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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge

Last year was an exhilarating daily adventure.  Every day I had a mission of finding someone new and sharing a small gift with them: ten dollars.

As you have already seen, the giving keeps on going this year.  Every week I will introduce you to a new Kindness Investor who will continue the ten dollar a day giving tradition for seven days.

“So you finished your year-long commitment and that’s it,” many of you have said to me.  Nope, not even close.

This year my personal commitments are focused around volunteering.  One thing that I learned while doing the Year of Giving is that what made every day so magical wasn’t the ten-dollar gift, but rather the time that I spent with each individual.  Time.  It is so valuable, yet we don’t treasure it as much as we should.  That’s why this year I couldn’t think of anything more valuable than to spend my time with others.

Each week I will volunteer in some capacity and share those experiences with you.  Why?  Because I hope to inspire you to volunteer as well.  I hope that you will speak to your employer about creating an Employee Volunteer Program, join your children in student learning service projects and become leaders for volunteerism in your own community.

Here is my first blog of my year-long commitment to volunteering!  I hope to blog about my volunteering every Monday!

Me going nuts with the sander

On a recent Saturday I spent the day helping Rockville Little Theatre build the set for their upcoming production of Translations, the acclaimed work of Irish playwright Brian Friel.  I showed up around 10:00am to the Theatre’s workshop that is tucked away behind some municipal buildings for the city of Rockville, MD.  “Quarters” as it is referred to is no foreign place to me as I spent many evenings rehearsing in this space when I performed in RLT’s productions of The Laramie Project and The Foreigner – I’ve done a little acting.

Pat Miller, the show’s producer, along with his wife Melanie were in charge.  Melanie was busy painting some of the backdrops when I arrived.  I went to work sanding and staining and spent most of the next six hours doing that.

A volunteer from a nearby middle school works on a large wall for the set.

There were probably about ten of us total that helped out.  Three of which were local middle and high school students who were completing Student Service Learning credits.  Menen, an 11th grader from Rockville, told me that she had more than 170 community service hours.  “I’m hoping to get a college scholarship,” she said as she maneuvered the power sander over wooden bench she was working on.

RLT has a variety of volunteer needs listed on their website.  “We’re an all volunteer organization,” Pat told me, “so quite literally the productions could not be possible without volunteers.”  And it’s not just the actors, they also need donations and lots of behind the scenes support as well; from publicity to construction.  “Community theaters really need to tap into the community in order to be successful,” he went to say.

And don’t miss the upcoming production of Translations opening on January 28th and running through February 6th.  Followers of the Year of Giving might even recognize the show’s director: Jacy D’Aiutolo.

This is a very important play for many reasons according to Pat:

Translations is first and foremost a beautifully constructed play with amazing use of language and an amazing story. In addition to being a great piece of theater, it’s also a very significant play for a number of reasons. Translations was the first production staged by the Field Day Theater Company, which was cofounded by Playwright Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea who American audiences would know best from The Crying Game and V is for Vendetta. Unlike most Irish theater of the 20th century, which grew out of the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Field Day was founded in Derry, which lies just across the border in Northern Ireland.

Pat stains a bench that will be used for the show.

When the play was written in 1981, it was a particularly tense time during “The Troubles” and bombings were common both in Ireland and Great Britain. Guildhall, the theatre where Translations debuted was itself bombed repeatedly. The play, which deals directly with the subjugation of Irish language and culture at the hands of the British military, had tremendous resonance during this difficult time.  It also marked Field Day as a company that was striving to reestablish a cultural “fifth province,” which could unite a divided Ireland through its literature, poetry and theater. The work, that began with the production of Translations, continues to this day.

I hope you will come out and see the show – I’m planning on going this Friday.  As Pat reminded me, “In the end the most important people for a theatre company is the audience.”  So even if you are not able to volunteer with your local theatre go see a show.  There’s nothing like live theatre!

As a bonus, check out this behind the scenes footage of the making of RLT’s production of Translations:

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A few weeks ago I headed up to Greenbelt, Maryland to see a musical dinner theatre performance of The Sound of Music.  It was held at the MAD Theater which is actually a special interest club at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center devoted to the theatrical arts and supported by the Goddard Employees Welfare Association.  My friend Jill was playing the role of the Baroness Elsa Schraeder. 

