True Colors Theatre Steals the Show in the Atlanta Art Scene

For an emerging playwright, there’s nothing better than getting the stamp of approval from a celebrated and accomplished Broadway director. At Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre, this is exactly the case for many of the top new theatre talent.

When Tony Award-winning Director Kenny Leon started True Colors in 2002, he set out to create a space to promote playwrights, preserve African-American classics, and cultivate new, young writers. The theatre focuses on creating opportunities for artists of color, and tells stories of diversity, inclusion, and cultural understanding.

With his backing and the freedom to take risks, the theatre often gets to showcase works that other playhouses might not consider. Opening the door to those who often get it slammed in their face, True Colors takes chances on projects they believe in and want to promote.

The upcoming season features a wide variety of plays and musicals for the community to experience. First up in the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning play Between Riverside & Crazy. They’ll also produce Holler if Ya Hear Me, the musical featuring the music of Tupac Shakur, working with students at local HBCUs to write new poetry and rap for the show’s finale.

Leon and his staff put the season together after careful deliberation of readings and workshops, even taking input from test audiences. If a showcase reading receives rave reviews, it has a chance of being placed in the lineup.

“From there, Kenny starts to craft the story he wants to tell for the whole year,” said Jennifer McEwen , Managing Director of the theatre. “It’s not just play, by play, by play. It’s what kind of message am I trying to tell this community right now. We are always looking for something that has some hope bubbling through. We are always looking for something that makes you think, that starts conversation, and is entertaining.”

Beyond their performances, True Colors hosts education programs for young adults, elementary-age through high school. First, with the Page to the Stage program, True Colors take elementary-aged students, and turn a book into a stage play. The kids then learn the basics of production and putting on a play.

For middle school girls, there’s Act Like a Lady, working with young women who might need a little extra support. The 7th and 8th grade ladies talk about issues currently affecting their lives, and put these emotions and thoughts into a play, letting their artistic expressions aid in social-emotional learning. The August Wilson Monologue Competition is open to all Georgia high school students, and encourages participants to perform a 1-3 minute monologue from August Wilson. The top three performers receive a scholarship and a chance to compete in New York City against winners from across the country.

Individuals can buy tickets to upcoming performances and learn more about educational opportunities at the True Colors website at www.truecolorstheatre.org.

To listen to the full episode, click here.

Atlanta’s School of Rock

The Märchen Sagen Academy offers professional-led training for kids in everything from stop-motion animation to voice over work. Led by Executive Director Couleen LaGon, a video and music producer by trade, Märchen Sagen provides hands on programs to inspire local youth. “We develop humans, and their ideas,” LaGon said. “We are teaching these kids that they don’t have to compete for their world—they can create it.”

Märchen Sagen Academy

“I think that’s the most important thing that we do here—to teach these kids that nothing is impossible. If you can believe and have a little bit of applied faith and some personal action, you can do anything that you want to do.” Opened in August of 2016, Märchen Sagen has attracted many of its students through word of mouth and walk-ins off the street. The Academy also has a performing group that does shows at local schools, building even more local interest.

And the attention doesn’t stop there. The kids in the program were recently hired by Leon’s Full Service Restaurant to produce their new local advertisement. The Academy hopes to continue to provide these services to local individuals and businesses to give participants real-life training, all while securing funds for Märchen Sagen.

While the school year is in session, Märchen Sagen holds a daily after-school session from 2:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at their 418 Church Street location, offering students the chance to learn about making electronic music, songwriting, filming on a green screen and video production. Providing snacks for the students while they are there, Märchen Sagen offers a variety of different payment packages for participants, who can come between two and five days a week.

During school breaks, Märchen Sagen holds K.A.M.P, or Kids and Multimedia Production. K.A.M.P. is a full-day opportunity for students to continue honing their craft. The Academy offers day and full-week rates during these school breaks.

In addition to their work with the kids, Märchen Sagen is also available for additional video production and studio space. Offering quality equipment and production tools, artists can rent out the studio for recording and tracking work. With the Artists Development Package, artists get six hours of studio time, which includes one hour of pre-production, four hours of production time, and one hour of mastering.

The Academy is also available for parties and events, offering locals the opportunity to rent out the historic space. Those interested in learning more or enrolling in the summer camp can visit their website at www.marchensagen.org.

To listen to this full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.

Nzinga Shaw on The Good Works Show

This week’s episode of the Good Works Show featured a guest who is achieving great results in creating new norms.  Nzinga Shaw is the first person to hold the title of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the NBA, ensuring fans and players alike know that the team is more than just about their percentage from the free-throw line.

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At the end of the season, every team wants to have more wins than losses, and always has their eye on making it to the championship. There are times, though, when the game is about more than just the game.

