If you haven’t been here since the world turned upside-down in March, we have a lot to catch you up on! Since reopening Upstart Crow for summer in June, we have:
Offered 13 weeks of safe, socially-distanced, on-site summer camps
Hosted 7 free online theatre workshops
Produced 5 online theatre productions
Taught 3 one-month online classes
Held 2 one-week online theatre camps
DIVING IN THE DEEP END
Our staff, teachers, and camp counselors dove head-first into unknown territory this summer! We became experts on the Oregon Health Authority’s Statewide Reopening Guidance – School Aged Summertime Day Camps. We learned new skills for directing online Zoomsicals, editing video for recorded performances, teaching online private vocal lessons, facilitating Zoom theatre workshops for beginners, and hosting theatre performance webinars for audiences that spanned the country.
It’s been a time of incredible growth and change for Upstart Crow. We’re no longer newbies in small, safe, socially-distanced, in-person events on site. We’ve filled our theatre toolbox with several new tools for online instruction. And we’ve learned how to pivot quickly to meet the demands of students and families with very different needs and circumstances.
We want to take a moment to speak to you frankly about the 2020-21 season. We know students want nothing more than to return to the building and make theatre together in-person in the Crow’s Nest. We fully appreciate that Zoom Theatre is VERY different from performing in person with a live audience.
Bringing a full complement of hourly classes and rehearsals on-site, as we’ve learned from schools, is complicated, costly, and at this point, still risky. To bring multiple groups on-site daily (as with hourly class and rehearsals) we would need to clean and sanitize between each group, provide health screenings, restrict traffic flow for each group entering and exiting the building, all while maintaining social-distance for students, staff, and families.
Our decision for the 2020-21 season, based on this new reality, is to offer limited on-site programming and special events, while the majority of our program moves to an online format.
Upstart Crow Studios (on site) 2020-21
Matinee is our new on-site, educational support program for students in grades 3-8. Matinee offers a small, stable group of on-site educational support for their online school coursework in the morning and a variety of theatre activities in the afternoon. Each session of Matinee has a very limited, stable, weekly cohort that attends, limiting the number of new people in the building.
Performance Troupes Special Events for Stage Door, Overture, and our new performance troupe, Prelude, will host monthly on-site special events. Many of these activities will take place outside in the parking lot. When the weather is no longer hospitable, we can either move indoors and spread out over our 4,000 square foot building or host the activity online.
Crows Online 2020-21
We are taking a conservative approach to our 2020-21 season by moving our entire theatre program online. Our full complement of theatre classes, performance troupes, and theatre productions for students ages 2-18!
NORMAL IS STILL A WAYS OFF
Throughout the season we will reassess our ability to bring limited classes back on site based on Oregon Health Authority guidance and influenced by local school district decisions. To be clear, we do NOT anticipate bringing a full schedule of classes and rehearsals or live audiences back on site during 2020-21.
RECOMMITTING TO EACH OTHER
Now, more than ever, we need the support of our core Crow families. Our staff is committed to continuing to provide your students a high-quality, accessible, theatre education. We’ll continue to build their theatre skills, provide mentoring, and facilitate their personal development.
We’re asking Crow families to throw their wholehearted support behind our 2020-21 Covid strategy. It’s imperative to our success that our core families not only accept but embrace our programming decisions. With your support, Upstart Crow will not only survive these unprecedented times but actually thrive during a global health pandemic.
BRINGING BACK JOY
More than anything this season, whether in small, personal moments or in anxiously anticipated special events, we want to create joy. Never have we felt more compelled to find ways to “sit together” and hold space for our students. We’re here for theatre All. Day. Long. We’re also here to give students the time and support they need to re-awaken their creative minds - many of which went into survival-mode when quarantined for months this spring.
Students experience joy when they gather online and connect with their peers, when they feel safe in rehearsals and take healthy risks, getting outside their comfort zones. And we’ll share this joy with others when we perform safely for our community.
If your family decides to take this ride with us and join us for and online acting class, musical theatre production, or online performance this season, we ask you to commit enthusiastically.