So the directions had me going through rural Maryland and at one point making a left onto a dusty gravel road where I was greeted by a police officer.

Officer: Good evening.  Can I help you?

Me: Uh, I am looking for the MAD Theater, we’re going to see a musical.

Officer: A musical? 

Me: Yes, The Sound of Music.

Officer: Do you have a ticket or something?

Me: Yes sir…here you go (showing him the form I printed out).

Officer: Of course, just pull up about 100 feet and you can park anywhere you find parking.  Enjoy the show.

I guess it’s due to security but he didn’t act like he knew anything about the show until I actually produced the ticket and then he let us in where we found a hundred other cars.

Anyway, it’s a really neat place and I enjoyed the show.  The entire staff is volunteer and two of them were Gayle and Andrew.  I actually met Andrew first as he was waiting on our table.  “Oh I couldn’t accept your $10, I am volunteering,” he told me at first but then said, “but maybe my wife will do this!”  He promised to talk to her and then sure enough came back with her a little bit later.

I asked them how long they had been married.  “How long have we been married or how long have we been happily married,” Andrew shot back at me causing Gayle to roll her eyes and laugh.  “28 years,” she said smiling.

Gayle is a travel agent and Andrew is a meteorologist.  “If you want to go on a trip,” Andrew began, “I can give you the forecast and she can book the trip!”  That’s a pretty good combination don’t you think?  I gave each of them $5 so that they could each chose what they wanted to do with the money.  Gayle said that she was going to donate her five bucks to the Prince George’s Little Theatre.  I looked at Andrew and he just handed his money over to Gayle making it a ten-dollar donation.

They were quite busy so I let them get back to work.  They were really nice and I am always happy to support community theatre!

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Lenora "Ann" Reed Sandridge 10/17/43-12/15/06

67 years ago today my mother was born in the small coal mining town of Richlands, Virginia.  She died 3 years and 307 days ago.  An extremely generous woman herself, she was a tremendous inspiration for the Year of Giving.  This entire journey is dedicated to her, but I want to take a special moment today to remember her and the joy that she added to so many peoples’ lives.  I love you Mom!

A shot of Jacy and friends through the window. (photo: Reed)

Two weeks ago I went to see Neil Simon’s California Suite at the Rockville Little Theatre.  I knew several people involved with the production so it was a lot of fun and they did a great job.  After the show my friend Pat who directed the first act invited me to join him and some other friends and cast members at Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge.  It was there that I gave my $10 to Jacy, a good friend of Pat and his wife Melanie.

Jacy donated his $10 to Silver Spring Stage. (photo: Reed)

Jacy, a married 34-year-old nonprofit attorney also has a passion for the arts.  He’s been involved with community theatre for the past seven years he tells me.  He mostly writes and directs shows but also can be seen on stage from time to time.  “I just finished my first gig as a producer,” he says.  “Not sure I’ll do that again though…it’s a lot of work and I didn’t enjoy it that much.”

He’s on the board at Silver Spring Stage and said that he planned on donating the $10 to the theatre company. 

Jacy is a huge Terps fan.  He graduated from the University of Maryland and admits that he is a die-hard fan.  When I told him about the Lend a Hand section he laughed and said, “Can you find someone who can fix the college games so that Maryland wins?”  He was joking but if I knew the right person I get the feeling he would be ok if I could make that happen!  Well, I don’t, so no luck Jacy.  I am going to see them play in a few weeks and although not as good as fixing the game I promise to cheer loudly…and it’s an away game so I will be taking some personal risk in doing so.

Jacy also follows pro football.  “I’m getting killed though in fantasy football!”  He looks down and shakes his head as he regrettably says “I drafted Larry Fitzgerald…he’s just not producing.”

This photo is a little out of focus but it's a good shot of Jacy. (photo: Reed)

Later he did come up with something for the Lend a Hand section.  He would like every single person reading the Year of Giving to go see a live theatre production this year.  I second that!

