Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

Memorable Moments at DCT – Mom and Dad speak…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Elizabeth’s parents, Tom and Valerie, share their recollections…Part 3

by Valerie and Tom Jiede

Valerie and Elizabeth after a performance of Pinkalicious: The Musical in 2016

We want to thank all of you who are taking the opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Elizabeth and her family are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read our final installment with the wonderful Jiede family.

How did you originally come to know about DCT?

Our daughter, Elizabeth, read Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly and Pinkalicious in class in the 1st grade. Once we saw that Dallas Children’s Theater was performing those productions, she was excited to see the stories performed on stage. We loved the Baker Theater, and the people we met starting with those first two performances were very friendly and welcoming to us. The actors were so talented, and watching them inject their own personalities to bring the characters to life really inspired her! From then on, we were frequent guests at DCT shows, bringing Elizabeth and our son, Henry, to as many shows as possible.

The Jiede family at Miracle on 34th Street in 2015

Both Elizabeth and Henry started enrolling in DCT camps for fun. Those early classes allowed them to choose a character to portray while collaborating with their fellow cast mates to write the plot of the adventure they would perform at the end of the week.

What is your most meaningful memory of your children at DCT?

Elizabeth started Musical Theater classes with Doug Miller in third grade. Little did we know that this new activity would turn into a lifelong love of musical theater! Not only did she quickly come to love acting, singing, and dancing, but she was also introduced to a close community of friends who loved to express themselves through theater. Many of these classmates are still her best friends today!

From her experiences with Mr. Doug, she was able to audition in the fourth grade for DCT’s holiday production of Miracle on 34th Street.  We were very excited to audition, having seen and loved their previous production of the show. So we were even more thrilled when she was cast as the character of Susan Walker in the show!

The whole Miracle experience was fantastic from the first audition to the closing curtain of the final performance. Elizabeth learned so much from DCT’s expert directors and the entire Miracle crew to prepare her to perform in such a high-quality production. She was mentored by an amazing, well-regarded cast of actors for this new experience. The entire crew of adult and child actors were so much fun and collaborative and became an instant family.

Elizabeth and Henry after Into The Woods, Jr. in 2019

What is valuable about taking your children to a DCT production rather than watching a movie or TV?

We appreciate live theater for many reasons. First, it is good family time together away from our devices and screens where we can discuss the story line and performances in person. It is a more immersive form of entertainment where we participate more actively as an audience, taking in the talents of the live performers and the choices of the author, the director, and the musicians.

We also strongly believe that it helps us all learn empathy and compassion. By seeing the performers act out their roles in person, we better understand their personal motivations. In this divided world, those are very valuable traits to have and develop.

Elizabeth in Next Stop Broadway 2020

What do you think is special about the DCT experience, and why do you continue to come back to productions?

For our family, attending a DCT production is a magical experience.  It begins when we open the door to the theater building, seeing how DCT has transformed the performance into an event, with warm greetings, show-specific decorations, and sometimes even special pre-show entertainment. The experience is magical to us as frequent guests, and we know that the same magic is felt by everyone, whether new or experienced with DCT. We love DCT’s inclusiveness of reaching out to audience members who are attending their first show, those with special needs, and those who wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to live theater without DCT’s help. The talented DCT staff has become a family to us over the years, and we miss seeing them in person!

How has your family’s involvement with DCT evolved over time?

Tom and Henry attending a DCT show in 2015

Our family’s participation with DCT has increased over the years.  We enjoy watching Elizabeth and now Henry grow in the Musical Theater Conservatory. Nancy Schaeffer and her team create a safe, nurturing environment for children to express their creativity while having an amazing experience. We enjoy attending as many shows as we can and look forward to future seasons.

Elizabeth’s training has prepared her well for additional DCT mainstage shows and summer productions. Both Elizabeth and Henry have continued Musical Theater training and perform in an annual Spring showcase called Next Stop Broadway. We are always blown away by the level of talent that Mr. Doug and his team produces with the Conservatory students!

We are so thankful to the entire DCT staff for developing our children into confident, kind, collaborative young adults!

Did you miss the past memorable moments with the Jiede family? Read Elizabeth’s post here, and Henry’s here.

