with fetching coffee and organizing files. I feel like a real part of the business - complete with my own email address and bio on the website. I am doing work that I really enjoy; using my skills of design and video production to help with development. From one day to the next, there are many different things I do. One day I help edit quarterly reports and then help to design a postcard to hand out at Stilt Band events. The next day I edit footage from Bond Street's work in Afghanistan to make DVDs to give to their sponsors. I am having so much fun because I can take the time to learn new programs that I can combine with the skills I already have. For example, I have always wanted to learn Photoshop because it would fit in nicely with my other design skills. Bond Street sent me to a Photoshop workshop which helped me help them! They are also teaching me how to walk on stilts. I had watched them perform but never thought I would be able to do it myself. But after only two sessions I am able to walk around on my own. Now the idea of maybe one day walking with them in a parade doesn't seem so impossible anymore. Never in a million years did I think I would learn a crazy skill like that.

My internship has been a strange and wonderful dichotomy of interactions. On one hand, I am helping to finish projects so they have time for other things. I love to think a video I create will be used for a grant, or the sign I designed was actually used for their Shinbone Alley Stilt Band costumes. Then on the other hand, while I am working I am learning more and more about all of the amazing work they do on both sides of the Atlantic, from working with orphans in Guatemala to teaching women in Afghanistan to playing music on stilts right here in the five boroughs. I am seamlessly learning specifically about Bond Street Theatre and learning how a not-for-profit theatre business functions. Just like the child who eventually learns that there's more to Manhattan than the flashing lights of Times Square, being a Bond Street intern I have learned that there's more to running a theatre company than just putting on productions. There are grants to write and board meetings to attend. Yet you don't have to choose. Yes, Michael is the Managing Director, but he is also a performer and educator as well. There are pictures of when some of the board members were a part of the ensemble and clowned around and stilt walked. It baffles me that Bond Street Theatre is this amazing community of people all working in different capacities from places all over the world for a common goal. As I leave the office each day to slip my shoes back on and descend the stairs, I smile at the thought of being a part of a theatre that doesn't just entertain, but educates and bridges cultures while doing it.

4 members of the BST family: Michael, Heddy, Darielle and Charlotte!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 3 - Stilts in Denmark

Day Three of Stilts in Denmark

Since I only just arrived on day one this is really the second work day, and somehow (and this frequently seems to be the case) the end of the second workday feels like the end of the first work week, in that I've gotten to know some people, where I sleep, where the food is and the schedule to a practical degree. Suddenly all that was strange is now familiar: foreign tongues, eccentric behaviors, joyous sounds, giant puppets and wild stilt dancers. In other words, my favorite day at the office.

Of course, there are still great questions related to the performance on Sunday, which, to remind you, is for an international gathering of a whole lot of boy / girl scouts and their families (like, 50,000). We are the pre-show entertainment, a performance that was supposed to be two hours, then one hour, now 45 minutes long. Could be fifteen minutes by the end of the week; I'm guessing it's a big difficult negotiation with the scout committee. The actual big stage show is, I'm told, by famous comedians and rock stars. At the end of our big stilt-giant-puppet-wild-music pageant the stilters are supposed to hold up big letters that spell out W-E-L-C-O-M-E T-O H-O-L-S-T-E-B-R-O. We got the letters today. They are actually too big - they will completely hide the the stilters (and block our vision) and are guaranteed to act as dangerous billowing sails in the wind. And we're missing a "T" and an "L". Which is not too bad, because we actually don't have enough stilters anyway. Fortunately, I'm not in the decision making loop, just the talent loop, and everyone is game and open and ready to improvise.

As everyone is rehearsing with amazing agility and passion, the post-rehearsal studio floor was somewhat carpeted with stilters getting backs adjusted, limbs aligned and muscles massaged. To my egotistical delight, I myself feel great and in top shape despite being one of (if not the) oldest of participants. Of course, I'm also not doing any of the acrobatics and controlled falls my compatriots are doing, so I can't gloat too much.

Onward and upward.
Stilters - some up, some down

Rehearsing with cool costume elements (not me, though)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stilting in Denmark - Day 2

Got a good amount of sleep last night - timed it well to actually be jet-lag tired at bedtime, so I woke up this morning pretty alert. Stepping back a second, on my arrival last night and after dropping bags in the room I went around and tried to get my positioning in the labyrinth which is the space here -- there are three (or four?) rehearsal studios and a video room and a resource room and scene shops and lots of offices all scattered around a number of building all connected by long hallways. As I walked about I met most of the stilters, a few of whom i know: Jay from Carpetbag Brigade and Nicholas Sinfuentes who stilted with us in two Halloween Parades; some new friends like Mike and Zita know of us through our dear friend Meghan Frank as they all were just at Del'Arte in CA.

