Monthly Archives: July 2012

We Made Some Movies

Children who pollute the world with their innocence–
Eternally damned offspring of Oedipus, who, as the sun whispered tans on their faces,
Made them clueless with irridescent days, making their youth stop bringing truth to their doom.
Twas America’s rich and money-filthy mansions, swept in gold tooth smiles,
Be costing more than what lies above Olympus…

The word “films” sounds snobby and elitist, but I think “movies” is too casual to fully capture the gut wrenching amount of work that went into these three productions. Our students–along with intrepid director Tom Mallan, of the Educational Theater Company–labored from November through April, three days a week, nearly every week, to bring these scripts to life.

It’s no small feat to construct a continuous story from the exuberant efforts of forty Hart students. Our kids often lead transient lives–they might attend our program faithfully for a month, then stop coming; they might switch schools or move. They most definitely will get haircuts. The movies are a mosaic, and, if you look closely, you’ll see the signs of the life in flux that generates so much creativity.

The scripts come from Writing Clubs of years past, going all the way back to 2001, when the class sat down to adapt Antigone to a modern day Congress Heights setting. Some of the original script writers of that play are now high school graduates, who returned to help us out with our production this year. They got to hear their own lines, from the mouths of students a generation younger, being captured on camera for the first time. There’s a lot of history tightly woven into Writing Club, even as we welcome in the new.

In Antigone 2K1, the civil war that erupted after Oedipus’ death has left his two sons dead. Their uncle, Creon, has seized power and declared one brother a hero, while condemning the other brother as a traitor and forbidding his body from being buried. Creon’s niece Antigone defies him, repeatedly sneaking out to the battle field to sprinkle dust over her brother’s body. She is arrested and, along with her sister Ismene, confronts her uncle.

James Tindle, who plays Creon here, was in middle school when the original script was written and is now one of our Young Writers in Residence. Yukayla, who plays Antigone, is in sixth grade and had never acted before.

Alcestis Revisited: Red Hot Death was performed as a play in 2007. King Admetos has the opportunity to prevent his own death, but only if someone willingly dies in his place. He can’t find anyone in the kingdom willing to die for him, until finally his loving wife, Queen Alcestis, agrees to go with Hades. In this crucial scene, the residents of Southeast mourn as their queen slips away, and Admetos finds that along with the joy of keeping his own life comes the pain of losing his love.

Our final, and longest, film is not an excerpt but the entirety of Persians 2K6: Tragedy in the Hood. Here the bloodshed of Aeschylus’ war drama (written in 441 BCE) is adapted as gang warfare in Southeast. Queen Atossa and a chorus of citizens gather at the late King Darius’ memorial to try and make sense of the death and loss that surrounds them. Xerxes, Atossa’s son and the new king, returns in shame, having led his men into a massacre from which he emerged the only survivor.

These are ancient explorations of death, violence, and the power of family bonds, but they gain new meaning when transposed into the struggles of life in a modern inner city. Most of our students know first hand what it means to lose a family member, to be surrounded every day with the threat of violence. The old stories provide a place where they can find echoes of their own lives, reflections of people they know. Filmmaking allows them to turn their experiences into something that can be not only controlled, but celebrated. Thanks for watching.

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Fall Internships with DCCWW!

We are currently seeking interns for the fall of 2012!

Are you interested in arts education, creative writing, the DC public school system, and/or nonprofit management? Join the DC Creative Writing Workshop for a fall internship! We are a literary arts nonprofit working with at-risk youth in the Congress Heights neighborhood of D.C. We conduct in-class poetry workshops and run an after-school creative writing program based in Hart Middle School.

As an intern, you have the opportunity to:
– work with a Writer-in-Residence in their in-class workshop
– assist in our after-school program and lead poetry lessons
– form relationships with our exuberant and hilarious students
– expand your understanding of the communities of Southeast DC

Requirements:

– Must be available at least one day between Monday and Wednesday, 3:00 – 6:00pm, to assist in after-school writing program. In-class residencies are conducted during the school day, Mon-Weds, and can be coordinated on an individual basis.
– Must be able to devote at least 4 hrs/week to administrative/internship-specific tasks. Total time commitment is probably 10 hrs/week, but is flexible.
– Reasonable understanding of poetry terminology and techniques
– Lots of patience, sense of humor, willingness to work with kids with behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

Positions:

Classroom intern – You’ll assist our staff in maintaining our library of over 2,000 books (often the only source of books for our students), creating educational displays, decorations and murals in our classroom. Sense of aesthetics and creativity is a must!