For the Atlanta Hawks, priorities extend beyond the club’s free-throw percentage as they place increased focus on diversity and inclusion on and off the court. In fact, the team’s staff includes the first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position in the NBA, with Nzinga Shaw at the helm.

The Diversity and Inclusion office oversees three key areas. Working on internal engagement, a good employee and job candidate experience is encouraged, making sure job opportunities are publicized in the community to reach diverse demographics, and creating programs so employees can reach their full potential.

“That’s really what diversity is about,” Shaw said. “It’s about finding out what’s great about each individual and then having them put in positions to shine and succeed.”

From there, the office focuses on the game experience itself. Beyond the basketball, they put together a show that attracts a diverse group of fans to the arena. This includes engaging different groups, such as women, and the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.

Lastly, the Diversity and Inclusion initiative works on strategic partnerships to ensure that the team partners companies that align with their community and outreach goals. Women and minority-owned businesses have been sought out, in addition to the more traditional, larger companies with Atlanta ties.

Atlanta’s rich and diverse community provides a solid starting point for the team’s efforts. Shaw hopes to work with the diversity of the city to bring more people together, and promote integration.

“It’s not about competition, but it’s about coming together to provide a unique experience that everyone can enjoy,” Shaw said. “It showed that we can be unified. At the end of the day, we are human beings, we respect one another, and we all deserve to live a good life.”

The Hawks’ MOSAIC Program, Model of Shaping Atlanta through Inclusive Conversation, is currently organizing its second event. The program tackles different issues and topics impacting the community, and brings together thought leaders from across Atlanta.

Last year’s event was held at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and revolved around the theme of race and gender in sports. Grant Hill, Atlanta Hawks owner and seven-time NBA all-star opened the program with “fireside chat” with his mother, a former MLB consultant. The two discussed the challenges that people of color face in moving up the ladder in professional sports. The event also included a panel discussion on multi-dimensional diversity in professional sports.

This year’s MOSAIC event will be held on March 14 at the Georgia Freight Depot, and will center around the theme of sports as a catalyst for social change. “I think social action is really what we need to be talking about this year,” Shaw said.

Invitations to the event are first extended to the Hawks’ community, including sponsors and partners. Then, remaining seats will be opened up to the general public. More information on the event and tickets can be found on the Community section of the website at www.hawks.com.

To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.

In Case You Missed it…Literacy Action and First Step Staffing on The Good Works Show

Last week on The Good Works Show, two local nonprofits shared how they are making lasting impacts on the community. In the first segment, Literacy Action’s Executive Director Austin Dickson said, “Our mission is to teach literacy life and work skills to undereducated adults and help them reach their highest potential wherever we find those adults in the community.” As an adult literacy nonprofit, Literacy Action helps adults learn to read, learn math skills, and even receive their GED.

Dave Shaffer from First Step Staffing joined the show in the second segment to explain the idea that there is more to finding a job, than just finding a job. The nonprofit helps those with barriers to employment find steady work. While most staffing agencies are for-profit, First Step uses their “profits” to provide additional wrap-around services for their clients. In addition to finding employment opportunities, they help with job coaching, mentoring, and transportation to interviews and work. “First Step Staffing seeks to end poverty and homelessness by providing sustainable income and income streams,” he said.

To learn more about the work these nonprofits are doing in the community, listen to the full show here.

Kidz2leaders and Leadership Johns Creek on The Good Works Show

Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

This week, The Good Works Show features two organizations creating those ripples. First, Atlanta’s kidz2leaders works with children of imprisoned parents, teaching them leadership and life skills, and hoping to break the cycle of incarceration. Then, Leadership Johns Creek offers development opportunities for Atlanta’s emerging leaders. Creating a pipeline of effective professionals, the program also provides avenues to give back to the community.

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In the show’s first segment, Executive Director Nancy Staub talks about the 17-year-old kidz2leaders program.

“Kidz2leaders exists to change the direction of the lives of children of inmates,” she says.

The 501c3 was founded by Diane Parrish, who encountered three generations of women from the same family, all in prison.

Leadership Johns Creek board member Todd Burkhalter joins the show in its last segment to talk about the program, and the impact it has on its participants and the community at large.

“We are a series of structured learning environments,” he says. “It’s a pretty unique thing that we design ourselves to create leadership talent and mature our current talent in our community.”

The program selects 25 individuals to go through a nine-month leadership training. They are broken up into groups to also work on a project to help the community in some way.

To learn more about these “ripple effect” organizations, catch the show Saturday at noon on News Radio 106.7 FM or listen at your leisure to the podcast.

