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All photos are copyright 2014  Gordon Education Initiatives for the Performing Arts, Take the Stage

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This has been an amazing 1st week  of rehearsals.  The kids are so smart, interesting, talented and genuinely kind. The parents are supportive.  And, we have a dedicated team of production assistants who have been tremendous in the rehearsal process.  We’re blessed.

We did have a nice surprise this week.  There was this girl who didn’t make it into the cast of the show, but she got so inspired that she wrote a song for the TV show anyway!  The song is so good, we’re using it.  We record at Sugarhill Recording Studios next Tuesday.  Here is a photo of us learning the song with the composer/lyricist on the right.



10 days til filming begins!



The audition notice was posted last Tuesday for the coming weekend and over 150 kids showed up to audition with just a few days notice!

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the audition process so much!  It felt like camp.  Everyone was laughing, bonding and just having a great time.  Many kids said, “I feel like I came out of my shell” by the end of the audition process which consisted of 1 hour of group warm ups, focus games, improvisations, dance and just getting to know one another.

Narrowing it down to 8 kids is going to be quite a task as there was so much talent.  IMAG0021


Within one week, we should have our cast selected.


We have completed funding to film the 1st episode!

A very big Thank You to The Brown Foundation, The Baxter Trust, and Greggory and Patrick Burk for believing in this vision.

I sit here in NYC at a cafe planning my trip to Houston around July 4th.  Planning, well, everything.  I’m thankful for the groundwork that we’ve been laying down the past couple years.   This foundation has made organizing much more fluid as these relationships with community groups and collaborators are already present.  It’s now a matter of putting it all together.

I’m working with composers, educators, child psychologists, designers and production personnel.  Each step forward enables us to look farther int the future.  Step by step.  I have come to like the slow build as it makes for a stronger foundation it seems.  But, most of all, I’m learning each step of the way as we build.  Houston Public Media has been a prominent support throughout this pre-production phase.

Next up: Auditions. 🙂

Details to come.


Of the many plane flights, meetings, and time out of  NYC, I now begin to see the results….It’s a feeling of relief, but also an energizing feeling where our boat starts to gain momentum while other people are coming on board.

We are so grateful and thankful for the Brown Foundation which has awarded Take the stage $25,000.

This is very important step and we look forward to filming summer 2014!

Last week was busy with back-to-back meetings. and I attended events and functions that I wouldn’t normally. (Golf anyone?)

I won’t go into the details of every event and meeting, but it’s safe to say that I was kept busy and support for Take the Stage is growing in the Houston community.   There is a spirit of collaboration and working together that is pretty amazing here.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, there is one meeting that does stand out during this week.   I will share.  I was at an SMU event, my alma mater, sponsored by the National Center for Arts Reasearch, and it was here where I chanced to meet Billie Pucciarello.   And, after chatting and sharing a glass with her well after many of the guests had left this country club, I think I found one of the biggest advocates for arts education in the city.   Billie had spent her career as a professional dancer around the world and as a arts educator and choreographer/director for youth in Houston running her own studio – not to mention she has a stock for kids musicals that rivals your mother’s closet with two BIG storage units just of costumes and props!    She is now retired, but her spirit is nothing short of electric.  There was a synergy immediately and one thing led to another – I was at her home the next day eating lunch and chatting about everything: career, family, the importance of performing arts education.  Her close friend Yvonne Steely joined us for lunch that afternoon, and Yvonne is an incredibly talented composer/lyricist who has had her work produced all over the US including Off-Broadway.   Yvonne graced us by playing a few selections from her original musicals.  The only thing I regret is not having videotaped her singing and playing piano!   It was an inspiring afternoon and encouraging to know that there are passionate people out there like Billie and Yvonne who believe in this project.


Billie, myself and Yvonne
October 31st, 2013

Living and working in two cities is interesting as I hop between the “Concrete Jungle” and the “Third Coast”, both cities where I have laid down roots.  And, each city is quite different in character – though I love them both.   I work as a theatre director, playwright and teacher in NYC and I am producing Take the Stage: A Performing Arts TV Show for Kids for the PBS station in Houston.

Currently, I am in Houston for meetings.