Youth in our community are hearing all the negative conversations around their educational options this school year. When it comes to making theatre at Upstart Crow, make it a habit to focus on how fortunate we are in continuing to pursue our passion in very difficult times. The staff and students who jumped into online programming this summer made many discoveries, found new opportunities, and encountered numerous silver linings together. We invite you to join us!
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to this program! WE WOULD NOT BE HERE WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF OUR CROW FAMILIES.
Heidi Knight Meigs
A dozen youth performers from Upstart Crow Children’s Theatre, a local all-youth performing arts company, are proud to premiere their very first online “Zoomsical,” The Show Must Go Online! This 40-minute online musical is presented through special arrangement with Beat by Beat Press (www.bbbpress.com). The authors of The Show Must Go Online! created this musical in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as a way for actors to work together as an ensemble in Zoom rehearsals to put on a show, while staying safe in their own homes.
Ticketing: Viewing our debut online musical theatre production is FREE but we are accepting donations to help sustain our program during this difficult time for the performing arts. Donate: HERE or on the Upstart Crow Facebook page.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the social value of art has never mattered more. As schools close, physical distancing requirements are enforced, and longstanding arts organizations shut their doors, families need access to enrichment opportunities that are safe, affordable, and accessible. Most importantly, in the creative work they undertake with others, youth are practicing hope; through the arts, they are actively combatting feelings of isolation, helplessness, and disconnection.
Upstart Crow Studios is committed to providing access to performing arts programming so that children in our community can continue to play, learn, and develop vital skills that we know dramatically improve the quality of their lives. By ensuring all youth can access and benefit from high quality performing arts experiences and by supporting young people as they uncover their potential and cultivate a deeply-held passion for the arts, Upstart Crow continues to fulfill a vital need in our community.
We need community support more than ever before from people who value youth programming that builds confidence and leadership in settings that encourage differences, accepts everyone and promotes diversity.
Your gift in this time of unprecedented crisis in the arts helps us maintain critical programming and scholarship opportunities as well as cover our ongoing overhead until we are once again, able to return to the stage. For now, The Show Must Go... Online!
THE SHOW MUST GO ONLINE! A Virtual Children’s Musical
Book by Jessica Penzias
Lyrics by Dave Hudson
Music by Denver Casado
Directed by Emily Garrett
Vocal Direction by Jill Switzer
Stage Manager Anastasia Newell
Video editing by Heidi Knight Meigs
Michelle Obama - "Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own."
Well meaning. Color blind.
In this time of cultural crisis these phrases ring hollow, yet they’re words I’ve used to describe myself and my work at Upstart Crow for years.
Today, well-meaning is not enough. Honestly, it has never been enough. Identifying myself or this organization as well meaning means I’m committed to keeping the blinders on. Well meaning means I’m more invested in defending the status quo than I am in dismantling racist thinking and systems. Systemic racism is not a theoretical conversation to our black students, families, and community members. It is, as Michelle Obama described, a daily reality that black youth learn to "just deal with." This is unacceptable.
One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, talks about the difference between being a knower and being a learner. Being a knower is about “being right.” Being a learner is about “getting it right.”
Brown says, “having to be the “knower” or always being right is heavy armor. It’s defensiveness, it’s posturing, and, worst of all, it’s a huge driver of bullshit. It’s also very common—most of us have some degree of knower in us. Unfortunately, needing to know everything is pretty miserable for the knowers and everyone around them. It leads to distrust, bad decisions, and unnecessary, unproductive conflict.”
I’m coming to realize that the mission of Upstart Crow, up to this point, has been more about knowing and being right and congratulating ourselves on the effectiveness of our mission than it has been about getting it right by actively asking for feedback from the community we serve. Again, we are "well-meaning" but unwilling to take off the blinders and ask for feedback with an open heart and mind.
I’m ready to commit to being a “learner” and facilitating a culture of “getting it right” at Upstart Crow. I don’t want to make the mistake, going forward, of assuming that we “know” our policies, our mission, and programming are actually upholding our goals of accessibility and inclusion.
Going forward, we will hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard. We are working to further educate our staff and teachers. We can facilitate direct conversation about racism with children. We can create opportunities for anti-racist role-playing in our programming
I welcome and encourage you to hold us to a higher standard as well.
