Friday, February 15, 2008

Misinformation Galore for Children

"Train of thought: Regional theater ensemble has lesson about railroad sacrifices, will travel" by Mary Therese Biebel, © Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania Times Leader, February 15, 2008. (News Article)

"The harried manager with the eye patch squints at blueprints, wondering how he’s going to continue building the Central Pacific Railroad, now that it’s up against a 2,000-foot-high cliff that extends for three miles. [Monica Johnson and Kyle Yackoski portray two Chinese workers who are lowered in a basket over a steep cliff in the Sierras to set dynamite for the Central Pacific Railroad. The daring strategy was similar to a technique that had been used in China to build fortresses in cliffs over the Yangtze River.] Straw hat in hand, a Chinese railroad worker enters the boss’s office and suggests a plan. Back home, the worker says, there was a strategy for carving fortresses into the cliffs above the Yangtze River. Two laborers would be lowered in a basket to a vantage point where they would insert dynamite into the wall of rock. “The tricky part,” explains the worker, who is played by Monica Johnson, “ is to signal the men on top to pull you up quickly enough.” “Workers in a basket? Dangling over a cliff? It sounds crazy,” barks the manager, played by Kyle Yackoski. “But my college-educated engineers can’t think of anything better. Let’s do it!” Crazy or not, the idea is also dangerous, as young audiences will realize when the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble brings “All Aboard! The Story of the First Transcontinental Railroad” to their schools. As the cliff scene unfolds, two laborers enjoy a hearty breakfast of rice, pork and oranges, then step into a basket woven from reeds. ... Later in the day, the very worker who took the idea to the boss is lost in the explosion. After a brief moment of silence, another worker, played by Renee Fawess, fearfully climbs into the basket and prepares to be lowered. The 45-minute play is designed to show pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade how the Transcontinental Railroad linked east to west in the United States, and how it played a role in the lives of individuals, from the workers who built it to the American Indians who hunted buffalo on the plains long before the iron horse came along. ... The play, which represents the 30th year of BTE’s Theatre In the Classroom program, will show students the prep work that took place before anyone rode a train ... Yet another personage, an American Indian chief, will explain how the Cheyenne, the Lakota Sioux, the Apache, the Arapaho and the Pawnee had 52 uses for the buffalo, from food to clothing to tools, and how the white man’s westward expansion usurped the hunting grounds. ... [‘All Aboard! The Story of the First Transcontinental Railroad’] has two casts of three people each – with Richard Cannaday, Buddy Woodson and Abigail Lottie mirroring the same roles Fawess, Yackoski and Johnson portray. All six have shared in devising the script, director Goode said ... The two teams will spend eight weeks from late February through mid-April telling the story of the railroad to an estimated 40,000 children all over Pennsylvania and beyond ... " [More]

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