Thursday, December 15, 2011

Writing for the Arts Students Help "Bunnicula" Support Community

On the Process of Writing this Story: I chose to cover this event as my news print story for my Multi-Platform Storytelling class. I thought it was really interesting how King's students were able to provide much needed services while also learning a lot about what professional writers do for the arts. I had the opportunity to attend the performance and speak with students there but also the director of the performance. I believe the most important aspect in writing this story was to feature all the different components from the inner workings of the class to their involvement with the show.

Arts YOUniverse’s production of “Bunnicula,” a children’s play based on a book series about a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables, took the stage to benefit the West Pittston Library over the weekend, but not without the help of students in the Writing for the Arts class here at King’s.

Dr. Noreen O’Connor, English professor, received a Shoval Grant to develop the Writing for the Arts course, which helped her provide students with the opportunity to partner with Kathleen Godwin, director of Arts YOUniverse, an organization dedicated to providing the community with inexpensive art programming.
Early in the semester, students in O’Connor’s class met with Godwin to brainstorm performance dates, ticket cost and the play’s program, which they wrote and published.

“One of the biggest things I took away from this class was the pacing of business writing; you sort of figure out what you need as you need it, and then figure out how to do it and make it work,” Kevin Conroy, junior from Canadensis in the Poconos, said.

Students also met with John Maday, membership services coordinator of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, to discuss how to advertise for the play, including language for advertising letters, ad formats and sizes, and incentives to offer advertisers.

Maday also previewed the student’s fundraising letters and gave recommendations for improvement.

Sarah Scinto, junior professional writing major, wrote the “ask” letter that became the basis for the letter sent out to potential advertisers, which raised over $500 in support of the play.

“We really learned by doing in this class. You can talk and talk about writing and its practical uses, but I don't think you learn much just by talking. You have to use what you learn in a tangible way, and this class lets us do that,” Scinto said.

James Donnelly, senior, created the design for the “Bunnicula” advertising poster, which his classmates distributed to local libraries, schools, businesses and other places in the community for children and their parents to see them.

Scinto also worked with Sue Henry, WRKC general manager, to develop a 30-second radio PSA (public service announcement) that ran not only on WRKC but other commercial radio stations such as WILK, “The Mountain,” “Froggy,” and KRZ.

O’Connor’s class also elected to set up a promotional web blog for the production, including written updates by the students about the show. Their entries can be found here:

“It allowed the audience, potential advertisers, and even the cast members’ families to get a glimpse behind the scenes and understand what we were doing,” Scinto said.

At the weekend performances, the Campion Society, King’s writing club, joined O’Connor’s class by setting up a refreshment stand, which raised more than $100 at Sunday’s performance alone.

When O’Connor’s class began their project in the fall, they didn’t expect the damaging impact of hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee on the local community. In light of the carnage left behind, the class decided to donate some of the proceeds towards the children’s section of the West Pittston Library, which suffered a lot of damage.

Their efforts also positively influenced the lives of the teenagers and children who learned new things from performing in the play.

“Yeah, it was a new experience (singing and dancing). Teamwork is definitely key from everyone getting in costume, getting people on and off stage,” Kevin Lazarowicz, who played Robert Monroe, said during a questions and answers session following the Sunday performance.

Angel Berlane, director of “Bunnicula,” believes the arts are important for children, especially at a time when people are taking the arts out of schools.

“I think the biggest gift you could give somebody is your time. Giving them (the children) that time is really important for me as the instructor so that they can go out and have that focus, have that energy and have that drive because they’re applying it on stage, then they’ll apply it in real life,” Berlane said.

Berlane is grateful for all of the work that King’s did on the production, referring to the play program as “one of the most beautiful” she has seen in the area.

“I think we all learned valuable lessons on how to write and work for professional companies which will give us a great advantage when starting jobs post-college,” Donnelly said. “It was not an easy task to accomplish but after seeing how well the production went; we can definitely be proud of the hard work we all did.”

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