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11/2/11: New play at Stella Adler
A new holiday performance at the Stella Adler! This year it's Fool of the World, an adaptation of a venerable Russian folk tale about a gallant who tries to woo the czar's daughter by crafting a spaceship out of spider webs and sailing it into the Imperial Palace. (An only slightly less probable travel mode than some transit schemes pitched here in recent years.)
Show times this year are at 10:30 a.m., and they've got a full line-up of performances for November and December.
Interested? Already leading trips for TransitPeople? Then book through us, as you usually do. Not already leading trips for TransitPeople? Contact the gracious Rochelle Rossman of the Adler to sign up your class: (323) 465-4446.
Do it soon! We may not yet have seen Fool of the World, but every other show we've taken in here since 2000 has been excellent. This one is bound to be, too.
8/30/11: Back-to-school destination news
What follows is a short round up of destination news, for teacher-trip leaders interested in launching the new school year with a field trip (although leaders might want to wait until things simmer down a bit; September is a famously hot month in Southern California.)
Natural History Museum: the new Dinosaur Hall opened on July 16, and is fully twice the size of the dinosaur galleries that evoked ooohs and aaahhs from triceratops-crazed second graders some years ago. Expect to see over three hundred fossils in Dinosaur Hall, and twenty complete mounts of dinosaurs and sea creatures.
Admission? It's free, but groups will need timed reservations.
Science Center: The budding young da Vinci in your class may appreciate 1001 Inventions, highlighting the golden age of Muslim Civilization. Attractions include a twenty foot high replica of the elephant clock and a ninth century Camera Obscura. Look for 1001 Inventions in the Weingart gallery, on the third floor across from the Transportation exhibit.
(Question: when is the Space Shuttle Endeavor coming to Exposition Park? Answer: Early next year. Maybe.)
Central Library: Our friends at LAPL already have two Saturday matinees booked for the Taper auditorium in the months ahead: Aztec Stories and Songs with Michael Heralda, on September 24, and Living Treasures from Around the World with the Reptile Family (?!?!), on October 22. If you're up for a weekend field trip, you can't go wrong with a library matinee; we never have.
Aquarium of the Pacific: Visitors will find two new attractions here: a gallery devoted to the Arctic & Antarctic, in the temporary exhibits hall next to the main entrance, and the Ocean Science Center, just outside the Blue Cavern.
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And finally: TransitPeople founder Tim Adams -- trip planner, camera handler, and self-conscious accounter-of-his-own-activities in awkwardly worded third person News posts like this one -- has retired from teaching and moved back to his native Northern California. TransitPeople business will bring me back to Los Angeles, but expect to see me more often with a Clipper card on BART than with a TAP on the Figueroa 81.
4/11/11: End of fund-raising
If you finally cashed in all those old transit tokens with the noble intention of parlaying the windfall into a donation to TransitPeople, this web site has some bad news for you: our 'donate online' link has been disabled. We're not accepting donations anymore. Send us a check, and it won't be deposited.
Folks, the handwriting is on the wall. On March 1 (as you can plainly see, if you scroll down a bit), this News page pleaded publicly that our groups be permitted to travel gratis without picking up "fare media" from One Gateway before our trips. No MTA staff or board members responded to that request, or to an e-mail sent individually to all board members asking roughly the same thing.
That's not good news. A no transfer, $1.50-per-person-each-way trip is still cheaper by transit than by school bus, but half or more of our trips require transfers, and that often means we're spending more to get there than we would by chartering a school bus. That kind of math doesn't make for a good business model, at least not for us.
That's one piece of handwriting. There's another.
Next school year, LAUSD will raise class sizes in kindergarten through third grade from a maximum of twenty-four students to twenty-nine. Twenty-nine kids is too many to put on a public transit bus in Los Angeles. We raised our limit for bus trips from twenty to twenty-four to accommodate the last class size increase, but enough is enough.
