4 Must-See Places on the East Coast for Theater and Art Students

By Alison

Summer is almost over. Before the school year starts, you and your theater and art buddies are ready to hit the road for an amazing vacation. Instead of meandering from state to state, plan your trip to include as many cultural activities as possible. Fortunately, the East Coast is home to tons of artistic and theatrical touchstones.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

No trip to the City of Brotherly Love is complete without a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As one of the largest museums in the country, it is home to hundreds of paintings, architecture, sculptures and more from North and South America, Europe and Asia. Spend a day admiring the amazing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet and famous works by Frido Kahlo, El Greco and Salvador Dali that are on display at the museum. The building itself is a work of art, too. The neoclassical building is modeled after the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum is located at the west end of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. You and your friends can either explore the museum on your own or arrange for a guided or walk-through tour.

Exterior of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Exterior of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Located in the Boston suburb of Worcester, the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts offers something for everyone. The theater, which seats 2,300 people, hosts national-touring companies performing Broadway shows, nationally-famous entertainers and community theater groups. To satisfy both the theater and art fans in your group, the Franklin Square Salon Gallery, which features a variety of art exhibits, is located on the second floor of the theater. This summer’s performances include the 10th Anniversary World Tour of Celtic Woman, Morrissey and the 2015 Miss Massachusetts Pageant.

Broadway

An East Coast adventure is not complete without spending some time in the Big Apple. After exploring in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, head to New York City for at least one Broadway show. For example, if you have wanted to see “The Book of Mormon” ever since your theater professor told you how funny it is, now is your chance to do just that. If you have time for more than one show, there are no shortage of entertaining productions on the Great White Way, including classics like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Aladdin” and “Jersey Boys.” Whether you prefer something dramatic or a more avant-garde production, New York City theater offers something for everyone.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The “Met,” as it’s known, is to the Big Apple what the Louvre is to Paris. The museum’s collection of European art rivals anything you will find overseas and includes everything from the ancient Romans to Renoir. The Met is also home to plenty of American classics, as well as pieces from Egypt, Africa and the Middle East. The museum features hundreds of events and programs every month, including lectures, tours and performances.

About the author: Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.

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The Secrets of Top Students Book Signing

Photo of Columbia University, courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr

Photo of Columbia University, courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr

I’m excited to announce that I’m doing a book signing for The Secrets of Top Students at the Columbia University Bookstore on Thursday, September 19, at 6 pm. I’ll also be sharing some of my top study tips for high school and college students!  This is a great event for parents and students in the NYC area.

The Columbia University Bookstore is located at 2922 Broadway, Lerner Hall (114th St.), New York, NY 10027. Hope to see you there!

How Stuyvesant Influenced My Writing Career

On Sunday, June 23, I was honored to participate in the “Writer’s Block” event at the Stuyvesant High School all-class reunion, along with eight other writers who are Stuy alumni: Richard (R.B.) Bernstein, Robert Timberg, Joe Dorinson, Peter Wortsman, Eugene Schlanger, Rebecca Pawel, Richard Herschlag, and Becky Cooper. They asked us to talk about things like the road to publication and the impact Stuyvesant has had on our writing careers. I thought I would include the questions that were asked, along with a summary of my answers.

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

(1) Tell us a little bit about your work (most recent or favorite) and what inspired you to write the book? Include why you choose the genre you did.

I just came out with my first book, The Secrets of Top Students. It’s an advice book for high school and college students on how to succeed in school. I was inspired to write this book because I felt like I had so much to share with other students. I’ve been a top student all my life – I was valedictorian of Stuy, class of ’99. I graduated from Columbia with the highest GPA in my class. I also have experience in a wide range of subjects – I have a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Art History, and a B.S. in Computer Science. Over the years I developed lots of techniques that helped me excel in school, and it just felt natural for me to write this book and share those techniques.

(2) What is your writing practice?

I just write whenever I can. My mind is usually the clearest in the morning, so I’m most productive then. I usually write at home, but I write outside whenever I can. I’m a pretty slow writer. I write a few pages, and then I spend a lot of time editing. Some days I’m much more productive than others.

(3) Describe the road to publication, from idea to release.

