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Jeff displaying his $10 after the show. And yes, I know. My camera phone sucks. Photo: Reed Sandridge

So last Sunday we did a matinée show. It went really well and we had a good crowd for a Sunday afternoon. Celia Wren from the Washington Post was there and did a very nice review on A Year of Giving – check it out!

So at the show…I gave my $10 away to Jeff M. He’s a program analyst with the government – he told me which (more…)

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Reed handing Sabrina $10 during Tuesday night’s performance of A Year of Giving.

So my unsuspecting $10 recipient on Tuesday night was Sabrina S. from Washington, DC. I picked her out of the crowd – about 5 rows deep. She was seated next to a woman who I later found out to be her mother, Patty.

Trained as an attorney, she told me that she only uses her legal prowess for good. She’s worked for a variety of international agencies and been stationed in places where most of us would think twice about accepting a post; Iraq for example. “I might be headed to Kabul later this year,” she said in the same tone as you might expect someone heading off to the beach for a long weekend.

“It’s like an early birthday gift she said,” referring that her birthday was the following day. “I’m not sure how I am going to use the $10, but I will promise you this, whatever I do with it it will get leveraged to do even more good.” – something she said she learned while working for USAID.

We snapped a photo and said our goodbyes. Happy birthday Sabrina.

Three remaining shows….

Friday July 20 7:00pm

Sunday July 22 3:00pm

Saturday July 28 6:00pm

Click here for ticket information

Also check out the reviews the show has received so far…

5/5 stars - “A Year of Giving is an extraordinary story and it makes for an extraordinary play.” – DC Metro Theatre Arts

4/5 stars - “A Year of Giving is a play you can’t not like or at least appreciate for its warm-hearted intention…This is the kind of show Oprah would love.”
-DC Theater Scene

“REAL.HONEST.TO.GOD.HUMAN.EMOTIONS.” – BrightestYoungThings.com

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Last night was the opening night of A Year of Giving - the theatrical version of my year-long journey of giving $10 away every day to strangers while unemployed back in 2010.

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Holger D. (left) was my $10 recipient on July 14th. Photo: Dave Levin

The nearly sold out show was a culmination of a lot of hard work. Melanie Papasian provided us with a terrific script. Pat Miller of Rockville Little Theatre produced the show and got the very talented Sasha Brätt to direct the production. We had some serious setbacks in the last two weeks….losing two actors to injuries (not related to the show…there’s no circus moves or acrobatics in the in the play – it is part of the Fringe Festival so you never know!), but we managed to combine those two roles into one and find the amazing Devon DuPay who took on the daunting challenge of learning the entire piece in one week. You would never believe that she hadn’t seen the script before last week! In addition to her, Pat Miller and Steve Langley were phenomenal.

Miller shines as he portrays DC Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger who I gave my $10 to on Day 225. Langley did an amazing job portraying Ivory, a Street Sense vendor who I met on Day 49. He also portrays Knox, my first $10 recipient, who by total coincidence was shinning shoes outside the theatre – a special treat for the audience and Langley who portrays Knox in the show.

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The real Knox (left) from Day 1 poses for a photo with Steve Langley who portrays Knox in A Year of Giving. Photo: Reed Sandridge

For me, seeing Knox outside was amazing. I’ve seen him a few times since our first encounter on December 15, 2010, but to run into him on the day that the show opened, that made my day! I’ve invited him to be my guest at any of the forthcoming shows….but it seems theatre is not his thing. He says he may try to show up and shine shoes outside the theatre though to make a few extra bucks.

The other highlight was giving my $10 away to an audience member. Yep, you come see the show and you might just get ten bucks! Holger, originally from Germany, helps develop environmentally and financially sustainable transport solutions with the goal of improving the quality of life of city dwellers.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the $10 – but promised to follow up with me once he decided.

Four more shows to go! If you’d like to attend you can purchase tickets for the following days:

Jul 17th 9:00 PM
Jul 20th 7:00 PM
Jul 22nd 3:00 PM
Jul 28th 6:00 PM

All shows are at the Goethe Institut – a block from the Gallery Place / Chinatown Metro stop.