Leadership Tip from Usher’s New Look Alumna Kamera Cobb

Usher’s New Look alumna Kamera Cobb learned a thing or two from going through the four-year program. One of the many leadership tips she picked up while participating with the nonprofit? Networking, and how you present yourself, is key.

Usher
Usher

She emphasizes this with the current students of the program, with whom she advises. “It’s all about eye contact, a firm handshake, and speaking clearly,” she tells them.

These tips are also critical when interviewing for a job. First impressions are key, and even the littlest component of the initial meeting can contribute to the overall success of the interview. Beyond eye contact and confidence Cobb suggests, here are a few more ways to make your mark.

  1. Don’t be late. But don’t be too early. The potential employer might have a very busy schedule, so don’t show up too ahead of your interview, making them scramble to be available.
  2. Dress appropriately. This will likely be the first time you have met the employer face-to-face. Make sure you wear something that fits well, is ironed and clean, and is professional.
  3. Practice your elevator speech. All interviews are different, but it’s usually a given that you’ll be asked to tell the interviewer a little bit about yourself, and why you are a good fit for the job. Be prepared with this answer.
  4. Treat everyone with respect. You aren’t just trying to impress the interviewer. Make sure to be kind and appreciative to everyone from the secretary to the CEO.
  5. Send a handwritten thank-you note. Emails and quick communications are the norm. Stand out by taking the time to write, and mail, an appreciation for the time of your interviewers.

For more job and leadership tips tune in to The Good Works Show on Saturdays at noon on News Radio 106.7 FM or catch the podcasts at https://soundcloud.com/thegoodworksshow.

Spotlight: Invictus Consulting

Invicuts

Chris Green, COO of Invictus Consulting explains how his company offers safety and stability. “Invictus Consulting is a physical security and risk management consulting firm that provides clients with answers to today’s rapidly changing environment,” Green says. “We come in and help companies take a look at their security and risk needs.”

Invictus partners with seasoned professionals with backgrounds in hostage negotiations, law enforcement, security systems, and access control. “We marry those mindsets together — both the physical and tactical side — and offer a holistic approach to clients when we come and look at their facilities,” Green says. The firm works with companies of all shapes and sizes. Smaller to medium size companies generally do not have a trained crisis professional on staff. According to Green these duties normally fall on an HR or operations employee, usually with little expertise in the area.

Invictus does a lot of work with schools, property management companies, and manufacturing firms. “We guide them in best practices so they know what they are doing to protect their people,” Green says. “We come in and give a high level of what to do when something happens. We get very comfortable, and what you have to realize, even in the best parts of town, if you dial 911 you are 2.5 to 5 minutes away from getting some sort of response. You are ultimately responsible for being able care for yourself for that amount of time.” Green adds that individuals should take a few minutes at their job to evaluate how they might get out of a dangerous situation, including possible escape routes. He encourages people to be aware of surroundings and to watch out for warning signs.

“It’s not rude to inquire how someone is doing to see if you can get them help,” he says. “Although our culture tells us not to intrude, sometimes it’s crucial when someone or something seems wrong. In addition to its work with company and individual clients, Invictus also offers training within the community. Green says this is the fun part of the job for the tactical professionals, as they enjoy giving back to the community.  Once a quarter, Invictus holds “CRASE” classes, or Citizen’s Response to Active Shooter Events training. For these training sessions there is no charge, and individuals are encouraged to learn and then teach people around them.

“If you need help, we are always there,” Green says. Invictus can be reached at 678-894-4408, online at www.invictusconsulting.com, or at cgreen@invcts.com.

Spotlight: HomeAid Atlanta

Annual Essentials Drive, courtesy of HomeAid Atlanta
Annual Essentials Drive, courtesy of HomeAid Atlanta

Feeling safe and secure are some of life’s most important necessities. To have the comfort of a warm home, protecting you from the elements and keeping you from the dangers and instability of living on the street. To go to work and to school without fear of threats or peril. To be prepared when life throws you an obstacle or calamitous event. HomeAid Atlanta is an Atlanta-based organization working to help individuals find this safety and security. Its goal is to offer this stability, and this comfort to those it serves. HomeAid Atlanta’s Executive Director Mandy Crater talks about HomeAid Atlanta’s fifteen year history of helping the homeless population find housing. “HomeAid Atlanta’s mission is to build new lives for homeless families and individuals through housing and community outreach,” Crater says. “We were founded in 2001 and we are the designated charity of the Atlanta Home Builders Association. We work with both the residential and commercial building industries, as well as the community to build and renovate housing for nonprofit organizations that work directly with Atlanta’s homeless. To date, HomeAid Atlanta has completed 53 housing remodels.” HomeAid Atlanta helps homeless individuals and families move into more stable housing. “There are approximately 9,000 homeless people on any given night in metro-Atlanta,” Crater says. “Forty percent are women and children, and twenty-one percent are veterans.”