This idea started when I was getting my last degree, a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia. I started writing down all the techniques that I was using, and all the things that my classmates were doing wrong – things like cramming for tests, not taking enough notes, not managing their time well, not asking for clarification, etc. After I graduated I wrote the first three chapters, did a lot of research, and surveyed forty-five other top students to get their insight into what it takes to be a top student. These people are Rhodes scholars, Goldwater scholars, Fulbright recipients, students at top law and medical schools, and even a National Spelling Bee winner. A few months later I got an agent, Coleen O’Shea, and she helped me find a publisher/ get a book contract. It then took me a few more months to finish the book, which came out in May. The whole process, from idea to publication, took 4 or 5 years – but the idea was gestating for a long time.

(4) Describe how you went about finding an agent and how you went about finding a publisher or decided to self-publish?

I got a book called The Writer’s Market, which has a great listing of literary agents. I sent query letters to agents who accepted non-fiction books, and luckily I got one! She helped me work on my platform and create a book proposal. Then she submitted my proposal to a couple of publishers. I had phone interviews with a few of them, and Sourcebooks gave me a contract! I was really happy because Sourcebooks has a great education division. They publish books like The Fiske Guide to Colleges and Gruber’s Test Prep series.

(5) Was there a Stuyvesant Muse? Describe whether attending Stuyvesant High School had an impact on your writing endeavors.

I wouldn’t be here today without Stuyvesant. I learned how to be a great student here. Stuyvesant has such high standards, and the student body is so talented, that I had to develop powerful techniques to succeed. I’m sure many of you will agree with me that college was relatively easy compared to Stuyvesant. And of course, being valedictorian of Stuyvesant has a certain cachet that helped me get a book contract in the first place.

I’m not sure if I would use the term muse, but I was really inspired by Dr. Nikol, who taught AP European History. He was a great story-teller and made history come alive, as they say. I remember I did pretty poorly on the first few tests in his class because they were so detailed, and I had to readjust/ refine my study habits. He was one of the most demanding teachers I had here, but I learned so much. He was a big part of the reason why I specialized in medieval European History at Columbia. I still have a love of history, and that’s why I’m writing a historical fiction novel set on Crete during the time of the Minoans, which is currently a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Contest.

Jeopardy! Pays Homage to Queens, NY

Street art in Astoria

Street art in Astoria

Hell Gate Bridge, Astoria Park

Hell Gate Bridge, Astoria Park

I was so excited yesterday to see a whole category devoted to my hometown – Queens, NY – on Jeopardy! last night! What’s more, there was even a $2,000 question about my neighborhood:

It ain’t no Waldorf, but this neighborhood has lots of Greeks, & Telly’s Taverna–To Die For.

The answer? What is Astoria.

I have to say, though, I was a little disappointed by Alex Trebek’s accent. He sounded like a cross between a gangster and Fran Drescher. People from Queens do not sound like that.

Here’s a link to all the questions from last night’s Queens category.

Also check out my Ode to Astoria post.


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

 

Update on P.S. 122 G&T Program

Please click here for the continuation of this post.

This is an update of my previous post, P.S. 122 Gifted Program in Danger of Closing.

P.S. 122 - The Mamie Fay School

P.S. 122 – The Mamie Fay School

3/1/13 Update: There’s an emergency meeting coming up on Wednesday, March 6. Below is the text from the flyer.

HELP SAVE OUR PRESTIGIOUS P.S.122!!!
Dear School District 30 Residents,
The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing drastic cuts to P.S. 122’s Talented and Gifted program known as “The Academy” and the addition of a zoned middle school program in the same building. The surge in enrollment and overcrowding that would result will take away resources from all P.S. 122 students.
The impact of these actions will be felt beyond the borders of P.S. 122, potentially also affecting local schools such as P.S. 85, I.S. 141, P.S. 150, P.S. 166 and P.S./I.S. 126 in an adverse way.
The impact of the DOE’s proposal will be felt beyond school walls. Many hard-working families have chosen to move to and even buy homes in School District 30 because of its successful schools. Damaging our schools will only serve to break apart our community and could potentially threaten real estate values of our respective neighborhoods.
Our community cannot sit by as our schools’ abilities to serve the needs of all our children are severely diminished. We need your help!
Please join us at the upcoming general community meeting to learn more about the DOE’s proposal, its potential impact, and how we can work to stop it.

