Shakespeare and the superintendent?

I tried to be good.

I wrote several blog posts before leaving town to vacation with my daughter Lizabeth at the Utah Shakespearean Festival last week. I let the bulk of my e-mail go unread, and I used my laptop mostly for trip planning rather than working.

But there are some professions that it’s practically impossible to leave behind for even a day. Does the photographer ever really stop filtering images and ideas through the lens? Does the actor ever pause from the incessant people-watching that informs so much of the work?

Does the parent ever stop wondering whether they’ve made the best choices in child care or education?

Not really.

I suppose it was an occupational hazard–not to my work as a writer but to my work as a mother–that I felt compelled to follow events taking place at two arts and education conferences held in the Valley during my summertime Shakespeare adventures last week.

Lizabeth and I were in theater mode all week–which for us means taking in shows every night, then catching up on sleep the next day. Once she’s a professional actor, of course, she’ll have to forego the sleep for rehearsals and such. But for now it’s a more bohemian lifestyle, and we love it.

I eagerly whipped out my laptop Thursday evening as Lizabeth was resting up for a late night on the town at a “Cabaret” featuring festival actors performing at a local coffeehouse called “The Grind” to raise money for the “R.E.A.C.H.” program that helps actors and theater tech professionals pursue career opportunities.

I went straight for the live feed of a forum taking place at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The forum featured four candidates for the position of Superintendent for Public Instruction in Arizona–one of several offices to be filled based on upcoming elections.

Participants in the Superintendent Candidates Forum–which was presented by the Arizona Alliance for Arts Education and Arizona Citizens for the Arts–included Margaret Garcia Dugan (R), John Huppenthal (R), Penny Kotterman (D) and Jason Williams (D).

If you missed the live event, take some time this week to view it online. Candidates for this position have different arts-related backgrounds, positions and priorities which you’ll want to explore before casting your vote.

Here’s a sampling of the topics they addressed during the forum:

Does arts education have intrinsic worth aside from its impact on academic and career achievement?

How can building community partnerships enhance arts education?

What impact is the emphasis on standardized testing having on arts education?

How can Arizona assure equitable access to quality arts education?

What training do teachers need to enhance their skills in arts education and integration?

How is arts education influenced by budget-related issues?

What role do the arts play in boosting overall academic performance?

How do the arts promote college readiness and achievement?

What improvements may be needed in Arizona’s art standards?

The attitudes and actions of elected officials, including the governor, legislators and superintendent of public instruction, can have a dramatic impact on what your child studies and how education is delivered. So don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about where several of them stand on the issue of arts and education.

Lizabeth, the youngest of our three children, begins her senior year of high school in just a few short weeks. Still, I expect to pay keen attention to education-related issues for many years to come. The educational opportunities afforded our young citizens effect us all.

Are you paying attention?


Note: The recent Superintendent Candidates Forum at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix addressed primarily arts in education (although other topics, including math and science learning, were also covered). All five candidates are scheduled to appear at a candidates forum in Tucson on Aug 12 from 7-9pm–so click here to learn more about that event. Click here to read the RAK education blog post on Arizona’s first statewide Arts Education Census results. And click here to learn more about Arizona’s own Southwest Shakespeare Company, which offers several resources to assist educators and students in learning more about Shakespeare and his work.

Coming up: Awards season for Valley theaters, Conversations with Shakespearean actors, My new favorite movie, Spotlight on weekend theater options, New season offerings from Creative Stages Youth Theatre

Update: Information from the Arizona Arts Education Census, which addresses arts education in Arizona’s public schools (K-12), is now available online at Also available at this website is a booklet titled “Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.”


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