Dispatches from Winter Sort of Thing: 10 Year Anniversary Celebration

From our Stage Manager par excellence, Krista Thorp:

As long as I can remember, the first snow of the winter has aligned with the beginning of rehearsals for the sacred ritual of The Winter Musical. The smell of the air getting cold for the first time takes me back to the first sing-through of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classics that I worked on in high school and the subsequent internships I had in college with kids starting their own winter traditions.

And now, I am lucky enough to be at the Germantown Mennonite Church, otherwise known as the headquarters of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts and the rehearsal space for our tradition, Winter Sort of Thing. Rehearsals have begun and the nostalgia that everyone has here, as we revitalize and revisit the favorite songs from the past ten years, is contagious, and I can tell all the kids are feeling it too. So far that magical winter-sort-of-thing energy has gotten us through a few weeks of rehearsals: weeks of choreography for dancers and non dancers, blocking for seasoned actors and first timers, singing songs that are familiar to some and new to others, making new friends and reuniting with old.

Challenges have already begun to present themselves, but before we get into the long hours of building props and rehearsing scene changes, I’ve used this week to take in the warmth of our home in Germantown and the far-reaching Winter Sort of Thing family that I’m so lucky to be a part of.

Remembering 10 Years

Memory is a funny thing. We have started working on our 10th anniversary of our Winter Sort of Thing production and it is something special indeed. As I shared with a friend this weekend, 10 years is really a lot of time to be doing anything. This is probably both true (by the time you’ve been driving for 10 years, it becomes muscle memory more than not) and not true (my youngest child is just 10 years old and sometimes I feel like he just arrived.) So here we are celebrating songs, dances, characters, and stories that 10 years ago didn’t even exist. In addition to that, by the time we were gearing up for our first ever Winter Sort of Thing, we had already been producing shows for our Summer Theatre Camp since 1998, almost 10 years before that. A true legacy to be sure.

In order to put how long we’ve been doing WSOT into perspective, here’s a few things that are also about 10 years old. Winter Sort of  Thing turns 10 at the same time that Rhianna’s Umbrella, Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend, and the often-sung-around-Yes-And-maybe-ironically-maybe-not Apologize by Timbaland. Movies such as Wall-E, Kung-Fu Panda, and the now-iconic first Iron Man all were popular. (Less popular was the final, strained installment of the Indiana Jones franchise which begot the phrase, “nuked the fridge” for us all.) Later in that year, the Phillies would win the World Series (!) and we would elect Barack Obama as the president of the USA. You know what else was recently popular when we were in rehearsals for our first WSOT show? The brand-new iPhone and Kindle reading device.

Also recently discovered at that time was the acting chops of some of our first campers that we would recruit to join us on stage. Some, like Rolanyi and China, were grizzled veterans of the summer camps we had been running. Some, like Shoshi and MeiMei, were brand new to us. Our cast included summer staff favorites Julia, Scott, Meredith, Anna, Chris, and Zach. Above all the music and story by our very own Brooke and Sarah was a delight, not to mention that we were just seeing if we could pull something of this size and scope off. With the help of Mark Hallen, our biggest cheerleader and the one who would keep kicking us in the pants to make sure we kept working hard, we did succeed.

For the past 10 years, we have continually been pulling off this fantastic feat. Every year comes new challenges and new opportunities. This year, we are finding, is no different. However, we are excited about our process and we are excited about sharing (and celebrating) this 10 year feat with all of you!

How about you? Do you have a Winter Sort of Thing memory you can share? Please do so in the comments below!

Dispatches from After School Group

Welcome to your virtual tour of a typical week at After School Group! Here is a little glimpse into our world, we hope you enjoy.

           After School Group kids working on a fun STEAM experiment

Mondays are our writing days. We try and explore a new genre of writing every week, and our group has really improved their peer editing skills. We always like to come together as a group after our editing time and read our work to one another.