This means that a long list of worthy field trip destinations will become unvisitable, unless the teachers travel with smaller-than-class-size groups on weekends. Included: LACMA, the Page Museum, the Getty, the Los Angeles Zoo, Autry Museum, Huntington, San Gabriel Mission and Arboretum. (Spared, at least once the Expo Line light rail opens: the Natural History Museum, Science Center, African American Museum and Aerospace Museum.)
Further -- much, much worse -- it means that many schools won't be able to travel with us at all, unless they travel on weekends. Most of our mainstay participants are close to rail lines, but we schedule many, many trips for schools that must begin all trips with a bus ride. From the 2011-2012 school year on, those trips won't be do-able during the week.
Our bank account is still healthy, and we have funds to fulfill trip requests for years to come. We will continue to serve our customers -- the dedicated teachers who sacrificed personal time to qualify as teacher leaders -- at least to the extent that changing class sizes allows those teachers to be served. Nearly a thousand kids have traveled with us so far in 2011, and we have a full calendar in the months ahead.
But at this point it seems ethically dubious to keep our hand out for more donations, given that handwriting on the wall and our future prospects.
4/2/11: Nightingale at the Stella Adler
Six shows, thirteen classes and 290 kids later, the verdict is in: the just-concluded run of Nightingale may have been the single strongest kids' offering ever to grace the stage at the Stella Adler.
Yes, it's true: you always read good stuff about the Stella Adler here! It's almost monotonous. Maybe one of these years they'll send a half-asleep cast on stage to mumble lines out of the phone book, and you'll get to read a bad review. That hasn't happened yet, and isn't likely to.
Please click here or on the photo above to see shots from the March 24 performance. Rochelle Rossman produced, and Sharon Jakubecy directed. Raja Deka played the king, and Elias Zayek played his long suffering servant. Rose Elisabeth Swiatecka was the nightingale, and Stephen Baumann the on-stage musician. They were brilliant!
3/1/11: Trainings to resume
The first 2011 introductory training for prospective teacher-leaders will be offered in mid-March. If you're among the many who e-mailed or called this year to express interest, please check your in-boxes.
This offering comes with a condition, and it's an important one: we offer no guarantee that the program will be around to serve you in the years to come. You might complete qualification and earn the right to sign up for a year of field trips, or two years, or more. But the teacher-leader program also could land on the rocky shoals after you finish qualification.
In short: you attend the training with the understanding that you may be wasting your time.
Our bank account is still reasonably healthy, but we are now chewing up the folding green at a much faster rate than in years past, entirely because we are paying the transit tab for our trips. Further -- worse -- some trips now cost more by transit than they would aboard a conventional school bus. A Blue Line and subway trip for three classes and sixty kids costs $360 for the kids and another $54 for nine adult chaperones, for $414 total. Piling them all into a rented school bus would cost about $300.
Two of our four board members live in Los Angeles without cars, and a third has been a daily transit commuter in years past. No one in our organization wants to start booking school buses. But, let's face facts: many of our clients sign up primarily because they want their students to go to the Aquarium or the Natural History Museum or the Science Center. Getting there aboard a school bus would be fine with them. And how well do we serve donors if we knowingly spend more for a trip than we have to, simply to continue to do our traveling aboard public transit?
Bridge Street teacher Charles Carrillo recently contacted Metro about the Mayor's free field trip program, was assured on the phone that he would have no problem getting passes ... and wound up having to pool his own money with funds from two colleagues to pay for a trip to the Autry, when no passes materialized. Our experiences with Metro have not been that bad, but they have been plenty bad enough, as entries in past News columns make clear.
Our board of directors voted not to request transit privileges from MTA again if the provision of those privileges requires us to pick up or receive anything from MTA before a trip takes place. Whether they're stickers, labels, tap cards, business cards, letters, bobble-head dolls or lucky horseshoes, an all-too-rich lode of past experience suggests that they'll too often be furnished at the eleventh hour, and pried out of One Gateway only after a series of anxious e-mails and phone calls. We are a volunteer organization. Volunteerism is not supposed to be synonymous with masochism, even if it occasionally is, as some volunteers know.