For more information on the show, visit our Facebook Page.

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You never know how big a small act of kindness can be.

That’s a line from the upcoming play A Year of Giving that is based on the true story of my journey of giving $10 a day to strangers for a year after losing my job in the fall of 2009.

If you live in the DC area – you should come see this play! There is a lot of talent involved – Melanie Papasian did a great job of crafting the script, Patrick Miller from Rockville Little Theatre agreed to produce it and got the very talented Sasha Bratt to direct the show. This, plus an outstanding cast which includes me playing myself (harder than you’d think!) make it a truly memorable evening.

There are five performances…Saturday July 14th is the premiere and it runs through July 28th.

Show Dates: 7/14 6:15PM, 7/17 9:00PM, 7/20 7:00PM, 7/22 3:00PM, 7/28 6:00PM

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Patrick Miller and Reed Sandridge at rehearsal for A Year of Giving. Photo: Sasha Bratt

All performances are at the Goethe Institut at 7th/I in DC (1 block from Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro). Please note that the show is not recommended for those under the age of 14.

For more information, check out the Facebook page or the review on DC Metro Theater Arts website.

Tickets are available through the Fringe Festival.

If you are coming to the show, please drop me a note…it would be great to catch up after the performance. And don’t forget, somebody will receive $10!

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By Reed Sandridge, a Kindness Investor and Founder of Year of Giving.

Matt out of costume (courtesy of Faction of Fools)

I thought I would catch you up on a former recipient: Matt from Day 250.  Although I met up with him in February, it somehow seemed appropriate to share this update with you this week since two days ago marked the Ides of March and you might recall Matt was portraying William Shakespeare when I originally met him at an arts festival for children back in August of 2010.

My recent encounter with Matt was at a fundraiser he was throwing to try to raise money for his nonprofit theatre company called Faction of Fools, which focuses on Commedia delle’Arte.  Commedia del what?  It’s a genre of theatre characterized by its use of masks, improvisation, physical comedy, and recognizable character types – all characters are based off of four specific types of characters.  You can find more information here.

As I walked in the door of the Gala Carnavale I was greeted by one of the characters who announced in a thunderous voice to all the other guests, “Welcome Lord Sandridge.”  I thought I was special for about a minute when the front door opened and two more people came in and their names were also proudly announced as well.  I was fitted with a mask and then saw Matt, who was wearing a suit instead of a costume.  I took off my mask to say hello.  He looked a little tired which is reasonable right?  He’s been working his but off to pull this event together.

And it was not only going on here in Washington, but all over the world.  February 25th is Commedia delle’Arte day.  What the heck is that you might ask? Well, “It’s the ‘birthday’ of professional theatre,” Matt explained.  “On February 25, 1545, a troupe under the leadership of Ser Maphio signed the first contract of theatrical incorporation in Padua, Italy.”

“For the first time in history there are celebrations on every continent,” he shared with a glowing smile.  Yep, even the winter-over crew of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica was also hosting a celebration.  Matt had been busy!

That's Matt under that mask performing The Great One-Man Commedia Epic

The evening was a huge success.  There were some amazing items to bid on in the silent auction, delicious food and drink and of course, a sampling of theatrical pieces that they have been performing.  I tried pretty hard to get some of the items in the silent auction, but I ended up getting outbid.

For those of you in DC, keep a look out for Faction of Fools.  Their performances are a lot of fun.  As I was writing this up I saw that Matt is doing his signature piece, The Great One-Man Commedia Epic, this Sunday at The Corner Store.  It’s pretty wild.  Matt plays all 12 characters!

Oh, I almost forgot.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Be careful if you are out and about tonight.  It’s amateur drinking night.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when our newest Kindness Investor, Sibyl from Brentwood, TN, starts her seven days of giving.

