Saturday, June 29, 2013

Success and Failure in Monsters University

This post contains spoilers to the movie.

I watched Monster's University on a field trip with my students. Some of the themes of it hit me pretty hard.It actually has a lot to do with Success and Failure which is our theme for WJPK this summer, so it caught my attention.

So basically Monsters University follows the story of a little monster named Mike Wazowski. When he was a kid he had this experience of watching a "Scarer," and from that moment on he decided that he wanted to be Scarer. He got into Monsters University as a Scare Major. He finds out that he must pass the midterm to stay in the program. Now Sullivan also goes to MU. His family is somewhat legendary for being great Scarers.  He finds no need to study as he say, "You don't need to study scaring, you just do it." Mike studies really hard but both Mike and Sully fail the exam and are kicked out of the Scaring Major. Mike is heartbroken until he finds out about the Scare Games. Its very similar to the Goblet of Fire Competition in Harry Potter except with teams. Mike forms a team with the most outcast fraternity and Sully. If they win the games, the Dean will let them return to the Scaring program. Mike takes this fumbling group and trains them to be winners. Against all odds they make it to the final competition. Sully find out from the Dean that even if they win, she will not let Mike back into the program because he is just not scary. Mike is the last to compete and pulls off a record breaking scare. After the competition Mike finds out that Sully cheated and rigged the machine to save him the embarrassment. Mike's anger leads him to enter the human world to prove first hand that he can actually scare a kid. But when his moment comes, he couldn't. The kids just laugh at him and they are not scared at all. Sully follows Mike into the human world to try to save him. There is a great scene with Sully and Mike that breaks my heart. Mike has to come to terms with the fact that his dream will never happen. The the thing he has wanted and worked for his whole life, will never happen. He is not scary. No matter how much knowledge he has about how to scare, it doesn't change the fact when it come to the real world, he isn't scary enough. Sully also admits that he feels like a failure. His family is legendary and he flunked out of the Scaring program. He also admits that although he seems tough, most of the time he is terrified.

I like that this story is true to life. Its not your typical, if you work hard enough, you can overcome any obstacle. There are sometimes where you have to come to terms with the fact that your dream is not going to come true. It has been something that I have been thinking about since I moved to LA. I long ago came to terms with the fact that I was not going to be an actress. I know I am not good enough, and its something that I don't even want anymore (most of the time). But my desire is to be able to teach theatre to kids full time as a job. Since moving here there has been a lot of closed doors. I have been able to teach theatre but the way I am doing it now is not sustainable in the long run. At what point do I have to come to terms with the fact that this career path just is not going happen? I'm not willing to sacrifice everything to try to make it happen. Not that I feel like I cant do the job, but its not working the way I am going about it now. Its hard to think about letting it go because I have been working for this for so long. I wouldn't even know where else to go, what other career path to pursue. I feel the burden that Mike feels. The loss of something you had so much hope in and aspiration for. I am not at the point yet of giving up on it, but at what point do I need to face that? At what point do you just need to move on?

The story for Mike does not end there though. Both Mike and Sully are expelled from MU. They get a job at Monsters Inc in the mail room and work their way up. Mike becomes a coach, which he loves and is very good at. Its also interesting to consider the ending to Monsters Inc. They find out that laughing produces even more energy than screams. Mike is the one who goes into the human world to make kids laugh and produce the energy. His dreams comes much later and in a different way.

This also gives me hope. If my dream has to die, God can give me a new dream. One that might even be better than the one I have now.

Thank you Lord for speaking to me through children's movies!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When Justice and Peace Kiss 2013

When Justice and Peace Kiss 2013
This year marks Steetlamp Studios’ 7th annual production of When Justice and Peace Kiss. Based on Psalm 85, “WJPK” is a multidiscipline arts program that encourages students to create original art about social issues they encounter in their daily lives.

The Impact

During my time in Los Angeles, I have learned about the dramatic impact that the arts can have on students. The Los Angeles Unified School District  has one of the highest drop out rates in the nation. A study by James Catterall called, “Champions of Change,” looks at the impact of students’ involvement in the arts. Cartterall found that 85.9% of high school seniors rarely if never are involved with any after school arts enrichment. Yet he found that seniors involved in regular arts programs performed 15.9% higher in reading than students with low involvement in the arts. Students have less risk of dropping out, are more involved in community service, and more engaged in school when they have higher levels of arts involvement. Carterall explains, “When well taught, the arts provide young people with authentic learning experiences that are real and meaningful for them. By engaging his or her whole person, the student feels invested in ways that are deeper than knowing the answer.” It is with these and other benefits in mind that we hope to maintain a vibrant arts program in our community.


Jamal is a graduating senior who has been a part of WJPK since the program began.  Through the years he has grown into a compelling musician. I have had the privilege of seeing him perform 3 original songs that he wrote on the themes of not giving up, finding freedom, and battling depression. This year will mark his last performance as a student with WJPK before he graduates and begins studying music at a local community college.

What's New This Year?

This year we will be working with the theme of Success and Failure. In the midst of our culture and media telling us what it means to be successful, we will look at how God views success. Through studying the life of King David, we see someone who was not set up to succeed, yet is remembered as one of Israel’s greatest kings. I am excited to see how God can reveal his idea of a successful and prosperous life to these youth, who are surrounded by a lot of systemic and economic failure. 

How you can support WJPK

This program is not possible without the prayers and support of people like you. This year 100% of the donations will go directly to supporting the needs of the program. If you are able to financially contribute you can give online at t choose Fundraiser for Megan Ibarra in the dropdown menu.