Photos courtesy of Tom and Valerie Jiede

Memorable Moments at DCT – A little brother’s perspective…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Elizabeth’s 12-year-old brother, Henry, shares his perspective…Part 2

by Henry Jiede

Henry age 8 as Dachshund
in DCT Summer Camp

We want to thank all of you who are taking the opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Elizabeth and her family are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read on in our second installment with the wonderful Jiede family.

Henry age 9 as Cat in the Hat
in DCT Summer Camp

What is one specific moment from your experience at DCT that is meaningful to you?

I enjoy summer camps the best because they are fun. I work with really nice teachers like Ms. Linda and Mr. Doug. We get to choose our own characters and write the play that we perform at the end of the week. In my first year when I was really young, I chose to be Winnie the Pooh. In other years, I was an evil dachshund and an evil Cat in the Hat. Being evil is so much fun on stage! After my third grade year, I invited several of my school friends to summer camp with me to join my evil ways.

Why do you think live performances are better, and what are your favorite shows?

It’s more fun to see a show live rather than on TV. It’s more interactive to see the actors perform right in front of you. I also like meeting the actors after the show and taking pictures. I have a large collection of programs autographed by the actors!

Henry age 12 and Elizabeth age 14 with Nancy
Schaeffer after Next Stop Broadway in 2020

I have several favorite DCT shows. Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly was really funny and used the best jokes from the book. I invited a group of my school friends to see A Year With Frog and Toad for my birthday in first grade, and it was a great show. I enjoyed seeing my sister Elizabeth on on stage for Miracle on 34th Street. It’s one of my family’s favorite Christmas movies that we watch every year, but we enjoyed it on stage even more. My first grade class even got to go see her in it for our field trip!

What is your favorite part of DCT today?

Henry age 7, attending Miracle on 34th Street with parents

Now that I’ve started taking musical theater classes at DCT, I enjoy learning about acting and getting to perform. This year, I got to be part of Mr. Doug’s Next Stop Broadway show for the first time. It’s so much fun to be on the big stage performing our class number! At the end, all of the performers were out on stage for the bows, and the audience gave us all a standing ovation. It was awesome!

Missed Elizabeth’s Memorable Moments? Catch up here!

Photos courtesy of Henry Jiede

What Dallas Children’s Theater Means to Me…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Elizabeth’s story

by Elizabeth Jiede

What is one specific moment from your experience at DCT that is meaningful to you?

Elizabeth age 14, current photo

When I was in third grade, I enrolled in musical theater classes with Doug Miller for the first time. Prior to then, I had only thought of theater as a camp activity, as I had taken DCT’s summer camps every year. I soon learned that musical theater was a hobby and a passion of mine. That year, I attended class every Tuesday after school with Mr. Doug. I learned so much about acting, singing, and dancing and met so many friends in the process.

At the same time as my fall class, Dallas Children’s Theater held auditions for their Christmas musical, Miracle on 34th Street. We had learned about auditioning in our class, and we were encouraged to audition for the show. I had seen dozens of musicals on the mainstage before, and I could not believe that we had the opportunity to be a part of it. I was so excited to audition! I picked out a professional outfit and a Christmas song to sing (“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”) and went to the theater for the casting call. I saw so many of my friends there, and we all encouraged each other to “break-a-leg!” I was so nervous to audition, but I had a blast singing Christmas carols and reading lines as different characters.

Elizabeth, 14, and Mr. Doug from NEXT STOP BROADWAY in 202

A few days later, I was thrilled to know that I was cast in the show!  I was even going to play Susan Walker, one of the main parts! Taking a part in Miracle on 34th Street was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I learned so much about the magic of live theater and got to be a part of a wonderful, supportive community.

Elizabeth age 10, as Susan Walker in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

How has your growing up in the DCT community shaped you?

Growing up in the DCT community has truly shaped me into a better person. I have met so many people that have changed me for the better. Between the actors, the educators, the students, and the employees, everyone has a smile to share and a kind word to pass on. The staff members that work at Dallas Children’s Theater are all amazing role models, and I continuously strive to be like them. Even if I do not know all of them personally, I always feel valued when they take the time to ask how my day is or smile at me in the hallway before class or rehearsal starts.