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In addition to my work with World Wildlife Fund, I am the Executive Director of the Urban Philharmonic Society, a nonprofit orchestra that plays in diverse neighborhoods in the DC area.  The organization was started by Maestro Darrold Hunt back in 1970.  I actually met Maestro Hunt through the Year of Giving and gave him my $10 on Day 189.

Well he and I were heading up to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform a unique event focused on the complex Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.  It was half orchestral half theatrical.  Basically they played some of the highlights of Mahler but also had a small group of actors that tried to reenact an encounter that the composer had Dr. Sigmund Freud. 

It was an interesting performance.  The orchestra sounded very good, the acting portion was interested but I would have rather had more of the music.  Maestra Marin Alsop seemed a little off, but that was explained during a talk back session after the performance where she stated that she had been battling a severe cold all week. 

Margarita and Jack at Meyerhoff Hall

After the show, I ran into Margarita and Jack in the lobby area.  “We enjoyed the show very much,” they told me.  She said that she was more of a theatre-goer than a symphony-goer, but they thought they would check out this unique hybrid.  Jack on the other hand said he leaned more toward music.  “I played clarinet as a kid and had a drum set,” he told me. 

This performance seemed to have a special significance for Margarita.  “My father loved Mahler…and Freud for that matter,” she said. 

The couple seemed well-traveled and in fact I think they are currently in Colombia, where Margarita was born.  Jack grew up the son of a Foreign Service diplomat and lived in Brazil and Dominican Republic.  We got talking about different places we’d been and figured out that we were both in Brazil’s northeast city of Salvador at the exact same time in 2003 for Carnaval!  Small world.  I had been living in Brazil for just three months and decided to check out the celebration in Salvador.  Margarita and Jack were on their honeymoon!

“I think we’ll donate the money,” Margarita said looking for confirmation from Jack.  He nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders a little in agreement.  I tried to email them and see what exactly happened to it in the end, but I am almost positive they are in Colombia still and may not hear for them for a few days.  Stay tuned for an update!

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“I could die tomorrow, so what am I doing today to help the world" - Jessica (photo courtesy of Jessica)

I sat down next to Jessica at a Starbucks in Cleveland Park.  Originally from Memphis, TN, she lives with her husband in Virginia and works in development for a DC arts organization.  She herself was a dancer for many years.  “I started when I was four,” she said.  “I stopped when I was 25.  It was an amazing experience.  The arts can change people’s lives – put them in touch with a part of themselves they never even knew existed.”

I discovered that she and I have something in common.  We both participated in Rotary international exchange programs.  I went as a student to Mexico for one year when I was 16 and she went as a professional to South Africa for one month.  “It was life-changing,” she tells me.  She stayed with Rotary families throughout the area and got to see the way different people lived.  “Sometimes their impressions of Americans were startling,” she mentioned referencing the fact that often times people’s impressions are shaped by what is seen on TV or in movies.

I asked her what some of the lasting impressions in her mind were.  She recalled a few.  “I remember little kids running behind our van as we entered into the small villages.  We also passed a graveyard for AIDS victims.  One day we visited this school that had just got water.  I remember seeing a kid that couldn’t have been more than eight smoking a cigarette at school.”

Jessica says that she will donate the $10 to the Polaris Project, a Washington, DC based organization whose mission it is to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery.

I asked her how we could lend her a hand.  She said that she would like the opportunity to talk with someone who has experience in “dance therapy.”  It’s an area that she is interested in exploring given her dance background.  So if you or someone you know has experience in this area, give me shout.

I had a “first” happen in this encounter.  Instead of me taking a photograph of Jessica, she asked if she could email me one.  I said sure. 

Don’t forget this Sunday is 10/10/10.  Check out Howard Wu’s “Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day!”

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SoHo, 22nd & P, in NW DC

I met Darrold at the SoHoTea & Coffee Café at the corner of 22nd and P in DC.

He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on June 29, 1941.  The son of a construction worker and an electronics factory worker, he comes from a modest family with a strong affinity for the arts.  His mother and older brothers sang and his father played guitar.  Darrold was no exception.  He started performing with his family at an early age.  His dedication paid off too, getting him accepted to study music at the prestigious Juilliard School for Music in New York City.