Oh, by the way, for those who have read all the blogs you might remember the Tower Oaks Lodge from Day 88 when I met Hans.  I asked for him but they said he had transferred to the Reston location.  I sent him an email earlier this week but haven’t heard back yet.  He was a good guy.

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Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene V of Twelfth Night. 

I’m in a Shakespearean mood since on Day 250 I spent the day at the Sidney Harmon  Hall helping out with the Free For All, a free event that the Shakespeare Theatre Company has produced every year for about the last 20 years.  In addition to having two free weeks of Shakespeare’s classic Twelfth Night, on Saturday there was a wonderful all day event for families where children got to explore their creativity and knowledge of theatre and the arts. 

A young boy finds just the right marker to finish his coloring (photo: Reed)

I have dabbled in theatre since my teenage years and had fun helping kids understand the world of Shakespeare as well as helping them with more tangible tasks such as coloring.  While I was helping the children color their tote bags with special markers that write on fabric a very famous individual walked by: William Shakespeare.  I was pretty startled, but the show must go on so I continued with my work.  At one point though I realized that I might be able to steal a few minutes with the great bard and give him my $10.  The rest is history. 

Matt was born in Danville, Pennsylvania but grew up in Tennessee.  He holds a BA in Philosophy from Columbia University and an MFA in Classical Acting from the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University.  He is currently working towards a PhD in Renaissance Theatre History at the University of Maryland.  He is also the Founding Artistic Director of the not for profit Theatre Company, Faction of Fools, which is managed by his wife Sarah.  Around for about a year, Faction of Fools focuses on mostly Commedia dell’Arte productions.  “These are plays that are very funny, very silly and very energetic,” says Matt. 

Mr. Shakespeare offers some artistic direction to the young apprentices (photo: Reed)

The Commedia dell’Arte began in Italy 500 years ago and quickly spread throughout Europe and continues to live in theatres around the world today. Its emergence during the Renaissance marked the beginning of professional theatre in the West; furthermore, the comic characters, themes and devices employed by early Commedia troupes influenced artists from Shakespeare, Moliere and Goldoni to The Blues Brothers, American musical theatre and contemporary sit-coms.

Matt’s interest in the theatre started at an early.  “I started telling stories when I was in the third grade.  My third grade teacher was a professional story-teller – which made her the coolest teacher ever!  I’ve been telling stories ever since.”  He says that his favorite Shakespeare work is the distinctively modern Troilus and Cressida, which focuses on the constant questioning of intrinsic values such as hierarchy, honor and love.  “It’s too everything.  It’s too philosophical, too poetic, too stupid, too funny…it blurs all the lines in terms of what a play can do and does it all on top of each another.” 

On this specific day, several of the children didn’t immediately recognize him as the bard from Stratford-upon-Avon.  “No less than five children thought I was a pirate,” Matt told me grinning.  “That’s ok, even my wife told me this morning, ‘your beard makes you kind of look like a pirate.’” 

I got my picture taken with the great William Shakespeare! (photo: Reed)

I thought I would ask young Shakespeare a few things about his life.  He told me that he was born in 1564 and although his exact birth date is unknown it is commonly believed that he was born on April 23rd since he was baptized on April 26th and 3 days were commonly passed before baptism.  In addition to this, the fact that he died on April 23rd, 1616, many historians hold steadfast to the April 23rd date for both is birth and death. 

Matt was quite busy with the activities of the day and I didn’t want to keep him too long, but I did get him to agree to do a very quick question/answer on video.  Check it out: 

Although Mr. Shakespeare would have preferred to receive pounds and shillings, he readily accepted the ten dollars and promised to donate it to the Faction of Fools Theatre Company. 

DC residents have an opportunity to see Matt this November at the Wooly Mammoth Theatre.  He stars in The Great One-Man Commedia Epic, single-handedly bringing to life 12 characters drawn from historical Commedia dell’ Arte.  It’s a hilarious tale of some common Shakespearean themes that come together to bring an entire town to the brink of tragedy before love prevails, normalcy is restored, and comedy triumphs.  It’s on my calendar, maybe I’ll see you there?  

