Ten-Minute Plays Test Theatre Skills
By Shannon Thomason
Trista Baker and Brenton Bellamy perform in "Darcie" from the 2009 Festival of Ten-Minute Plays. "Darcie" was written by Richard Taylor Campbell and directed by Mel Christian. Photo by Richard Taylor Campbell.
In playwright Lee Shackleford’s world, the script comes first. Before the actors audition or the props are selected, the script must be conceived, written, polished, and perfected.
Shackleford is the UAB Department of Theatre’s playwright-in-residence, and he teaches several scriptwriting classes at UAB. He also is the founder and director of UAB’s edgy, creative, and tremendously popular Festival of Ten-Minute Plays, now in its seventh year.
Each year the process begins in the spring semester, when Shackleford’s students learn the art and craft of writing super-short comedies and dramas. A 10-minute play, he explains, is not a skit or a scene; it must have everything that a longer play has—without the luxury of time.
UAB Saddles Up With Special Equestrians
By Caperton Gillett
“Making disabilities disappear.” That’s the motto of the Special Equestrians therapeutic riding program at Indian Springs School. And when the children mount up, it becomes clear that there are no disabilities here, only horseback riders—guiding their steeds through serpentines, picking up rings, throwing beanbags, and performing exercises that belie their physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges.
“Horses are amazing,” says Kathleen Claybrook, executive director of Special Equestrians. “Their hip action is almost identical to a person’s, so just by virtue of sitting on a horse, a rider with a physical disability can gain strength and mobility. They can increase their balance and core strength, relax the muscles, stimulate the nerves—you name it, they can do it, just sitting on the horse. And for somebody with a cognitive disability, sometimes it’s the movement that motivates them to do something that they wouldn’t want to do otherwise.”
Preparing Teachers for the Challenges of Urban Education
By Claire L. Burgess
Donna Jones, a recent graduate of UAB's Urban Teacher Enhancement Program, at Birmingham's Robinson Elementary School
In many urban schools, the biggest dropout risk is at the head of the class. Faced with crowded classrooms, inadequate funding, and a host of other challenges, teachers in these schools are often tempted to quit the profession entirely or transfer to a suburban school at the first opportunity. According to 2005 data from the Alabama Department of Education, approximately 25 percent of new teachers in high-poverty school districts in the Birmingham area leave their positions within their first three years.
Deborah Voltz, Ed.D., knows what those teachers are going through. She taught at a high-needs elementary school in Birmingham for five years before joining the UAB School of Education. But she also is convinced that helping urban students take their first steps to a better life is one of the most rewarding roles any teacher can play. “I feel like I was able to make a real difference, and that was important to me,” Voltz says. “Yes, there were challenges. But there would be challenges anywhere.”