Tonight I’ll be at Monarch Academy, along with Nikki, our colleagues there, and their students and families, to celebrate the end of another school year.
Being part of the Monarch family – and it really is a family, by choice and emotion if not by genetics – has been an experience I’m still trying to put into words. As a writer and as a human being, you always live with a certain hope that what you do, what you say, can make a positive difference. But you don’t always get to see it happen right in front of you.
It’s a gift, a blessing, that in the last year, I have.
Since Nikki began working at Monarch Academy, it’s put her in close proximity to the school’s neighbor, Morgan’s Wonderland. So maybe it was inevitable that she would being to contribute to the park as well.
Which is where Jay LaFarr and I came in, to write one of the park’s first live stage shows.
The idea, as Nikki explained to us, was to write a story inspired by the dogs Wonder and Stinger, who (as dogs are wont to do) have kinda sorta adopted the park. Stinger has physical challenges. Wonder doesn’t. But other than that, they’re pretty much the same. So they’re ideal ambassadors to spread the park’s message of inclusion, and ideal characters to write a children’s show around.
It took a while to get that story together. But it helps when you’re working with a writer like Jay. Besides being funny and creative, with a keen sense of whatever audience he’s writing for, he’s just a great guy to collaborate with. Together, we crafted a script that we hoped would entertain both kids and adults, and Jay wrote a fantastic closing song.
Then came the rest of the cast and crew. Dave Cortez as director. Ben Scharff as Wonder. Dane Berkshire (with an end-of-run assist from Lilly Canaria) as Stinger. Michelle Vidaurri and Gloria Sanchez as Joy, the park’s new butterfly mascot and the show’s narrator (needless to say, that’s her on the left). Nikki as Joy’s voice. Steven O. Sellers, putting music to Jay’s lyrics. Taylor James Johnson shooting video. Erika Martinez as production manager.
The show was rehearsed. The script was tweaked. A ginormous inflatable soccer ball was procured (yeah, you really had to be there). And the show came together, until the day came to introduce it to an audience.
For the entire run, The Adventures of Wonder & Stinger played to packed houses. To enthusiastic audiences. Even to a camera crew from KSAT 12, who arrived on opening day to cover the show (and you can see that here).
I was there for one of the later shows. Needless to say, I was blown away (but, knowing the talent involved, hardly surprised) by how everyone brought the story and characters to life. And it hit me, really hit me, that I had a part in this. A part in something that could move people. A part in something that could make a difference.
And that’s… that’s really something.
Thank you, as always, for sharing this latest story. Until the next adventure…
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