Author Archives: lizzycarver24

Jessi Reed, Advocacy and “Spectrum, the Musical”

Theatre Education major Jessi Reed tackles advocacy for all on the autism spectrum through her very own show “Spectrum, the Musical.”

“This show is ultimately an advocacy piece to help shine a light on autism Spectrum Disorder and those many, amazing people who are on the spectrum,” said Jessi Reed, a senior theatre education major at Piedmont University. “People should not be labeled as their disability. That is only a part of them; it is not who they are. We all have strengths and challenges in life.”

On April 14, Reed presented her musical at the Piedmont Symposium. Inspired by her son, who has autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Reed gave a very passionate and knowledgeable presentation to her peers. As defined by the Center for Disease Control, “ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Reed explained her teaching process centered around her musical and how she incorporated the process of explaining autism to students into her curriculum.

“I think that my students have learned more about ASD through this experience,” said Reed. “They have had to think about the many different kinds of people who are on the spectrum. The spectrum is so wide, and people with autism can grow, change, and move to where they are on the scale.”

Reed explained how many of her students have close connections to someone who has ASD, whether it be siblings, cousins, or the student themselves. “Most of them already knew what autism Spectrum Disorder was, so that was helpful to them learning more about the disorder and the characteristics and symptoms of ASD,” said Reed. Reed taught this lesson to her advanced drama class as part of her current educational internship with White County High School. Her work has impressed her adviser.

“I really liked for the students, for the high school students, how she packaged it in terms of advocacy,” said Dr. Kathy Blandin, associate professor of theatre. “And how theatre is to educate and entertain and that education can take the form of advocacy.” 

While working with her students, Reed kept open communication between herself and the class to ensure everyone understood their work. Through discussions and class projects, Reed worked with the students on the idea of advocacy. Advocacy not only within the world of theatre but in everyday life as well. “We spent a couple days learning more about autism in-depth, watching videos about autism, and experience autism video simulations,” said Reed. “I based some of the main characters and their characteristics on real people with autism, so we watched videos about these people. One of the characters are based on my son and our story, so I told them about our personal experiences. I was surprised when these students embraced the story and the content.”

“It was a very powerful message,” said Jordan Hicks, a fellow theatre major and an attendee at Reed’s presentation. “I think advocacy is one of the most important elements of theatre as you are giving a voice to those who are being silenced. And after Jessi’s presentation, I feel as though there needs to be even more of it happening.” 

Reed plans on continuing with her process of putting on her show with her current class. However, even after Reed leaves once the semester ends, her students will continue workshopping her work and are currently considering it to be their one-act play competition piece for next year. “I’d like to do a review session with the students once this unit is over to hear what they have learned through this experience,” said Reed. “I’d also like to invite a few of my friends who are mothers of children with autism to get their feedback, as well. Any advice that people affected by autism can give will be helpful to the future development of the show.”

As Reed finished out her presentation, she left the audience with a famous saying to remember as they went about their day saying, 

 “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Disaster Strikes

A powerful tornado touched down at Piedmont College early Wednesday morning, claiming 10 lives and injuring several more. 

“At approximately 9 a.m. this morning, a category three tornado came through the area. Because the Swanson Performing Arts Center sits on a hill, it was badly damaged,” said Fred Bucher, the college’s assistant vice president for facilities management and safety. “We have approximately 70 victims, unfortunately, 10 deceased, and we have 15 that are critical.”

This was the scene Piedmont College students found themselves in what seemed like a typical class morning: as Habersham County and Demorest EMS, firefighters, and law enforcement filled the scene, dozens of nurses worked quickly to assist the injured. Due to the elevated location and placement of the Swanson Center, the area was hit hard by the tornado. There was no reason to prepare for the disaster as there was no cause for concern. “There had not been a tornado warning in effect,” said Bucher, adding that this led everyone to assume there was no imminent danger. 

“People were flying everywhere. They were hurt. I was scared,” said Monica, a student who walked away from the scene with minimal injuries. Monica, like many, was at a loss of words for the events that had taken place, left only with these jarring images of what had occurred.

