Last week was all about the kids. My schedule originally called for spending time outdoors, but the mercurial nature of spring in the Catskills had different plans, and with the onset of a late April …
Last week was all about the kids. My schedule originally called for spending time outdoors, but the mercurial nature of spring in the Catskills had different plans, and with the onset of a late April snow, I switched gears and headed for the Tusten Theater in Narrowsburg, NY. The Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, (DVAA) in association with the Tusten Youth Commission, had invited the Arm-of-the-Sea Puppet Theater Company to present “The Rejuvenary River Circus,” a play for children about the Delaware River watershed, (www.delriverwatershed.org) and the delicate interaction between humans, plants and animals and how the planet’s ecosystem works.
Described in the program as “part fairy tale and part live cartoon,” the “circus” is comprised of a small cast of actors performing multiple roles, utilizing masks to interpret a wide range of characters. It was all backed by the storyteller, the amazing Eli Winograd, who serves as narrator and one-man-band, creating sound effects and playing percussion, keyboards and even a trombone, all the while voicing the characters live on stage. The performers/puppeteers, Patrick Wadden, Kira Decoudreas and Soyalk Smalls, wore masks of water creatures, crows and beavers (just to name a few) and played large puppet characters “that seem to sing and dance.” The story revolves around “how the sea and the mountain became friends,” and the kids in the audience were rapt with attention as they learned about why the waterways of our planet must work in harmony, and how we can all protect the rivers, streams and oceans of the world. Given an opportunity to see the puppets and performers after the show rounded out a fantastic (IMHO) afternoon for the kids, who learned about headwaters, floodplains and estuaries, while being thoroughly entertained (www.armofthesea.org) in the process.
With kids and their futures in mind, I threw a tie-dyed sweatshirt on the dog (don’t judge!) and chauffeured her to The Sullivan in Rock Hill, NY, where an “Audition for Murder” was slated to take place during brunch with the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) fundraiser. Billed as “a groovy who-dun-it to benefit the Club Kids of Sullivan County,” the murder-mystery floor show (www.mysterymanhattan.com) had costumed performers mingling with the crowd before, during and after the main event. The event honored this year’s Maureen and Steve Plain Hall-of-Fame inductee Jerry Skoda, for his “outstanding service to the clubs and community.”
The club’s mission to “enable all young people to reach their full potential as caring responsible citizens” echoed the lessons taught by puppets the previous day, and the Hall of Fame’s first honoree, Elizabeth “Biz” Rowley introduced Skoda with some heartfelt words. “Jerry and Rosemary’s dedication throughout Sullivan County starts with their 300-acre farm and two-acre vegetable garden in Woodbourne,” she said. “Their ‘Giving Garden’ distributes to Boys and Girls Clubs, St. Andrews Church Food Pantry, the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless and the United Way. During harvest,” Rowley shared, “Jerry regularly shows up at the Club with a truck full of fresh vegetables, which are then used in programs to help educate our youth about healthy eating. It is estimated that over 2,500 pounds of fresh produce comes from Jerry and Rosemary’s farm each year. [That’s what we call Farm to Table!”]
Following a standing ovation and thunderous applause, Skoda shared his thoughts with the crowd. “Why do I do it?” he asked. “It’s easy to give money, but we give vegetables. I think eating healthy is one of the keys to solving Sullivan County’s [poor] health ratings. In the beginning,” he explained, BGC Program Director “Barbi Neumann Marty would say ‘Don’t send that! The kids won’t eat it!’ But now,” he said with a smile, “she says ‘send it and the kids will research recipes that make it enjoyable.’”
“We bring zucchini” he continued, “Yes, the kids love zucchini pizza… and cukes, broccoli and, as the season progresses, beans, cabbage and snow peas. While the main crop is tomatoes and sweet corn, later we have squash, peppers and potatoes. Toward the end of season, we even send pumpkins for decoration. We all know that obesity and diabetes are caused by choice of diet. That’s why we don’t send rhubarb—must add sugar to eat it.” In conclusion, Skoda cited one of the Boys and Girls Club mottos: “If you want to institute change, start with the kids.”
As it turns out, I checked off two of the three P’s (puppet shows, plays and parades) that make up my normal rounds, so undoubtedly it won’t be long before I take photos of kids marching down Main Street in your hometown.