Week Five: Behind on Blogs, Recruiting More Writers

Project: Love Letters for the Elderly and Outreach for the Lion King

Actual Time Taken: 2:15

It’s only week five of 2014, and I’m already a bit behind on this blog.

At the beginning of the year, I would have suspected that the hardest part of the experiment of volunteering an hour every week would be finding the projects to volunteer for, but not so… I’m finding that the hardest part is finding the time to write about it!

This week, for example, I have two, count them TWO, volunteering opportunities, and can barely find time to hit the keys about them. Ironic.

The first project I’m continuing is the Love Letters for the Elderly project from dosomething.org, but with a larger goal. We made 35 cards last week, a paltry sum after realizing that the Meals on Wheels in Honolulu services about 500 people.

(We’re gonna need a bigger boat….)

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So I recruited the entire cast.

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We travel about 115 people in the cast and crew of the Lion King. I’m thinking that if we all just made just five cards, we could be done lickity split. But I can’t count on every electrician or singer to have an iota of artistic motivation, so I’ll beg some of my more motivated co-workers to make a few extra cards for the cause.

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Sue in the Puppets Department made her own heart-shaped stamps!! Crafty!

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Our Nala Nia Holloway gets into the charity Valentines Day spirit!

The second volunteering event was a question and answer session with a local school. Our Shenzi, (hyena in the show, Rashada Dawan) organized this outreach, and I always love doing this kind of thing. Getting out of the theater, meeting local people, getting to actually talk to them instead of dancing at them is really fun for me.

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A thank you card from an earlier outreach effort. So cute!

A few of my fellow cast members and I showed up at Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School at 2:30 on Thursday to talk to the local drama club, The T-Shirt Theater. This group seeks out the most promising talents from three local high schools and trains them in drama, dance, singing, and even backstage crafts. After receiving fragrent lei’s and welcoming hugs, we found ourselves in a large circle with 30 of these young thespians. They invited us to participate in their daily opening exercise of saying their name and something positive that happened to them that day. (Mine went something like “Hi, my name is Selena, and seeing as I was a bit lost and about 10 minutes late, the good thing that happened to me was finding this place!”)

The kids were incredibly attentive and excited to ask us questions about what it was like to live and perform on a real-life Broadway tour. They had great questions, like “When did you know you wanted to be in theater?” and “What was it like to audition?” Thankfully no one asked those awkward questions, that I have actually been asked in Q&A’s around the country, such as “How much money do you make?” and “Can you put a good word in with casting for me?”

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These kids rock!

After two hours of chatting with the group, we taught them Circle of Life, complete with lyrics (The REAL lyrics, not the “pink pajamas, penguins on the bottom” that we all sang as kids…) and choreography. We split the class into groups; one big group of prancing zebras, one group of flapping birds, one group of baby elephants, and one group of leaping gazelles. After we taught them movement and lyrics, we forced them to combine the two at the same time, just like we do every night on stage. As we all dissolved into giggles, I was thankful that such a wonderful volunteering opportunity fell into my lap, and felt good about how I spent my hour giving back this week

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Week Three: Child labor for the Elderly?

Project: Love Letters for the Elderly

Actual Time Taken: One Hour

This week, my volunteering hour is relying on child labor.

Well, sorta.

See, I found myself running out of time in my first week here in Hawaii. It’s our opening six days at the Neil Blaisdell Center in downtown Honolulu and we have nine shows to perform, counting the dress rehearsal. Not that I have anything to complain about, working in paradise and all, but the usual “first-week-in-a-city” errands and my lack of housing were eating up all of my free time this week.

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The “errands” in this city included TWO separate blessing ceremonies. *bliss*

So I scoured the interwebs on Friday for a volunteering project I could do from my computer while sitting backstage between scenes. (We have four shows between Saturday and Sunday, so essentially I spend all weekend on or off stage in the theater.)

I found some good leads, but the one that both piqued my interest and was time sensitive was the Letters of Love campaign from a website called www.dosomething.org.

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This project focuses on making Valentines Day cards for elderly people in need. The website directs you to create three or more anonymous Valentines Day cards and send them to your local Meals on Wheels location. The cards should include three facts about yourself such as what your hobbies include, (so I would say dance) what your dream job is, (my current one, dancing in the Lion King! Easy! But for anonymity’s sake, I said hosting a show on TV, another dream of mine!) and what state your from (hard for me to answer right now, since I’m on tour full time…. So I just said Florida, where I grew up).

I was planning out what I wanted my cards to say when the thought occurred to me that we have kids sitting backstage during the show that need fun things to do too, so I approached our cubs (our young Nala and Simba actors) for some help. We have two sets of cubs, and they alternate every other show. So while one set of cubs is performing, the other sits backstage during the first act just in case something happens and they need to take their counterparts place on stage.

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Nya and Jordan helping with the cause!

Since I’m busy performing the majority of the show, I dropped some craft supplies off in the kids’ dressing room at the top of the show on Saturday and joined them during our 15-minute intermissions to make cards. During the rest of the show, while I was changing in and out of costumes, they continued to happily craft away without me.

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Nate and Zyasia helped out in costume too!

By Sunday night, the kids were so into it that one of them had created a chart to document how many they had made. They had a lofty goal of 165, and although they were determined, we topped out at 35 and called it a weekend. They were so excited by the project, however, that they were disappointed when I said I had to send them in this week to make sure that the program received them in time to distribute them all. However, to me, this simply means that I have their interest for other projects, like sending letters to service men, or doing my laundry. 

Ooook, maybe not my laundry….

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Success!