Darrold (Photo: Reed)

In 1970 he founded the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit symphony orchestra that performs high quality music in diverse urban settings without all the formality often associated with symphonies.  Maestro Darrold moved the Urban Philharmonic to Baltimore and then to DC in 1978.  He and the Urban Philharmonic have been here ever since.  Darrold says he likes DC.  “I like that I can see the moon rise and set,” something he says he wasn’t able to do in NYC.  “I miss Manhattan though; the quantity and quality of the arts and performing arts.”

“The Washington community is just beginning to harness its own political power,” he states.  This sounded a bit strange to me because I usually think of Washingtonians as being politically savvy so I asked him to expand upon this.  “The institutions here are powerful, however, until recently the people themselves have not had any power.”  He talks about how former Mayor Marion Barry used his power to leverage the power of the people.  I can see that, but he also used his power to benefit himself tremendously.  Not to mention that he was a convicted on various counts of drug use and tax evasion.

The conversation naturally moved to music and Maestro Darrold told me how excited he was to conduct Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Eroica.  “It’s an interesting piece,” he says as he paints me a mental picture of Beethoven running off to follow Napoleon to try to understand war, pain, death and dying.  “Beethoven succeeds in sharing his inner most feelings with the listener; this is what makes him so great!”

I asked him what great musicians influenced him when he was young to pursue a career in music.  He grinned widely and told me that Billy Holiday and his mother.  “She was soprano and had a beautiful voice,” he told me still smiling

I loved feeling the excitement in Darrold’s voice when he spoke about the Urban Philharmonic.  Due to a lack of donations, the Urban Philharmonic came critically close to fading away for good.  But Maestro Darrold dug deep and found the strength to push on.  He is fighting now to keep the organization alive.  At almost 70-years-old, he is committed to bringing back the Urban Philharmonic with an aggressive schedule of six concerts this next season.  To do that, it will depend on donations from people like you.  If you would like to learn more about the Urban Philharmonic or make a donation, please click here.

Darrold is going to use the $10 to help buy food this week.

Below is a brief video of part of my conversation with Darrold.  Hear first-hand what it feels like to conduct a symphony!

Note: I was so impressed with the potential of this organization that I have agreed to volunteer some of my time to help with strategic planning and overall management of the organization.

UPDATE: Nov. 14, 2013

I’m sad to share that I learned yesterday that Maestro Hunt passed away last Wednesday Nov. 6th at his home. I don’t have much more details at this time, except that there is a memorial service being held on Friday Nov. 15th at the Church of the Holy City (Emanual Swedenborgian Church) located at 1611 16th Street NW (16th & Corcoran). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. followed by service at 7pm.

Darrold exuded love and kindness. His enthusiasm and passion could hardly be contained within his body. It was impossible not to be moved by his ardent smile which he shared unselfishly. DC, and the world of music, has lost one of the greats.

Here is an article from the Examiner.

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View from my open living room on the coffee plantation (Photo: Reed)

My second day in Manizales was wonderful.  My main contact for the project I am doing here is Roberto who works for the Secretary of Education for the city of Manizales.  Roberto owns a coffee plantation where my accommodations have been graciously arranged for during my stay.  Although Cielo was right about it being hilly, it is not ugly here.  It is beautiful.  And as far as being cold, coming from Washington, DC I don’t find it cold but it does get a little chilly in the evening.  If she had told me it was the city of rain, I might have agreed with her.  It has rained a lot but then again it is the rainy season.

Colombia has taken on a very aggressive mission to become a bilingual country by 2019.  To do this, every state, or department as they call them, and city has made action plans for how to reach this goal.  One of the unique ways that this can be achieved is by leveraging the interest that students have in the arts to assist in language acquisition.  Part of my involvement here is to work with an amazing non-profit organization focused on the arts, the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  This is an excellent organization with a 25 year history of giving the community a place to explore the finer arts.  Their Bilingual Performing Arts School can play an integral part in the efforts to improve the English proficiency in Manizales and even accelerate language acquisition rates.  