9 am, following breakfast, we started off with an Odin based training session led by Tage, a long time company member (one of the founding members I believe, over 40 yrs ago). The word "training" is used here in the athletic sense, as in training a boxer; a lot of physical movement. We are not being 'taught" something per se, but the focus is on new discoveries, trying to come up with surprising and new physical ways of doing things. The exercise, which kept us running for like 45 minutes, is the kind of thing I've done for years and the rules are very simple... move around the room, jump, fall to the ground, freeze in various statue-like positions. The object is to surprise each other and imitate exactly what each other is doing. But it's really hard to do; you (well, I) tend use the same "usual" tempos and gestures. It's actually quite difficult to surprise yourself.

One great thing about it is you reeeeeaaally get to learn a lot about the strangers in the room. As I said, I went around last night and met people, but there is only so much you can learn about a person in conversation. You can learn names, home towns, likes and mutual friends, but you rarely learn who the ARE. Running around in one of these exercises, and you can immediately assess your neighbors - who is fluid, who looks you in the eye (or avoids contact), who steps with levity, conviction, who is creative, who reserved? Everyone's personalities are starkly apparent.

Among the stilters there are several Italians, Colombians, Canadians and USofA's - 16 of us in all. Following the training we put on stilts and strutted about and showed each other whatever we had to show. Some, like the Colombians - Nemcataco a Teatro - and Carpetbag Brigade had some very cool acro-choreography worked out. Others without routines did improvised movements and character studies. I showed off some staff and flag manipulation. Following lunch Tage and Donald (another Odin member) introduced us to various new "toys" they were building, great long lengths of PVC pipe attached to the body or bent into various size hoops. Between the considerable bouts of rain (when it would get magnificently sunny) we went out to a nearby field to play around, tossing the stuff about to see what we could do with them. Not everything was brilliant, but it was a great deal of fun.

I'll try to get some photos over the next few days. I have no idea what the performance on Sunday will look like (the details of that seem to change daily) but the process will be educational and entertaining, and new friends will be made.

More to come, watch this space.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stilts in Denmark: Part 1

                                                         The Prince of Row 43

Hey Kids!

I'm heading off to Denmark to attend a week long "stilt council" at the Odin Theatre in Holstobro. As I happen to be a professional stilt walker, my interest was piqued by the email I received several months ago. The work of Odin Theatre has greatly inspired our work at Bond Street Theatre, and as I always wanted to spend some time at their fabulous performing arts complex, I figured the experience will be well worth the travel costs.
Despite being a professional, I'm not exactly sure what a "stilt council" is supposed to be. What I understand from the email correspondence: for the price of an airline ticket to Copenhagen and a four hour train ride to Holstobro, I will be treated with room and board and the opportunity to rehearse and perform with other like minded stilters in a single outdoor pageant performance. The audience will be thirty to fifty thousand "European scouts" and their families. Boy scouts? Girls Scouts? Co-ed? The email is not specific. It does say we will be rehearsing routines that"should consist of opposing moments of Butho, like slow motion and moments of short explosive behavior and things in between." The email continued:

"We believe our show will consist of about 2 hours, in a big open field, the size of a football field, using 5 corridors (wide enough to let an ambulance pass through). Each corridor will be bordered with ropes and balloons attached. Our presence should end with a small scene in front of the main stage... We will have to improvise and adapt to the unforeseen circumstances."
Oh. Okay. Cool.
In the month previous to my arrival another workshop has been underway at Odin, Crossing 2, lead  by Deborah Hunt in giant puppetry and  mask making, and The Jasonites leading music and dance.  The fruits of their labors will be the centerpiece of the performance (I gather). Additionally, "there will be The European Caravan in the far end with tractors and a horse."

I am happy to participate because about a zillion years ago in the early days of my involvement with Bond Street Theater, Swedish director Ingeman Lindh showed us a film called "The Two Banks of the River", about the adventures of the young Odin Theatre in South America. With eccentric characters, detailed choreography and open air rehearsals the European ensemble challenged cultural norms, dodged the military junta, and delighted the locals with a variety of highly physical performances.
It blew our minds. From that moment forward, the idea of traveling the world and mixing it up with international artists and audiences became the goal. Oh, and one of the coolest tools in Odin's performative arsenal? Stilts!
So thats the background. So far the best part of the trip is that I am the only passenger to command an entire four-seat row on the night flight over the Atlantic, so I should sleep relatively well. The worst part is that I am without my love and regular traveling companion Joanna, who remains behind in NYC handling the details of our upcoming Afghanistan projects. As she recently had her own personal Odin week, there was less incentive on her part for this adventure. Still, I would happily give up three of my four seats for her presence.
More to come.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Things I Learned in Guatemala

Ilanna reflects on her first trip with Bond Street Theatre to Guatemala.