Outreach intern – You’ll assist in building our relationships with local businesses and other organizations. You’ll gain experience in the world of small nonprofits as you help organize fundraising events, seek donations, and expand our social media presence. We need someone excited about interacting with the DC community.

Organizational intern – You’ll conduct surveys with our students and maintain the information we need to illustrate the impact of our work. Need to have a strong commitment to the importance of the arts, and an interest in how to present data to capture that importance.

All interns will have the opportunity to work with students. Positions can be altered to accommodate your specific interests/skills. Internships are unpaid, college credit can be arranged.

Please see our website www.dccww.org for more info about the organization.

If interested contact our program manager, Abbey Chung at achung@dccww.org. Please include a few paragraphs on why you’re interested/past experience, resume, and a brief writing sample.

Summer poems and goodbyes

The kids are gone for the summer, but the Workshop staff is still working hard at portfolio evaluations and gearing up for next fall. All the office work makes us miss the kids! Going through student work from the spring, I found this poem that a student wrote on the last day of Writing Club.

We were celebrating the end of the year, but she was upset that we weren’t writing and asked me if she could write a poem on her own. This is a student who spent a lot of the year pushing back against authority. She’s stubborn and loud and uses all her smarts to provoke confrontation. She likes conflict and is uncomfortable with positive attention; praising her effusively always led to her acting out.

Teenagers are so hard to read sometimes. They pour most of their energy into convincing everyone that they don’t care. I get taken in by that sometimes, and then they go and write the most surprisingly heartfelt poems, and I have to reprimand myself for being surprised. It’s one of the things that makes poetry so valuable–providing a space where emotion doesn’t have to be resisted. This student is headed to Ballou next year, and Writing Club will be a shade less lively in her absence. I won’t say too many nice things about her because I know that would make her uncomfortable, but we’ll miss her straight-up no-nonsense delivery, and the nuanced imagery that she always tried to sneak in like it was no big deal. Here’s her poem:

It All Over

It’s the end of time
no more parties, games or fun
It’s time to say bye
to all my lost dreams and
unspoken words
Time passed me by
like the wind that flew
past my face
If that’s the case
it’s all over
No more thinking
outside the box
or sitting inside
eating cool pop tarts
Time to fly
let the wind pass by
It won’t get no colder
cause it all over

Students speak!

Okay, actually, they speak all the time. It’s a much bigger challenge to get them to quiet down. However, we did manage to get them especially quiet for one afternoon in June, when they filled out end-of-the-year surveys. Here are some of their responses…

Poetry is…

I think it emotions

an intricate form of expression, an in-depth description of something/someone/a concept

one’s feelings, soul, their very being put into words

a way to let go of stress, talk about yourself in a secret way

something that comes from your heart

about expressing your life and feeling and showing your talents

fun to write

poetry is your inspiration on what you think about with rhythm and rap in it

a way to transcend how you feel you are able, speak your mind and make something wonderful

good and awesome because it is fun

a reflection of one’s inner being

a creative outlet of pent up emotions, a stress reliever, a hobby, a dream for some people

it was cool and I had my good and bad days

feelings

written or spoken words that come from the heart

Do you think Writing Club is important?

Yes, to help people with lower self-esteem.

It creates a safe but open community for kids to come express, learn, and grow.

Writing Club is important because it helps kids be themselves and not something people say they are.

it is important because it helps me understand poetry more

it involves school english I learned new words and brung it into english class

yes because it calms people down.

Yes. Because you get to know something.

Yes it is important because it embraces your choice of words and before in english class I never talked so much more proper. I really improved and my teacher even said to me I now have high grammar.

yes because it helps kids put their feelings out there make new friends and keeps them out the street

yes because you can become a famous writer

yes. Writing club is a creative avenue to self–the true and authentic sense of self

yes because not only does it keep us occupied but it gives us a chance to meet other people

Writing club is important for all of us. It’s a safe community of artists pushing and motivating each other to grow

Yes because it’s like a place I can call home