On Thursday I visited the San Agustín Elementary School, a primary school that serves a severely impoverished area of the city.  We worked with a wonderful group of students who were chosen to sing at a ceremony the following day for the governor, the mayor, and the US ambassador.  Roberto and I, along with the school’s music teacher, Camilo, rehearsed two English songs with them.

Rain drops drip inside the Pombo Foundation soaking the 75-year-old floors (Photo: Reed)

Later that afternoon I stopped by the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  I met the small staff and took a tour of the facility.  The building is an impressive old European style mansion that is owned by the city of Manizales.  Unfortunately, the city has completely neglected the upkeep of this historic landmark.  From chairs that need reupholstered to holes in the roof that allow water to flood the building to overgrown landscaping.  The facility is in dire needs of some funding so that it can make the needed repairs and continue to be a cultural epicenter in the city for the arts.

While I was there I met Viviana, the coordinator for the foundation.  Viviana is 27 and lives in the Belen area of Manizales.  With a degree in art education, she fits right in at the Pombo Foundation.  In addition to her role as a coordinator, she also teaches some of the art classes.   Her interest is in abstract painting and she credits local artist Margoth Márquez as an inspiration and mentor.  

When she is not helping to run the Pombo Foundation, she is running her own foundation, Manizales Florece, an environmental group focused on issues in the Caldas state.  

Viviana opted to receive ten dollars instead of 20,000 pesos and plans to keep it as a rememberence of our meeting and the Year of Giving project.  Here is a short video in Spanish of her talking about her impression of the Year of Giving.

You will certainly hear more in the next two weeks about the Rafael Pombo Foundation, the Manizales Bilingüe Project, and the children of the San Agustín school.

SPANISH VERSION

Mi día segundo en Manizales fue maravilloso.  El contacto mayor para el proyecto que estoy haciendo es Roberto, quien trabaja para la Secretaria de Educación para la Cuidad de Manizales.  Roberto también es el dueño de una finca de cafe donde mi alojamiento se han organizado durante mi estancia.

Aunque Cielo fue correcta que el área es falduda, no esta feo aquí.  Llegando de Washington D.C., el frío no me molesta pero los noches siento algo fresco.  Si mi ha dicho que Manizales fue una ciudad de lluvias, de acuerdo.  Ha llovido mucho así es el tiempo de las lluvias.

Colombia ha tomado una misión muy agresiva que hacer un país bilingüe por 2019.  A hacerlo, cualquier estado – digo departamentos como se llaman – y ciudad han hecho planes como hacer este meta.

Una de las maneras que pueden hacerlo es aprovechando el interés de que los alumnos tienen en las artes para ayudar en la adquisición del lenguaje.  Parte de mi participación aquí es trabajar con un organización sorprendente sin fines de lucro con un foco de las artes se llaman Fundación Rafael Pombo.  Es un organización excelente con una historia de 25 anos dando a la comunidad un lugar para explorar las artes fines.  Su Performing Arts School bilingüe puede hacer un parte integral en sus deseos a aprovechar fluencia en Ingles en Manizales aun acelerar sus niveles de adquisición.

Students of Colegio San Agustin (Photo: Reed)

Jueves pasado fui a visitar La Escuela Primaria San Agustín que sirve los gravemente pobres de la ciudad. Trabajemos con un grupo de alumnos escogidos a cantar al una ceremonia el día siguiente para el gobernador, el alcalde y el embajador del EEUU.  Yo y Roberto con el profesor de música, Camilo, ensayemos dos cantos de Ingles con los alumnos.

Más tarde esa tarde dejé por la Fundación de Rafael Pombo.  Me reuní con la reducida cantidad de personal y tuvo un recorrido por las instalaciones.  El edificio es una antigua mansión de estilo Europeo e impresionante que es propiedad de la ciudad de Manizales.  Por desgracia, la ciudad completamente ha descuidado el mantenimiento de este sitio histórico.  Desde sillas que necesitan reparación hasta agujeros en el techo que permiten agua inundar y un jardín descuidado. La facilidad es en terribles necesidades de algunos fondos para que pueda hacer las reparaciones necesarias y seguirá siendo un epicentro cultural en la ciudad de las artes.