What is your message to the teachers, actors, and employees who made your DCT experience memorable?

Elizabeth age 13, as Olive in MAGIC TREE HOUSE’S HOLIDAY MUSICAL: A GHOST TALE FOR MR. DICKENS

Looking back at the time I have spent at Dallas Children’s Theater, I realize how much my self-confidence has strengthened. Over the years, I have participated in three mainstage shows, two summer musicals, and five years of Next Stop Broadway. Because DCT gave me the opportunity to shine and a lot of encouragement, I was able to accomplish more than I thought I could.

Why do you think it is important that parents invest in their children going to DCT productions, classes, and camps?

Children and teenagers everywhere are still learning who they want to be and what they like to do. Investing in children going to DCT productions, classes, and camps provides a safe space for kids to make these discoveries. When I saw my first DCT show, A Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly, I realized how much I loved telling stories. As I got older, I explored various areas of storytelling: live theater, creative writing, and art. I was also inspired by the friendship of the characters on stage, just like in the books. Whenever I attend a DCT show, I love how every story has a lesson or a moral we can all learn from.

What do you hope the future of DCT looks like?

Elizabeth age 7, attending PINKALICIOUS at DCT

Even though we are living in uncertain times, we must remain hopeful until we can get back together again. The future of Dallas Children’s Theater is bright if we all do our part to help others. One day we will be able to step on the DCT stage and perform. One day we will again be able to come together and play “Zip-Zap-Zop”(a fun warmup exercise). One day we, as a community, will reunite.

 

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Jiede

Dr. Adam Mora: From the Board Room to the Front Lines

A DCT Hero Salute

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to ravage our country and state, it’s comforting to know that we do have heroes among us; selfless citizens who go above and beyond just to help keep our community moving forward. DCT Board Member Dr. Adam Mora is one of those people.

Not all heroes wear capes, headpieces, bullet-deflecting rings and bracelets, or carry swords and laser guns. Some of today’s heroes wear Personal Protective Equipment and grim, concerned expressions on their faces. They are the frontline healthcare workers who face life and death on a daily basis as the world battles the insidious coronavirus.

Dr. Adam Mora, Jr., MD, FCCP, probably doesn’t even consider himself to be a hero, but he is one. Dr. Mora is a Dallas pulmonologist and intensivist affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Baylor University Medical Center – Dallas, Baylor Scott, White Heart, and Vascular Hospital – Dallas. A pulmonologist specializes in the anatomy, physiology and pathology of the lungs, while an intensivist specializes in treating patients in intensive care. Dr. Mora’s work is vital in the battle against COVID-19. He works day and night and hasn’t had a day off since March 21. Even if he is free of clinical duties, there are virus related administrative duties that occur each day, even on weekends. He is never free of COVID.

Caring for patients on ventilators and addressing all forms of organ failures and infections while ensuring appropriate care with end-of-life issues carries a heavy toll.

“Before, families would be at bedsides and participate in rounds, learn basic medical information and what was normal or abnormal for their loved one, have consistent information from monitors, nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists all walking into a room and updating the family. They could pop their heads out of a room and ask questions. Now, they have to rely on phone calls and are limited to brief updates. Some cannot imagine what is actually happening – especially if they have never been in an ICU or seen a ventilator or continuous dialysis machine, for example,” said Dr. Mora. “We now have to paint a picture with our words as best we can.”

There is also the issue of trying to make time for his own family. Dr. Mora, along with his wife, Leah, have two children, Laurel (18) and Alex (11).

“Life at home has been an adjustment for everyone beginning with shelter in place,” said Mrs. Mora. “The biggest concern has focused on the longer hours Adam is away and the interruptions with a greater influx of meetings, phone calls, emails and texts, even when he is home. The biggest adjustments initially were related to ensuring the children felt safe with Dad coming home and doing everything possible to 1) not get infected or sick, and 2) not bringing COVID home and endangering them.”

Mrs. Mora takes pride in how her husband has risen to the challenge of these dire times.

“His dedication to ensuring the best care despite new obstacles to his workflow, as well as ensuring that a patient’s dignity and family support is maintained as much as possible, means everything,” she said. “He has taken on more tasks to ensure work processes are secured and has fought for communication with patients and their families – especially when related to end of life.” 