The Great One-Man Commedia Epic
Wooly Mammoth Theatre
Wed, Nov 3 — Sun, Nov 7
8pm Wed, Thu, Fri, & Sat / 3pm Sat & Sun

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For those of you who have not seen the CNN report, check it out.  Reporter David Banks put together a really nice piece.

Last Saturday I met up with a journalism student from the University of Maryland who was doing a story on the Year of Giving.  Ruben and I met her near the Dupont Circle Metro stop and walked over to the circle.  It was pretty busy and Ruben was excited to see all the people and fellow dogs out enjoying the day.  I ran into Danny Harris from Day 64 in the center of the circle.  

Shortly thereafter I spotted Peter under a shaded tree reading a biography of the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.  Peter is an Actor living in the East Village of NYC.  Originally from Louisville, KY, he studied at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and then moved to The Big Apple.

Originally drawn to the stage by Shakespearean plays, now Peter is focusing most of his energy on some short films.  He shared with me a the link to a rough cut of one that he recently finished…he’s very good in it, check it out!

So you may be wondering why the heck Peter is 250 miles away from his home sitting under a tree reading about Hitchcock.  As it turns out his sister lives in DC and was performing one of the lead roles in The Marriage of Figaro at the Kennedy Center this week and he came down to watch her.  She was working during the day, so he was just relaxing seeing a bit of the city.  

Peter contemplated the $10.  He said that it would probably get spent on some bourbon, beers, or maybe some food.  Later he told me, “Maybe I’ll do something else with it…all these other people have done something amazing with it, so who knows.”

He had more time to kill and I probably didn’t help the chances of my money being passed forward as I showed him where the Brickskeller Pub was.  We said our goodbyes and thanked one another.

Here is some footage of him being interviewed by the University of Maryland journalist as well as a few of my own questions.  The wind is really bad…sorry.  It actually blew over my Flip camera at one point!

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Day 48 – Andrea S.

Sunday was a long day.  I had my final two theatre performances of The Foreigner, one at 2pm and the other at 7pm.  I thought both went well.  After the second show we had to tear down the entire set and put everything back in storage.  This took us about 2.5 hours, so we left at around midnight.

It’s a good thing that I found someone to give my $10 to earlier in the day.  In fact, I gave it to someone I found in the lobby of the theatre who had seen the 7pm show.  Andrea said that she enjoyed the show and that I was her favorite actor in the play…ok, so she didn’t say that…but I am sure that is what she was thinking.

She is a 35-year-old social worker in the home healthcare field.  Andrea deals directly with the public when they are unhappy with her firm’s services.  She is calm and relaxed talking with me.  I bet that this attribute is a huge asset in her work when irate customers call her to complain.

I usually ask the people I meet a couple of standard questions.  One I like to ask is that they tell me something interesting or unique about themselves.  This is a hard question for many people to answer.  Andrea struggled as well.  She told me that she was the mother of two children…and then she drew a blank on what else to tell me.  She used a lifeline and asked her husband who was with her at the show to share something.  That sparked some thinking and I soon knew that she had met some interesting people such as B.B. King and Garrison Keillor.

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10.  She told me that she didn’t think she was the right person to receive it because she would probably just get a burrito bowl at Chipotle or something.  She said that she really wanted to do something more meaningful with it and asked to be able to think about it a while and then get back to me.  We exchanged emails and I hope to hear from her soon.

I think it is great that people want to think about it.  It shows that my unconditional gift to them has caused them to think about how they should use it, or possibly even how they look at giving in general.  If you want to read a good summary of one recipient’s thought process about what to do with the $10, check out an email I received from Sara of Day 44

Before I left to go help strike the set, I asked her if there was something that the readers of the Year of Giving could help her with and she said that she was looking for a new job.  I will post this on the Lend A Hand page as well, but she said that she would ideally find a job as a Director of Consumer Relations of an Assisted Living operation.  If you know any contacts in this field in the Greater DC area, please post them here or contact me and I can contact Andrea.

Look for tomorrow’s post about Ivory, an interesting writer and salesman for Street Sense!  I got some video of him as well that I will try to post here or on the Facebook Page.

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