With the show approved for airing by HoustonPBS, comes the next step:  creating a sustainable base of support as we gear up for production in 2014 and beyond.   From experience running a theatre company since 2002 and going through the Pre-Incubator Program with the Houston Arts Alliance, having this strong structure and support (both fiscal and collaborative) will be the lifeblood of this TV project and it will enable it to have longevity for many years.   This week is full of meetings with people passionate about the need for arts education in schools and how it can improve academics as well as a child’s development.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet with some great individuals.  I’ll update towards the end of next week and report on all that’s going on.



From the Scrapbook #2:

HISD Newsletter about the development of Take the Stage

Hello!  Welcome to the blog!   I’m glad you’re here.

It has been suggested that I start a blog about my journey creating a performing arts TV show for kids.  It sounded like a good idea.

Conceptualization and development of Take the Stage began in 2006 sitting around the diningroom table with my father.   I had recently graduated from SMU with a Theatre Arts degree and came home to Houston for the summer.   I already had a great interest in education and in producing having taught theater classes at Main Street Theater and having run a nonprofit theatre company for the past few summers.  So, this idea of a performing arts TV show for kids originated from my personal experiences in seeing how the performing arts can positively affect people, especially kids!  The concept and first discussion was born here across the diningroom table with my father…and the discussion remains the same, it just now has a lot more people talking.

Take the Stage support videos below (2013)
Featuring: Mayor Parker, Sheriff Garcia, Superintendent Dr. Grier, Jonathon Glus, Ernie Manouse and other Houston leaders.

There have been many learning experiences while in development from 2006-2013 that have brought me to distant lands (Los Angeles), but I’m going to skip ahead a few years to begin this blog.  We’re skipping ahead to this year, 2013, because that’s when things really start to get rolling.  Maybe later on I’ll reflect more on the early development stages…but that’s for a longer conversation where I can reflect on my challenges and successes I’ve encountered along the way.  Persistence and adaptability has been key at every step so far.  But, I will say, every step has been a learning experience in its own way (albeit not always easy), and has prepared me to be where I am today.  For these experiences, I am grateful.

On January 16th, 2013, I received a letter from Houston Public Media saying that they have approved our TV show for airing!!!  Hallelujah!

This was very exciting news, as our TV show now had a definite home, and we could begin the process of pre-production.  All systems were ‘go’ and years of preparation were beginning to be put into action.

Thank you to Houston Public Media for their continuing support.

Our next step was to share what this TV program will do for youth and families in the community locally and beyond.   We knew that for Take the Stage to have the impact on kids we desired it to have, we absolutely needed the support of the community.  We brought our message to city leaders including the Mayor, Sheriff, Superintendent, and CEO’s of organizations.  They were all unanimous in their support and encouragingly enthusiastic about Take the Stage.   When they understood the potential impact this TV program would have in improving education in the city, everyone unequivocally said ‘yes’ to becoming involved and voicing their support.

Because of the limited time we had, in 3 1/2 days, I, along with my tireless cohort, Austin Welch, conducted 13 interviews in 10 different locations on the tightest of budgets.   Needless to say, him and I moved very quickly with all of his equipment in tow in his pickup truck.  After these whirlwind interviews, Austin Welch edited down 5 hours of footage into 5 powerful minutes.  He’s a talented guy and I’m glad he has decided to join the team.  We celebrated at the Spaghetti Western Italian Cafe after all these interviews – seemed appropriate.

Behind the Scenes during first test trailer in  2007

We’re now a constantly growing team and I’m very appreciative for everyone who has helped along the way so far on this journey, and I’m looking forward to meeting the new team members as we grow even more.

We’re on our path to production now.

Currently, we are gearing up to shoot the 30-minute pilot at the beginning of 2014 and then the full season the summer of 2014.  So, stay tuned for more developments that will be documented right here on this Making of Take the Stage blog!

Til next time…


ps.  I would especially like to thank my father here who has planted the seed for this TV program and who continues to be a terrific support in each stage of development.

From the Scrapbook #1:
This video link below was created in 2007 when we initially thought of the concept, so It’s very rough and the quality is not what it will be today.   But, you can get an ideas of where we were in concept development in 2007, here it is.