As the unexpected disaster caused a chaotic scene, students who were not at the Swanson Center when the tornado touched down rushed to help out on the scene. “I was really scared,” said student Brooke Cassidy. “I was really supportive to everybody, and I just hope everybody is okay.” 

As the scene began to empty and more people were assisted and transported, it was clear this day will have a lasting effect on all involved. The disaster response teams and students alike share the same sentiment as student Camille Johnson who said, “I’m just glad it’s over.”

Putting a Spot Light on Henry Johnson

Henry Johnson of Piedmont College is a firm believer in the idea that you should love what you do.

“As long as you show energy, enthusiasm, and a love for the art and the willingness to do whatever you need to do to get it done, people will hire you.” Johnson said.

A theatre professional himself, Johnson has had plenty of professional experience to know the way the real world works. From The Caldwell Playhouse in Boca Raton, Fl. to The Williamson Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Mass. Johnson has been around the theatrical block. But not only has he gotten first-hand experience in traditional theatre but within the television/film world as well, having worked with ABC, CBS, NBC and building scenery for both Saturday Night Live and several MTV productions, Johnson is a man who knows how to work and stay working. 

“The goal is to make a living,” he said. “This is the one thing I am very proud of in my career. I have never once applied for a job in Theatre, I have been recruited for all of them, I’ve been asked to take them.”

If his impressive history was not enough to prove his dedication to the field of Theatre than this sentiment might do the trick. Going from job to job without applying for a single position is a huge accomplishment within the theatre realm. This demonstrates a person who is a hard worker as well as a person who does impressive work. 

  Johnson’s journey with Theatre began as a child, as he was always interested in building various models and sets. However, when Johnson was making the life deciding choice of “what am I going to major in” for college, Theatre was not the first thing to come to mind. Instead Johnson actually began as a business major, following the path that his father so desperately wanted him to take. That path quickly changed as Johnson realized that business was not something that would make him happy in the long run. After two years as a business major Johnson finally made the switch to study technical theater and hasn’t looked back. This did cause issues between him and his father.

“My father did everything but disown me,” he said, adding that for him, the choice was obvious. “Theatre was more fun than accounting”

Through it all Johnson stuck it out and has had a very successful career to show for it. 

“This has been a fun ride,” he said “I’ve had a good time. It has never been boring, and I’ve never really felt like I was going to work. I feel like I get up and play every day to make a paycheck. That’s the beauty of it”

A Little Bit of Lizzy

My name is Lizzy Carver and I am a senior at Piedmont College with a double major in Theatre Education and Theatre Performance with a minor in Mass Communications. Before coming to Piedmont I first attended a university in Jacksonville, Alabama known as Jacksonville State University. After a quick major shift and the realization that a giant university was not for me I found Piedmont. A native to Georgia, I was happy to find a college that was not too far from my home town of Cartersville, Ga. 

     Growing up I was one of a six person household. Comprised of my mom, my step-dad, my two older brothers, myself, and my younger sister…my house was rarely a quiet location. Of course I was stuck as one of the middle kids with my older brother, but that has just caused me to have a great personality with an exceptional talent for humor. At least I think I’m funny. 

     As far as what I tend to do with my life in the present, I am usually wrapped up in all things theatre here at Piedmont. Between acting in the productions, helping behind the scenes in set construction and lighting, performing with the improv troupe, as well as managing the marketing office – my days are pretty full. When I’m not working on lines or ensuring our shows are being promoted I am working on my various class work and trying to keep my social life afloat. On the ever so rare occasion, I am able to hike some near by trails with my friends or spend some time watching some of my favorite things on Netflix (Criminal Minds, New Girl, etc.). 

     To think about what I would love my future life to hold I have some wild and big plans. The dream would be to hop on a national tour for a production or even make my way to New York and take the stages there. After some time on the stage I would like to transition into working on some of the marketing teams for the larger theatre programs around the nation. In my elderly years, after I’ve taken the stage and gotten my experiences in I would love to transition into an educational field where I can share my experiences with the up and coming performers of the future generations…Now of course this is all if my dreams come true. But no one truly knows what the future has in store for us…sadly.