Mientras estuve allí conocí a Viviana, la Coordinadora de la Fundación.  Viviana tiene 27 anos y vive en el área de Belén de Manizales.  Con una licenciatura en educación de arte, ella encaja justo en la Fundación de Pombo.  Además de su papel como coordinadora, ella también enseña algunas de las clases de arte.   Su interés está en la pintura abstracta y ella menciona la artista local Margoth Márquez como una inspiración y mentor. 

Cuando ella no está ayudando a realizar la Fundación Pombo, ella está ejecutando su propia Fundación, Manizales Florece ~ un grupo ambiental centrado en cuestiones en el estado de Caldas.  Decidí Viviana a recibir diez dólares en lugar de veinte mil pesos y tiene planes a guardarlo como una memoria de conocernos y el proyecto Un Ano De Dar. Arriba tiene un video corto de ella dando su impresión del Un Ano de Dar.

Seguramente vas a escuchar más en los próximos dos semanas sobre la Fundación Rafael Pombo, el proyecto Manizales Bilingüe, y los chicos del colegio San Agustín.

Esta entrada del blog se tradujo amablemente por Penny Pérez.

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A few weeks ago I got an email from my friend Betsy saying that some friends of hers were entering in the DC 48 Hour Film Project.  She recommended that I go and be a part of a team called SwimFast, LiveSlow.  The 48 Hour Film Project describes itself as “a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie—write, shoot, edit and score it—in just 48 hours.”

On Friday evening each team receives a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre that all must be included in a 4-7 minute film.  Then you work feverishly throughout the weekend to make the film and turn it in 48 hours later on Sunday evening.  The elements that we had to incorporate into our film were:

Genre:  Buddy Film
Character:  Marco or Muffin Gabbowitz, a person who works with animals
Prop:  a horn 
Line of Dialogue:  “Do you think you can do that again?” 

So last Friday evening I drove over to Springfield, VA to meet with the team.  I only knew Betsy and another friend Jeff from a play we did together last year.  It was there that I met Sarah.

Sarah is 32 and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband Van and their 14-month-old boy Will.

When Sarah is not watching little Will or participating in zany weekend film challenges, she is teaching 4th grade students at a nearby elementary school.  She says she likes 4th graders because, “they are old enough to understand occasional sarcasm but young enough to not be too cool.”  Her school is very different to the one that she attended when she was a young girl growing up in Lynchburg, VA.

I went to an all-white public school, the school where I teach is very diverse.  English is a second language to many of the students.  You can clearly see students who are living in poverty – some have to wear the same clothes almost every day to school. – Sarah H.

Sarah and her dog Laredo, both starred in our film (Photo: Reed)

When I explained the Lend a Hand program to Sarah, she said that she would love to find someone who is talented in needlework and sewing to volunteer about once a week for 3-4 hours until the end of the school year.  The school is located in the Falls Church, VA area.  If you, or someone you know, are interested in this opportunity, leave a comment here and I will contact you.

I learned a little trivia about Sarah too!  She has submitted a video application to be a contestant on the Survivor not once, but twice!  I asked her to share some of the video here, but I haven’t received anything yet…keep your fingers crossed.  And if anyone out there reading this knows how to get Sarah on the show – maybe there is still a chance for her!

Sarah’s $10 will go toward the cost of getting a baby-sitter for this coming weekend.

As for the film, we got it done and submitted it on time.  They are showing our film on Thursday night at 7pm at the AFI Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  I am going to go see it.  I have not seen any of it yet, so I have no idea how I did or how the film turned out after being chopped up, edited, and put back together.  I am a little scared to watch myself bomb on the big screen.

Tickets are $10 for about a dozen short films starting at 7pm.

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