As the virus continues to grow, it’s difficult for the Mora’s to keep a normal family life. Both continue their service to Dallas Children’s Theater as members of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Mora even squeezed in a moment between patients to film an appearance on DCT’s Mouse Calls with Milo video series, dispensing important words about the importance of wearing masks and other safety precautions during the presence of COVID. (If you’d like to see Dr. Mora with Milo click here. )

“Basically, I have no other outlets,” says Dr. Mora. It’s work and home. I focus on our family and presently in helping our daughter transition to college in NYC amid the pandemic. We owe much of her success to DCT as her years spent there helped her achieve her acceptance to Fordham Lincoln Center’s playwriting program.” 

One of the main ways COVID has impacted the workflow of health care workers is the coldness that comes with wearing all of the Personal Protective Equipment creating even more distance between the doctor and the patient. The demand for teamwork and flexibility has increased exponentially, and personal fears of infection have to be overcome to care for extremely sick individuals. Healthcare workers are facing exhaustion physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, yet they continue to show up even when their own are battling the virus. Dr. Mora said the most difficult part is seeing patients die alone and speaking with families who are suffering and cannot be comforted other than with a distant phone call. 

As the pandemic  rages in Texas, many frontline healthcare workers battle fatigue, anxiety and depression. What gets him through the long days, the punishing work, the emotional challenges?

“We look to our successes – who leaves the ICU, who gets liberated from the ventilator – as big wins,” said Dr. Mora. “This is the most affirming part of the work to combat depression. I try each day to find a positive from COVID, be it more time spent at home having intimate family dinners rather than going out to a noisy restaurant, being able to take meetings from my home or office in more casual dress, or just accepting that I am still capable of being flexible and adapting to new challenges.”

The Mora family has been personally affected by the virus. Mrs. Mora lost a cousin in California. Her parents were infected, and her mother required hospitalization in El Paso. “It has hit home and the frustrating part is the inability to help out my own family due to geography,” said Mora. “I am here helping hundreds, but am impotent to help my own family. This does take a toll.”

He’s decked out in life-saving gear of impermeable isolation gowns and coveralls, gloves, face shields, goggles and N95 respirators, but Dr. Mora still resembles a superhero. He certainly shows bravery and courage as he goes daily into battle helping to save the world. One patient at a time.

Written by Coy Covington 

Coy is in his eleventh year as Executive Administrator at Dallas Children’s Theater. He is also an accomplished actor, director, wig and hair designer and freelance writer.

Anna Kurian: From the Board Room to the Front Lines

A DCT Hero Salute

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to ravage our country and state, it’s comforting to know that we do have heroes among us; selfless citizens who go above and beyond just to help keep our community moving forward. DCT Board Member Anna Kurian is one of those people. 

The need for feeding families has reached unprecedented levels as North Texans have been slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated dire economic ramifications. Few have been as immersed in the relief effort as Anna Kurian, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for North Texas Food Bank (NTFB).

“Since the pandemic began, spread and spiked across North Texas, we have doubled down on our efforts. Our food bank has distributed more than 35 million pounds of food since March 15 via our Mobile Pantry efforts and our Partner Agency Feeding Network,” said Kurian. “We have served at  least 246,000 people at sites such as Fair Park, the University of North Texas Dallas, North Lake College, and Lone Star Park.”

Kurian celebrated six years as a Food Banker on April 28, and during that time has held a number of roles while serving alongside passionate hunger fighters. Being spokeswoman for the organization can be daunting and the hours exhausting. On days when she is working from home, her computer usually boots up at 8AM, and in between answering media calls, responding to emails and putting out fires, it doesn’t shut down until 10PM.

Long hours, but working from home does have a few perks.

Her husband, Benson, is a hands-on dad, but anytime she catches a breath, Kurian tries to spend as much time with her children, Sophie (5), and Cassian (1). “I like being the one that puts the baby down for his naps,” she said. A demanding job, a husband and two young children. What keeps Kurian’s stress level from being off the charts?

“I try to find a balance between being home and being offsite at our distributions,” she said. “I cherish the moments when I can be onsite. I love my food bank family, and getting to see them during Mobile Pantry distributions is a highlight of my week.”