Tuesdays are when our improv studio class happens. Since it is a studio class, there are other students that come in and get to learn with us. This class has been a lot of fun, and we recently had a little improv show for our final class of the semester.

Wednesdays are when some serious crafting happens. If we happen to be throwing a party, which is one of our favorite things to do, this is usually when a lot of our decorations get made. The theme for this month is light and dark, so we have been working on shadow puppets that are coming along quite nicely.

Thursdays are our STEM/STEAM days. The projects vary from week to week, but some of our favorites have been, bridge building, raincloud simulators, homemade bouncy balls and crystal making. The kids always want to try out different formulas to see how that will make the end product different. The results are usually quite interesting!

Fridays are our favorite days for many reasons, but mostly for Foodie Friday! Every week we make a different snack, but we try to vary our sweet and savory treats from week to week. Our chefs have made quite a few different things, but a few of our favorites have been homemade pizza(dough and all), macaroni and cheese from scratch, banana bread and latkes!

We hope that you enjoyed your virtual tour. Please wipe up any drool that may have occurred while thinking about our yummy Foodie Friday treats.

(From Heather McBride, After School Group Director)


What are your words?

During 2016, our board realized we needed to do some major updating of our Strategic Plan.* This was mostly due to our rapid growth and development as a company, and here in this neighborhood. One of the ways that we build our Strategic Plan is to reach out to our community: parents, community partners, staff members, our major and regular donors, and people with whom we want to connect further. Inthat survey, we asked for 3 words that people use to best describe who we are and what we do.

Have you ever asked over 100 people to describe you in 3 words? Maybe you are crafting that very question to ask your Facebook friends or Twitter followers as we speak. You can imagine how vulnerable and humbling this process can be. Well, when we asked people, we were so blown away by their responses, we decided to create a word cloud! (You can create one too, we just used a free option on-line.)

A word cloud, for those who aren’t initiated, is a way to see visually what words are used more frequently than others. When I put in all of the responses from our survey, every word is featured in that graphic. The larger the word, the more times it was used.

Check out our results and you can see why we were so overwhelmed.

Check out our bigger words. Of course we do theatre and make art with kids. We put on shows and we run summer camps. The biggest words however, are “Fun” andCommunity” and “Tribe.” We had a lot of responses like “Love” and “Welcoming” and “Inclusive” and “Diverse.” You even get unique answers like, “Phenomenal Togetherness.” We are so proud that we are living and operating in such a way that allows these truths to be evident through our actions.

So? What are your words? How would you describe the work we do here? And, even more dangerously, what do you think people would say if they were to describe you in 3 words?

* If your ears pricked up at the sound of “Strategic Plan” – then maybe a stint as a board member of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts is right for you! Click here to learn more and contact someone about joining us!

Happy You You!


My dear old friend Jamie has this cute family story where, before he was old enough to know better, he ran around on New Year’s Eve shouting “HAPPY YOU YOU!” You just can’t correct something that cute and disarming. So, it became legend, enough that when he and I became friends and celebrated New Year’s Eve together in our early 20s, we also ran around and shouted, “Happy you you!”

Here at Yes! And… Collaborative Arts we have plenty of stories just like that where a misspoken word or phrase becomes part of our lexicon. A misheard lyric is sung over and over until it becomes canon. We even have a phrase for this: we call it “Yes And Speak” and knowing it means you’ve spent a lot of time around us. We are happy to introduce new people into our Tribe here at YACA, but it might require you to learn another language!

Our tribe begins work on Winter Sort of Thing this week. This year is special as we celebrate 10 years of this top-notch production, the annual crown jewel in our programming. We hope that you’ll join us this year at our show (Save the date: March 2-5) but we also hope that you will continue to find ways to connect deeper with us here. Follow us on Facebook (and even more so: share a link we post, “like” a picture, you know, be social!) Your social shares become the way we reach more people with the good  work we do here. In the spirit of this week, make it a resolution! We hope to see you more and more in this New Year!

To you and yours: HAPPY YOU YOU!