Dispatches from Winter Sort of Thing: Producer’s note

                                                           Rehearsal fun!

Editor’s note: This post was written to appear in the upcoming 10th Anniversary Winter Sort of Thing playbill. We hope to see you there! You can get tickets at this link: wsot10years.eventbrite.com

A lot has changed in the last 10 years.

A lot has changed in the last 2 months.

In the world and for each of us up on this stage and working behind it.

But one thing has not changed for the Winter Sort of Thing tribe. We always set a goal that is impossible and then we go for it. If you don’t like to practice, to do it again and again, to pay attention to the small details, to be uncomfortable, sweaty, discouraged but determined, if you don’t have ambition for that impossible thing, this is not the tribe for you.

In the midst we share the weight. We care about and for each other.  We let things that don’t serve our goals go. And then we keep pushing, refining and revealing. I promise you that watching someone with perfect pitch phone it in is not as interesting, compelling, or heart warming as when the kid who is working as hard as they can and from time to time goes sharp or flat.

Our excellence is diverse and defined by commitment to our craft.

Our excellence is defined by our community.

Our excellence is determined by our collaboration; the grace, honesty and faithfulness we bring to our tribe.  And the ability to value those who are different, because everyone is.

What you will witness here is the manifestation of that commitment, community and collaboration.  That took two months and it took ten years.

I hope our good stories will bring you back over the next ten.


The most wonderful time of the year

I am not much for Valentine’s Day, as my partner Michelle or any of my exes will tell you for sure. I’m not exactly sure why. I love Love. I even enjoy a sappy movie, or love story, or song. However, “the day” itself seems a bit overwrought, like some evil genius plot to keep us from showing our love for each other the rest of the year, or sell more chocolate.

This is not a post about Valentine’s Day. In fact, I’ve said too much about it already. This is a post about my favorite time of year. The annual winter pledge drive for our local National Public Radio station: WHYY. Right here, in the deepest, darkest, most unforgiving weather of the year, we interrupt our regular programming to be forced to listen to our normally newsy talking heads wax eloquent about their employer.

There’s a hint of tongue in cheek here, but in all seriousness, I do like the annual (or more semi-annual these days) pledge drive. For one thing, I love hearing how people “sell” their service. It must be a weird thing, to have to come directly to consumers and ask for their support; to find a way to fill 3-5 minutes out of every 20 or so, letting us know why the thing they do is worth my money. They also have to keep people (even people like me who enjoy it) from turning the station to any number of choices we have up and down the dial.

So, I bite. I listen in to hear what they are going to say. I laugh when they get tied up in the back and forth with their on-air partners. It jars me when they leave a particularly moving or wildly interesting story to just up and ask me for money. But, here’s the truth: I take notes. I stay in the parking lot and I listen to what they are saying, to all of the background noises that indicate when someone has made a significant pledge or pledged on-line. I try to figure out if people are giving because of what they are hearing in the shows, or if there is something in the host’s plea that drives them, or maybe it’s the thank-you gifts (seriously, WHYY is giving away a chance at Hamilton tickets and that is sure to drive up interest.)

It has become my job to ask people for money and I would love a radio platform to do so! I said earlier that this would not be a post about Valentine’s Day and it isn’t, but it is about Love. That’s the secret I’ve learned by listening to the Pledge Drive. Every host drives home the reasons for giving, but the best hosts remind you about why you love to listen. When I share about Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, I try to echo their method: give because you love the work we do and the impact we are making on kid’s lives. Love should drive you to support us because the work we are doing is grounded in that same love.

This year we are celebrating 10 years of one of our most beloved programs: the Winter Sort of Thing. It was the brainchild of many of our founders and our mentor, Mark Hallen. After Mark passed away a few years ago, we decided to make sure that, in his memory, this program would continue. How about you join us? Give a gift today in honor of love. Give a gift to make sure that we can continue to be a presence of love in these kids’ lives.

Come and see our 10th Anniversary Celebration of Winter Sort of Thing (tickets here). See the outpouring of Love that takes place on the stage – the fruits of the seeds of love that we have been planting for many many years. Consider this invitation my Valentine to you!

Dispatches from Winter Sort of Thing: Guest Blog post from Dave Manzo

Editor’s Note: Dave Manzo has been a part of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts since our second summer doing Theatre Camp. He’s been involved in Winter Sort of Thing also from the beginning behind the scenes: filming the shows, being a dad so Sarah can write the music, taking promo pictures, and more. This year he’s in one of the scenes for our 10th Anniversary! I asked him to write a guest blog post about his experiences.

WSOT has a special place in my heart for many reasons.  Many many moons ago I was a camp traveler with one of Yes! And… camp first Summer Theatre programs.  At the time I was going to Eastern College and was a “super famous” actor on campus so Mark Hallen asked me if I wanted to have a starring role in the summer camp show.  Well, I jumped at the opportunity and didn’t look back. The “Roughin Joda’s” our tribe was called. Jonica (Fassett) Kinney and I rallied and raged the stage with a great bunch of kids that summer. I still have wonderful memories from that experience.

Dave shot this video from our show “Down With the Crown” a few years back. Now, he’s in the scene!

Since then I’ve married one of the Co-Founders, Sarah Butts who also composes a lot of the music for the WSOT shows. When I was 25 I retired from stage acting but I’ve always wanted to be a part of the WSOT shows. I could never do it because of the time commitment and my work schedule but when I heard they were doing a medley of the past 10 years of WSOT shows I had to do it.  So I slipped Brooke $100 and she landed me a starring role in the show. I’m Murray in the Dragon Scene, it’s going to be amazing.  

I’m so proud of this group of people that have committed themselves to building this company into what it is today.  They are all friends of mine so seeing this organisation do so much good for some many people over the years is a really cool thing.  It’s a big, big honor to be a part of this year’s musical production with the Yes! And… family. I’m super excited to be on stage singing some of my wife’s songs in front of an audience of people. I’ve always been immensely proud of her behind the scenes and now I get to be a part of the show!