If you are interested in being an intercessor for the program who receives regular prayer updates please email me at

Here is a link to one of our most memorable pieces from 2 sisters singing an original song,  "I Can See the Light"
Thank you!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Midsummer Nights Dream

To Do Shakespeare or Not to Do Shakespeare?
This post is long overdue, as are many more. Hopefully I can catch up this summer.
I started this process probably back in February. After my last play with my students, I asked them what they wanted to do next. A few of them requested Shakespeare. I teach Shakespeare in the summer so they are at least familiar with who he is. My sister had given me a Shakespeare for Kids book for Christmas so I thought I would start there. I was planing on just reading, "A Midsummer Nights Dream," and possibly doing a few scenes from it or doing another Shakespeare play. Midsummer has a very complicated plot and a lot of "lovey dovey," not super kids appropriate themes. When we read through it, they thought it was hilarious. I forget what they were laughing at now, its been so long, but I was shocked by how much they enjoyed it and were able to follow the plot. After reading it I gave them 3 three options: we could do scenes from the play, the whole play, or something else entirely. They almost all said that they wanted to do the whole play. I was reminded how often I underestimate my students and how when given a challenge, they will rise to it. My friend from high school who also teaches theatre at an after school program has told me that if you set the bar high, they will reach it. I see that more and more.

I really struggled with casting the play because I had to find kids who would be ok with the lovey dovey "lovers" parts, and Flute, a boy who must be dressed as a girl at the end. I was surprised by this one 2nd grader who wanted to be Demetrius. I never thought he could handle it, but he did a great job. I cast a girl as Puck. I had given her a very small role in the last play, but something about her just screamed Puck to me. I was worried because her behavior is often very difficult. Although sometimes I regretted it when she was back stage, I never regretted it when she was onstage. She was a natural and clever Puck. She took on this role so much that she insisted I call her Puck outside of rehearsals and even told her friends to start calling her this. I felt very proud. I had an amazing Bottom that did a great job with his final death scene. He would crack us up all the time in rehearsal. I had to change the role of Flute halfway through, but the boy who ended up doing it did great, was a little embarrassed but still went for it. And isn't that what acting is anyway.

Shakespeare would roll over in his grave
My boss wanted me to try to add music to the play since our end of the year show is supposed to be a musical. What a nightmare. I am not a musical theatre person. I do not do choreography well. I can do kinder hand motions to songs but that's about as far as I can get. I thought the easiest way would be to take popular songs and just change the words slightly to fit the story. I had the kids help me come up with this. It made them more connected to the show and it were songs that they liked. Shakespeare would roll over in his grave but here is what we came up with. We changed "Baby Got Back" to "I am Nick Bottom, and I can not lie, you Mechanical can not deny. I can play a girl with a itty bitty waist or a loud roar in your  face..." We changed "Sexy and I know it" to "I'm a Fairy and I know it." When Lysander falls in love with Helena he sang to Hermia Taylor Swifts, "We Are Never Getting Back Together." When they all get married they sang Bruno Mars, "Marry You." And our grand finale at the end of the play we changed "Gangnam Style" into "Shakespeare Style." They were most excited about this. In fact, most of them said that doing the dance was their favorite part of the show.

Creating :)
As with the last play, I had a lot fun creating the set and some of the costumes. It felt less crazy than the last plays. I was very excited about my tree and my t-shirts that hopefully helped the audience follow the love story a bit. It brings be great joy to create all this. One of the best moments of the process for me came when I was showing some of the students so props that I was working on. One student said to me, "Why did you buy all this stuff?" Another student responded to her, "Because she loves us." It felt really good to be appreciated and for them to see that I did all this because I love them.

 Shirts for the "lovers."
Snout's wall for the end.

The rehearsal process went pretty well. There always comes a point where some of them know it well and get bored and lazy with it. Its always hard to push past that. There was a huge gap at this point between my students who knew it all and those that didn't even have their lines down. Its funny that the kids I cast as the Mechanicals, really were the Mechanicals. They were this eclectic group of fumbling kids who couldn't stand still or focus. I felt like Quince trying to wrangle them.

If we shadows have offended...
Although it was a kids version of the play it did have a good amount of one lines from Shakespeare. It made me so happy to hear them say these line. "I love thee not, therefore pursue me not." "The course of true love never did run smooth." "And through this cranny shall Pyramus and Thisbe speak." "Let me not play a woman, I have a beard coming." Although I truncated it, Puck's final speak was all the original Shakespeare.

The day of the performance rand very smoothly. Going in I felt pretty calm. I was very organized, I felt like the kids were pretty ready. I felt more prepared than other shows. We did have one kid not show up because he got sick. I quickly grabbed my MC, taught him a dance in 5 minutes and gave him a clipboard with a script. He was able to jump in and did a great job. One of my other favorite moments from the play is when I was getting them in costume. One of my students has a huge attitude problems and complains about everything. I had showed him part of his costume a few weeks earlier and he later complained to me that he didn't like it and could I get him another one. But when I put his whole costume on him he said, "This is actually really cool. I like it." That could only be the words of the Lord speaking through him, because that child would never have said that about anything. The show ran so smoothly that for parts of it I was able to just sit back and take a few pictures. I didn't feed anyone a line. The only awkward parts came because costume changes took a little too long. But the kids hadn't practiced this. The parents laughed. Many parents came up to me afterwards and told me that they really enjoyed it. I could not have been more proud of them. It was probably the best production I have done at this school.