NTFB isn’t the only nonprofit that benefits from Kurian’s time. Somehow, she makes time to serve on the Dallas Children’s Theater Board of Trustees. In her role at the food bank, she works to increase NTFB’s brand recognition through direct-response efforts, social media, the website, media relations and advertising. She said she is happy to serve DCT using these same principles.

You might think endless lines of cars waiting to be served and seeing the urgent need of the public would be devastating. Kurian often jokes about being coldhearted, but when she sees the immense need in our community, she finds it overwhelming and heartbreaking.

“I have met countless people who are seeking our help for the first time,” she said. “Each of them has a unique story, and I feel privileged to be able to help them, but at the same time saddened that the need is so great. At the end of the day, I am proud to be a Food Banker. The community has rallied behind our mission and provided us with overwhelming support.”

What gives Kurian the stamina to keep going when the coronavirus shows no sign of letting up any time soon?

“It sounds a bit corny,” she said, “but the kindness of strangers is what is keeping me going at the food bank. We have had people from different states send in money because they saw the NTFB on a national news story. We had people who donated their stimulus money because they want to help others, and finally, North Texas is the most giving community. I know that even when businesses reopen and people get back to work, there will continue to be a need, but thanks to the generosity of the community, the food bank is ready to meet that need.”

Anna Kurian may not think of herself as a hero. But as she fights against hunger in North Texas, she is most certainly a warrior.

Written by Coy Covington 

Coy is in his eleventh year as Executive Administrator at Dallas Children’s Theater. He is also an accomplished actor, director, wig and hair designer and freelance writer.

Photos courtesy of Anna Kurian and Coy Covington

Memorable Moments at DCT – A father’s thoughts…

Memorable Moments at DCT: Amari’s Dad, Mar, shares his perspective…Part 3

We want to thank all of you who are taking the opportunity during these challenging times to share your DCT stories with us. Amari and her parents are great examples of the impact DCT has had on so many families. Read on in our final installment with Amari’s family, as Amari’s dad, Mar, shares his DCT memories…

How did you originally come to know about DCT?

As a youth in Dallas, I was introduced to Dallas Children’s Theater at the Rosewood location by my Uncle Rocky who served on the board as a treasurer. He would take my siblings and I to see plays, and sometimes I would sit in on board meetings with him. Now, as a husband and father, I also sit on the DCT board. I am so appreciative that DCT has played such a significant role in my family’s life.

What is your most meaningful memory of your daughter at DCT?

One of my fondest memories of my daughter, Amari, is when she was about seven, and we took her to see the play Pinkalicious. She was so excited about going to the play, because we had purchased the book for her from her school book fair. When we arrived on opening night, DCT provided such a spectacular experience; any little girl would have truly loved it. Her face was beaming with excitement as she watched the play. I am always happy to see that DCT has merchandise for parents to purchase from the play; story props, books and more. Having these items available during the show makes the play more realistic, interactive and memorable. My girls still have their Pinkalicious wands today!

What is valuable about taking your kid to a DCT production rather than watching a movie or TV?

In my opinion, live theater provides a higher level of professionalism than television. When you attend a play at DCT, you can see the results of the actors practice and the love they have for the craft of live performance. When my wife and I take my daughters to see a play, we want them to understand all of the parts that make a live play come together, from writing the play to staging. With our girls understanding this, they have become more creative and aspire to express themselves through piano, singing and visual art.

What do you think is special about the DCT experience, and why do you continue to come back to productions?

I continue to bring my family back to DCT, because it is truly a family affair. Not just for my family and the community, but the theater itself is a safe place for all to come who love the performing arts. Robyn’s family decided years ago that they wanted to service our community, with love, care, and an experience you can’t find anywhere else. Even today, there is no place like DCT!

Would you like to add anything else?

With continued support, DCT will be around for years to come. I know what my daughters have experienced here has changed them for the better. I strongly encourage and hope families will continue to bring their families and invest in live theater. Investing in DCT is investing in the future of our children. Thank you DCT for molding my girls, as you have molded me!

Did you miss the last two posts? Catch up here and here.

Photos courtesy of Mar Howard