Meeting Information
Location :
P.S. 122 (Auditorium)
21-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105
(718) 721-6410

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time: 6:30 P.M.

Together, let’s protect our schools and our community!

So, I attended the Community District Education Council 30 meeting yesterday, February 21, 2013, and boy, was it intense! People are very upset about potential changes to the Gifted and Talented program at P.S. 122. I’ll just give a brief rundown of what was said. I apologize for not knowing the names of speakers and if I got some of the facts wrong.

The Proposed Plan

Some representatives from the Office of Portfolio Management and the Office of Student Enrollment explained the plan. It appears that the DOE is proposing to change the organization of the G&T (Gifted and Talented) programs in District 30 in Astoria, Queens. The basic idea is that they regard P.S. 122 as a K-8 school, and based on a chancellor’s rule, any student entering the school in kindergarten must be guaranteed a seat in the school until eighth grade. This means that the G&T program (6th through 8th grade) in P.S. 122 would be greatly reduced. They would open up a new program in P.S. 126 modeled after the one in P.S. 122, although what this means is not clear. The effects of these changes would not be seen until 2019.

The Reaction

One of the council members called this a “back-handed deal.” She and various other speakers said that this would mean the loss of approximately 60 G&T seats throughout the district and would “destroy one of the most successful middle school programs” in the city. The district is already short of G&T seats. Many (including the principal of 122) said that P.S. 122 is not and has never been a K-8 school. It is/was a K-5 school with a 6-8th grade G&T program. The DOE’s proposal would also worsen overcrowding in the school.

There were many speakers last night, and none of them supported the DOE’s proposal. They said they wanted more G&T seats, not less. One speaker said the DOE “just took a community and pissed them off.”
Other memorable quotes:
“Keep 122 intact!”
“Who on earth asked for this?”
“We are passionate about 122.”
This is a “hugely successful, beloved program . . . and you are destroying it.”
“This school is a gem in the entire city.”

What You Can Do

To express your support of 122, here are some things you can do:

3/1/13 Update: I’ve been told it’s extremely important to contact the following individuals:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
(212) 374-0200
DMWalcott@schools.nyc.gov

Sandy Ferguson
Deputy Chief Executive for Admissions, Office of Student Enrollment
(212) 374-7636
SFergus@schools.nyc.gov

The following is the text of a sample letter you can send to these people. Please modify it to suit your own style, etc.

Dear Chancellor Dennis Walcott,

I am writing this letter to support one of our community’s biggest assets, P.S. 122 and The Academy for the Intellectually Gifted that has existed there for almost 30 years.

For all these years P.S. 122 has helped shape some of our community’s brightest minds. It has been a refuge for children with a variety of needs and has discharged its responsibility in an effective and extremely successful manner.

Given P.S. 122’s success record, we feel that the program and structure there should not be altered. The plan, which was announced recently, will clearly harm our most prized school and, consequently, our entire community.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding the reversal of this decision which has galvanized our members the broader community.

Sincerely,

One of the council members said to contact Marc Sternberg, Deputy Chancellor of the Division of Portfolio Planning. I don’t currently have his contact information. If anybody knows it, please let me know.

As mentioned in my previous post, you can also:
Sign this petition.

Some other local contacts:
Councilman Peter Vallone : 718.274-4500
District Leader Costas Constantinides: costa4astoria@gmail.com
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas: 718.545.3889
State Senator Michael Gianaris: 718.728.0960

You can find more information on the Astorians website.

Thank you!

P.S. If there are any P.S. 122 students or teachers (past or present) reading this, please feel free to post a comment below.


Give your child the gift of great grades.  Order a copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

P.S. 122 Gifted Program in Danger of Closing

Please click here for the continuation of this post.

P.S. 122 - The Mamie Fay School

P.S. 122 – The Mamie Fay School

It has come to my attention that one of my alma maters is in danger of closing. It’s The Academy for the Gifted and Talented at P.S. 122 in Astoria, Queens (aka The Mamie Fay School – I never did find out who Mamie Fay was), a program I attended from sixth to eighth grade. I loved this school and all the teachers and students were wonderful. I feel I got a great education without my parents having to spend a fortune on private school. We were taking Regents exams in the eighth grade. Plus, it prepared me extremely well for the rigors of Stuyvesant High School. I feel 122 was the best school I attended – better than my high school, my college, my elementary school, etc. It was such a supportive environment.