When I first learned I’d be going on our project to Guatemala to work with girls at an orphanage, images flashed through my mind: pessimistic and frail children, theater as the Answer to All Their Problems, and strolling through the countryside en route to our performances. Thankfully (for the first two), I was dead wrong. The girls we met at the orphanage are strong, resilient, and optimistic. They are opinionated and determined, smart and hopeful. And they’re not looking for us to answer their problems—they were looking to us for friendship, fun, leadership training, and teambuilding. And with those as my redefined mission, I got to breathe a sigh of relief. “ohhh--my job is to try to make life richer and teach people how to be proactive, not to Provide the Answer.” And the gusto the girls showed in the following three weeks trying goofy things, helping each other, letting themselves get silly, learning dances and attempting it in homemade masks, creating both poignant and ridiculous tableaux, and then discussing everything—all this proved our work had achieved its purpose. 

Ilanna and Christina performing Se Necesita Soñyar.  
Thanks to John Kirkmire.
I think some of my favorite moments occurred mid-performance of our clown play, Se Necesita Soñar. In the show, I wanted to go to the ocean with the cricket and Christina didn’t want to go.  We led our respective sides of the audience chanting “si si si!” or “no no no!”. Each performance, right before that part, I’d look out at my half of the sea of eager eyes, and know they were with me. I’d make a hand gesture meaning “you too, this time!” and a chorus of voices would join with my chant. 

Where were the shy, unfocused children I had been warned of? These kids were anything but. Kids are kids everywhere—they latch onto a presence that gives them attention and run with it.  After some of the performances, we would take our bow and leave to the chant of “Otra! Otra!” (“More! More!”). I was afraid it would be like pulling teeth to get these kids to participate; in fact the challenge was in getting them to remain passive audience members. Some of these kids had never seen theater or been given the opportunity to be silly in a group before. I think we did this show, about a cricket following its ridiculous dream to go to the ocean, for those kids. I like to think they went home that night, where they may or may not have food to eat, running water, or literate parents, smiling and dreaming about their own desires, just a little bit more prepared to deal with the challenges of the next day. 

Squished in the back of a truck indeed!
Oh--and we didn’t leisurely stroll to these shows, as I had for some reason assumed. We happily made our way squished into tiny tuk-tuks and the backs of pick-up trucks, bumping along to bring smiles and laughter to environs alarmingly bleak but wholeheartedly deserving. 

Things I Learned in Guatemala:

1. You can never listen to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song too many times. Especially while doing a free style movement warm up!

2. The city of Antigua is beautiful, old, and colorful. It is taken over by students at Spanish schools and gringo NGO workers. Imagine “Epcot Guatemala”. But you don’t have to look far to find the other side of this facade. A 10 minute drive out of the city’s picturesque cobblestoned streets brings you to small farms that have “se vende tortillas” signs, lots of electric barbed wire, and roads in various stages of development. I’m glad that the show we’re touring will bring us out of this little paradise and into areas with more turmoil and less access to foreign checkbooks.

3. Teaching in Spanish is difficult, but gets exponentially easier everyday. We use many of the same words (body parts, theater lessons, simple commands) everyday, and now they are beginning to be second nature. It’s amazing how much I can get across by saying a few Spanish phrases and then using my body and facial expressions to convey the rest of the thought. It has also delightfully surprised me how patient the girls are with our Italian- and Creole-peppered Spanish (complete with competing accents).

Ilanna in the world's most beautiful McDonalds.
4. Antigua has been said to have the most beautiful McDonalds in the world, and this morning as I was sipping a frozen latte staring at a volcano topped in clouds peaking up behind the ruins of an old church, which was situated on the other side of a be-fountained courtyard, I couldn’t help but agree.

5. Water bottles make very good puppet cricket bodies, especially when covered with old green corduroy fabric.

6. Even though it is not my personal belief system, I cannot doubt the good that God, Jesus, and the church has done for many of the people I’ve met here. The girls at the orphanage, who’ve all been taken away from their families because of sexual abuse, get so much hope from religion. Who am I to say that’s not valid? Where do I get the authority to think “those are just stories” or “you determine you own destiny”? If that’s what people want to believe, then okay, their beliefs make it real for them. And that’s enough.