We are ready to listen. I’m extending an invitation to open communication. I would like to hear from our community - those we have served as well as those who can identify barriers to participating. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com. If you’d like to have a conversation, I welcome your phone call. In the near future I’d love to sit down for a cup of socially distanced coffee together.
We stand with our black families and students. Black Lives Matter.
Heidi Knight Meigs
Dear Crow families and patrons,
First and foremost, we want you to know that we are thinking of you and hoping you are all healthy and safe. During this public health crisis our first concern is that you are taking care of yourself and finding ways to connect with your loved ones.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required us all to take unprecedented precautions. We are continually assessing the future of our spring and summer seasons as new information emerges from the CDC and national, state, and local governments. At this point, Upstart Crow is left with no choice but to cancel our spring theatre classes and remaining Wizard of Oz performances, as well as postpone our current productions of Footloose and Annie JR.
As a small nonprofit arts organization, this necessary step places Upstart Crow in a very tough situation financially. We have laid off our entire staff. Those who are working now are doing so as volunteers. Even though our doors are temporarily closed, we continue to incur basic monthly expenses, such as rent, utilities, and other business expenses. Those expenses will soon exceed our cash on-hand.
This is nothing compared to the risk of loss of human life. However, such extreme losses coming all at once threaten our survival as an organization. In the nonprofit arts industry, profit margins are slim, and we invest roughly 90% of the cost of an event up front, funds we cannot recover. When events are cancelled, refunding the related revenue results in a complete loss.
In this unprecedented and unexpected moment, we are asking our community to rally around us.
At this time our goal is to push our current theatre productions (Footloose, Annie JR) into Summer or Fall. All Spring classes are canceled. Registrations for our Summer camps remain open. However, we have reduced the required tuition deposit for Summer camps from 50% to a flat $25. The balance for Summer camp tuition will not be due until the first day of each scheduled camp. We will continue to evaluate new information from the CDC and national, state, and local governments as we begin to plan our Spring, Summer, and Fall offerings and will update you with any plans at the beginning of May.
Here are 4 ways YOU can invest in the future of Upstart Crow Studios right now:
1. Become a monthly sustaining donor. Setting up an automatic
payment with your credit card is easy, and you can cancel at any time.
Email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
2. Make a one-time gift to Upstart Crow Studios on our website at
www.upstartcrowstudios.org. We will gratefully send you a receipt for your tax-deductible donation.
3. Donate back the value of your purchase for tickets to Wizard of
Oz or spring tuition to support Upstart Crow. We will gratefully send you a receipt for your tax-deductible donation.
4. Accept a credit toward or pay in advance for a future
production or class. We are offering a 25% bonus to those who accept a credit for Spring tuition for canceled spring classes, productions, or tickets to performances (Wizard of Oz). We also have online gift certificates available for 25% off that may be used toward future classes or productions.
*Tuition credits will be applied to your account for future classes or productions. Example: Accept a credit to be applied to your account for a canceled Spring class $155 tuition, receive a credit for $193.75.
*Credits for tickets purchased for Wizard of Oz will be issued as a redeemable code to use toward future ticket purchases or may be credited toward your student’s account to use toward future classes or productions. Example: Accept a credit for a canceled performance $12 ticket, receive a credit for $15.
*Online gift certificates are available in any amount. Example:
Purchase a gift certificate for $50 and you will receive an online gift certificate redeemable for $62.50.
If you are a ticket-holder for Wizard of Oz, or if your student is registered for any of our Spring classes or productions, please check your email for a survey request to let us know how we may best serve you.
We love our Crow families. We love what we do. Over the last 20 years, we have heard countless stories of the profound impact our program has made in the lives of youth in our community. We have endured many difficulties over our history and have emerged stronger for it.
Through your caring generosity, we will continue to work together to serve our community. YOU are the reason Upstart Crow Studios will remain a vital youth arts organization beyond this extraordinary time.
Thank you for your help in ensuring a future for Upstart Crow Studios and preserving a place in our community where “every child plays a role.”
Please be aware the Upstart Crow email account is being monitored by a single volunteer staff member. Please be patient if you have a question and don’t hear back from us right away.
Heidi Knight Meigs
Upstart Crow Board of Directors