I don’t know why they’re planning on shutting it down, but apparently they are. I think it would be a great loss for the community. To support the program, please contact one of these representatives:

Councilman Peter Vallone : 718.274-4500 [this is the corrected number]
District Leader Costas Constantinides: costa4astoria@gmail.com
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas: 718.545.3889
State Senator Michael Gianaris: 718.728.0960

3/2/13 Update: I’ve been told it’s extremely important to contact the following individuals:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
(212) 374-0200
DMWalcott@schools.nyc.gov

Sandy Ferguson
Deputy Chief Executive for Admissions, Office of Student Enrollment
(212) 374-7636
SFergus@schools.nyc.gov

You can also sign this petition: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-academy-at-ps-122/

There’s also a council meeting taking place on Feb. 21st:
“Please come to February 21st Community Council Meeting at P.S. 234 to voice your concern. P.S. 234 is located at 30-15 29th St, Astoria, 11102. Also, contact your local representatives and ask them to support one of the most successful schools in the state.”

3/2/13 Update: There’s an emergency meeting coming up on Wednesday, March 6. Below is the text from the flyer.

HELP SAVE OUR PRESTIGIOUS P.S.122!!!
Dear School District 30 Residents,
The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing drastic cuts to P.S. 122’s Talented and Gifted program known as “The Academy” and the addition of a zoned middle school program in the same building. The surge in enrollment and overcrowding that would result will take away resources from all P.S. 122 students.
The impact of these actions will be felt beyond the borders of P.S. 122, potentially also affecting local schools such as P.S. 85, I.S. 141, P.S. 150, P.S. 166 and P.S./I.S. 126 in an adverse way.
The impact of the DOE’s proposal will be felt beyond school walls. Many hard-working families have chosen to move to and even buy homes in School District 30 because of its successful schools. Damaging our schools will only serve to break apart our community and could potentially threaten real estate values of our respective neighborhoods.
Our community cannot sit by as our schools’ abilities to serve the needs of all our children are severely diminished. We need your help!
Please join us at the upcoming general community meeting to learn more about the DOE’s proposal, its potential impact, and how we can work to stop it.

Meeting Information
Location :
P.S. 122 (Auditorium)
21-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105
(718) 721-6410

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Time: 6:30 P.M.

Together, let’s protect our schools and our community!


Give your child the gift of great grades.  Order a copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Follow the yellow brick road – or, why I loved third grade

A couple of weeks ago I got this message through my blog:

I am trying to do a follow up on my students from PS 166 class 3-305.
I believe that I have found you. I am extremely proud of all your accomplishments. Please email me back with an update.
I would love to meet with you to discuss old times.

It was my third grade teacher! How cute is that?  Suddenly I felt like I was nine years old again, learning my multiplication tables and playing the recorder.  Third grade was a very good year…

So we met for lunch in the city the following week and reminisced about old times.  She looked the same except she had straight hair instead of the reddish curls I remember.  It was so weird to be sitting next to her as an adult!

We had both brought pictures from the defining event of that year: the production of The Wizard of Oz we put on.  I played Dorothy. Actually, I was one of two Dorothies. My voice was too small and quiet to hold up for the entire show, so it was decided that another girl would play the lead for the second half.  I was “Dorothy #1.” 🙂

Follow the yellow brick road! I still have one of those paper corn stalks from the set in my closet. I am such a hoarder.

From left to right, Clint Borzoni, Armita (?), Stefanie Weisman, Danny Ho, Michael Petrocelli. I still remember their names! We had such amazing costumes. (I love the dinosaur dioramas in the background, too.)

Me as Dorothy, with the Lion and Tin Man in the background. I love the tree costumes!

We had really great costumes, most of them hand-made. My mother sewed this Dorothy costume from a pattern she got at the Five and Dime – can you believe it?

My former teacher said that it got harder and harder for her to put on plays like this as the pressure to teach for standardized tests mounted.  What a shame.  This was one of the defining moments of my childhood, and you can see how much love and care we put into this play.  More kids should be given this opportunity.