Crater mentions the “invisible homeless:” those sleeping in their cars, extended-stay hotels, and crashing for multiple nights on the couches of friends. This group often includes those displaced after a sudden and unexpected life event. HomeAid Atlanta serves victims of domestic violence, teen mothers, abused or abandoned children, and veterans. “We help somebody that needs some time to get back on their feet,” Crater says. The organization does this by building both individual and multi-unit homes in coordination with local builders and trade workers. Individuals who live in the homes are expected to take classes on budgeting and financial literacy, parenting, and work readiness.

“One of their graduates is a homeowner now,” Crater says. “After being at the Phoenix Pass location for two years, and working two jobs, she was able to apply and qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. In two years, she went from being on the street to being a homeowner. It’s life-changing.” One of HomeAid’s biggest initiatives is their Essentials Drive, in which they collect necessary items for families and babies. During the drive they accept diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food. Crater says this is a great way for those who do not renovate or build homes to give back.

HomeAid always does the drive right before Mother’s Day, this year from April 25 to May 3, collecting items that get used up and are costly to replace. “Sometimes they are choosing between food and changing their baby’s diaper,” Crater says. In addition to accepting individual donations, HomeAid works with 30 different organizations doing drives throughout the city. These sites and organizations can be found at www.homeaidatlanta.org.

“We are out their building housing every day,” Crater says. “We serve as a bridge, connecting local builders, trades, and suppliers with local nonprofit service providers, providing a unique and meaningful way for members of the building industry to give back. We try to save 50 percent of the construction costs- through donations from national partners, from local partners, from time, talent, and material.”

This cost savings goes back into the programs and services helping the homeless individuals find more stable housing. For individuals and builders alike looking to connect with HomeAid Atlanta, they can visit the website at www.homeaidatlanta.org or call 678-775-1401.

Goodwill Spotlight: Local Leadership

Leadership-QuoteA leader can be made in many ways—on the field, in the office, or even in the community. Through hard work and dedication to their team they gain confidence and the respect of their peers. Leaders show grit and determination, and a passion for whatever the task at hand.

This Goodwill spotlight is all about these leaders—cultivating them, and giving them the opportunity to shine and succeed.

“BlazeSports America is the legacy nonprofit organization of the 1996 Paralympic Games that were held here in Atlanta,” says Cynthia Frisina, Executive Director of BlazeSports. “We are a nonprofit organization that serves children, teenagers, and veterans in adaptive and Paralympic sports. We also do international work in several different countries, as well as training and education nationally. We are the only organization nationally that is certified in adaptive sports and recreation training.”

From children to veterans, Frisina talks about how everyone can find a place in sports. “We believe that everyone can participate in sports,” she says. “We have seen how sports have changed people’s lives. It becomes the highlight of what they do.”

One example Frisina offers is the story of a wounded veteran who came back from war paralyzed from the waist down, depressed, with PTSD, and attempting multiple times to commit suicide. He is now participating in track and field with BlazeSports, and is on the road to making it to the Paralympics.

She also shares the story of an eleven-year-old athlete with a severe spinal cord injury. He participates in four different sports, and his family gotten involved with the organization. This year they were awarded “Volunteer Family of the Year.”


Another local organization championing leadership is Portara Consulting. “I’m a consultant psychologist, and I’ve been in this business for about 18 years,” says Karen Foster of Portara Consulting. “I’m really a single-practitioner, but I have others in my network. I consider myself to be a trusted leadership adviser.”

Foster offers her services to individuals and organizations around the topics of leadership and leadership development. She meets with the individual seeking leadership development, in an interview of sorts, and they both determine if the other is a good fit. “It’s the fit that really makes a difference,” she says.

Once hired, Foster starts with a 360 degree evaluation to gather data around the individual. She talks to the individual, but also their peers and coworkers. This feedback paints a fuller picture of the individual’s leadership style.

They then discuss an action plan and how to address the feedback. Most work lasts about a year, as the individual is constantly growing and developing in their leadership. The two meet at least once a month, sometimes twice a month, for 1.5 hours.

Foster encounters a lot of lopsided leaders, or those who are very analytical and less in tune with how they have an impact with people around them. She also works with reluctant leaders, or those with great technical skill, but who are a bit ambivalent about leadership and managing people.

“I try to adapt how I’m talking and my values based on the values of the individuals I am working with and the organization they are in,” she added.

To contact Foster, interested individuals can go to www.potaraconsulting.com or email at kfoster@portaraconsulting.com.