Play officials never dreamed of new lesson

The Education Beat

Theater: Western High students applaud the aspirations of a `vibrant' young performer. Three days later, the 28-year-old woman dies after a matinee.

April 04, 2001|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

LIFE, DEATH, real worlds and dream worlds merged last week for a group of young women from Baltimore's Western High School.

As part of the education program at Everyman Theatre, the students attended a matinee Wednesday of "Blues for an Alabama Sky," Everyman's current production. On the North Charles Street stage afterward, playwright Pearl Cleage (making a rare public appearance) and cast members talked for more than an hour of their craft, their hopes and their dreams.

Elauna Griffin's dream, she told the students, was to move to New York and pursue her acting career in the biggest apple. She was applauded when she announced proudly that she was a Baltimore native (a graduate of Owings Mills High School, but close enough).

One of the Western students said she was satisfied that Cleage's play "ended realistically," with no character living happily ever after. "You can have a dream," she observed, "but sometimes it doesn't become real."

Three days later, Griffin, who played a prim social worker in the play set during the Harlem Renaissance, died of an asthma attack after a matinee performance. She was 28.

Cleage, a sought-after playwright and prolific author of books and short stories, said it had been easy to spot Griffin's potential: "She was so vibrant and young and alive and lovely," Cleage wrote the Everyman company.

Everyman officials darkened the house for a week in Griffin's memory but added a week to "Blues'" run, through April 22.

Everyman's education program consists of study sessions in schools a week before students view a production and a review session about a week after. About 900 students in five high schools participate, expenses covered by corporations and foundations.

Vincent M. Lancisi, Everyman artistic director, said the theater would go through with its post-production workshops at Western, now with themes he never dreamed before last week.

"The lesson for these students, and for all of us, is not to take a single moment of life for granted," he said.

BCCC to give scholarships to honor millionaire Lewis

Baltimore City Community College has established a scholarship program for the brightest graduates of city high schools. Reginald F. Lewis Scholarships of $2,000 for full-time students and $1,000 for part-timers will be handed out tonight at the college's 10th annual high school recognition ceremony.

Scholars who maintain a 3.0 grade point average will have their awards renewed, said James Tschechtelin, BCCC president. The scholarships are named for Dunbar High and Harvard Law graduate Lewis, an entrepreneur and millionaire businessman who died at age 50 in 1993.

144-page resource guide for special-needs children

Just about everything you'd want to know about children with special needs is included in a new publication by Baltimore's Child magazine and financed with federal money by the State Department of Education.

The 144-page resource guide is the fourth to be published but the first covering every school district in Maryland. The book contains calendars, lists of support groups and resources, book reviews, advice on how to deal with eating and other disorders and descriptions of federal rules and regulations. It's free at schools, libraries, Baltimore's Child offices or the Education Department.

City school administrators' defender is retiring in June

Baltimore school administrators are losing a champion. Sheila Z. Kolman, who has led the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association for many years, is retiring at the end of the school year. On Friday, friends and colleagues honored Kolman, whose last posting is at Belmont Elementary School.

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