Please, MTA: we urge you to let us travel with another arrangement. To our knowledge, we have never been removed as a beneficiary of MTA 'free fare policies,' granted to us in 2005. Nothing in our track record suggests that we are an other than trustworthy organization. We can inform you in advance of trips and furnish a complete accounting of transit expenses incurred after our travels. How likely is it that a rider intent on fraud is going to round up a class full of children and furnish them all with TransitPeople jerseys? Further, a deputy or fare inspector who suspects the group's bonafides can simply check with TransitPeople to see if the trip is on the schedule.
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On to a cheerier subject:
The second annual CicLAvia returns to Los Angeles on April 10 , with the same route as was used last year. We didn't field a group in 2010, and it would be kinda nice if we could in 2011. It was a big hit last year, and is likely to be at least as terrific in 2011.
You want details? You've got details: aqui, at the CicLAVia web site.
1/23/11: Nightingale at Stella Adler
Nightingale, as in the famed Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. Stella Adler, as in the much-beloved-by-TransitPeople theatre and acting academy in Hollywood, a stone's throw from the Hollywood-Highland subway station.
We have visited often since 2000, as regular visitors to this news page know, and will return again this February and March, to take in their adaptation of Nightingale. The show dates, all with an 11 a.m. starting time:
And yes, you're free to call the Stella Adler at (323) 465-4446 and sign up your class sans TransitPeople, if you wish. Heartily recommended; we've never seen a less-than-excellent show here.
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This is Metro's program, not ours, but there is still one point worth screaming and shaking the chain link fence about, if only to spare hundreds of overworked teachers from having to budget time for an unnecessary errand. Quoting from the bottom of page 2 of the working paper:
Unfortunately, this almost certainly translates to a required, just-for-the-teacher field trip to One Gateway to pick up passes before each field trip.
The working paper linked above also includes the text of the 'free transit for school kids' motion passed by the Metro board. Nothing in the text of this motion requires or even suggests the use of this type of fare media.
On-track teachers are invariably swamped with work, what with lesson planning, grading papers, parent conferences, dealing with the mountains of paperwork that any school district feels morally obligated to stuff into teachers' mail boxes, and so on. They simply don't need to add this chore to the list. Let's hope they don't have to.
1/1/11: Fear Exhibit returns
Goosebumps: the Science of Fear, that is, the Science Center's underappreciated kids' introduction to neuroscience. We last took in Goosebumps in the Science Center's upstairs Weingart gallery in 2007, bid it a sad farewell at the end of that year and presumed that it would be gone for good.
Apparently not: the online schedule promises that it returns on February 5 and will hang out in Exposition Park for at least two months thereafter, before trundling off to Seattle in May.
Teachers, we've seen this one and can vouch for it. Do sign up, if it fits your curricular plans.
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In other start of the year destination news:
• The Central Library will start 2011 with January and February matinees in the Taper auditorium: drum circle stories on Saturday, January 22nd, and a puppet show and animal tales on Saturday, February 12.
• The Festival of Human Abilities returns to the Aquarium of the Pacific on Saturday, January 29. We met the gentleman shown in the shot below at the Festival of Human Abilities back in 2007.
• Undervisited by TransitPeople are the free Sunday family festivals at the Museum of Latin American Art and the Japanese American Museum, sponsored by Target department stores. These are geared especially to families, but offer lots for visiting youth groups.
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As for news of Metro's new free field trip program: nothing, or at least, nothing on the record. One apparent insider commenting at la.streetsblog suggested that Metro may continue issuing the fershlugginer stickers. This isn't a good sign, frankly -- the stickers just aren't needed anymore -- but, ¿quien sabe?: someone at One Gateway may have an excellent idea in store that we haven't heard of.
For us, no changes. We expect to cover our own transit costs for the foreseeable future.