Don’t Gravitate Towards Sports Just Because Everyone Does

I’ve seen it many times over my teaching career. Talented art-leaning students choosing sports because everyone does.

And before you peg me as a non-sports person who doesn’t know … blah, blah.

I understand. Growing up, baseball was my life. Quite literally. When I wasn’t playing on a team, I was throwing the ball against our porch wall or creating elaborate fake leagues with statistics and MVPs and trades and expansion teams. I was obsessed. And in those dark winter months, I started listening to Pitt Panthers basketball, created fake hockey scores, and played a lot of tackle football in our backyard. I was a sports guy, completely. And I wasn’t so bad at it. I had a fastball in the mid-80s and was even told I had a shot at getting drafted if I worked hard. Full disclosure, I didn’t.

And I think I know why. I was an arts person caught up in a sports world. The thing is: I didn’t know I was an arts person. How is a person to know? Okay, I liked to write poetry. Perhaps that should have been a clue. I liked to attend plays even though I was much too shy and lacking in confidence to think I should ever have auditioned for them.

I still remember watching my sister perform beautifully in the play Done to Death. I admired her so much. She painted too. She was an arts person, who sadly died her senior year in high school when I was ten. I still think about her all the time. I miss her.

I created things all the time – whether my own radio station on cassette tape or a play or a song lyric. But I loved baseball, and so I pursued it.

Nothing wrong with pursuing sports. I get it.

But I have seen too much creative talent being wasted in a mediocre basketball game. I’ve had kids who have terrific vocals, strong creative skills, wonderful acting abilities who end up playing third strong on a team when they could have been starring in the spotlight—kids who could really go somewhere in the arts—and if not, at least benefit tremendously from the communication skills and creative people-skills so in demand in today’s world.

I’ve told kids repeatedly, don’t go your entire high school career without trying out for a play. Step out of your comfort zone. I’ve seen talented and creative folks with great potential quit drama in the middle of a production because of a sport or they have too much to study.

Please, parents, you know if your kids are creative. Encourage them. “Hey, have you thought about dropping basketball for a year in order to take part in the musical? You have those abilities.”

They don’t always listen to me, but I almost can guarantee if they do, they will never regret it.

Creatitivity breeds confidence and more creativity. It will change the way you think, what you do, what you feel is important, and it will open doors you never thought possible.

So please, don’t gravitate towards sports just because everyone else does. Kids need to be encouraged  to do something creative, something co-curricular, outside of the realm of a classroom. I’m going to keep encouraging kids to do what I never did.

I realized late in life how important the arts are to me. I’m grateful I found this hidden calling of mine. I’m hoping there are many young people who will discover this side of them much earlier than I did.

Remember: create, not consume.

RLT – The Little Group Near to My Heart

I’ve teaching, directing, and writing drama for a number of years now. I guess it’s been seven and a half years. I’ve learned so much – mostly that I don’t know much about acting or directing. (On the writing part I think I’m okay.) I get to work with young high school actors – some with no experience -some with a lot of experience. It’s really rewarding. But none of our productions have been as rewarding as my group called The RLT Players. (RLT = Road Less Traveled)

A few years back our school had that saying as a theme for the year. A couple weeks into the first semester, a couple actors who didn’t get a part in the semester’s drama, asked me if there was something else drama-wise that we could do.  I had just been to a performance of the Footstool Players – a wonderful Malaysian drama group which do short skits in the form of dramatic storytelling. I thought that perhaps we could try.

As they say, the stars aligned. The Penang Performing Arts Centre was just opening and offering usage of their facilities for free. We booked a show in their black-box theatre for December 1, 2011 – two shows. I recruited up to 9 actors to join the group we called The RLT Players. We ordered purple shirts with our logo on it. I wrote seven short sketches, lasting an hour and fifteen minutes. We rehearsed and waited for people to show up, not really knowing what was going to happen.

The comments and gracious words we received from the audience were amazing. We had done it! Pulled off a great show, in little time, not really knowing what we were doing.

We came back the next year with a brand new show or original material I wrote called “The RLT Players present: Drive All Night.”  Last year was: “Captured in Time & Space.” And this year, in a few short weeks, we will have our fourth original performance – 4 shows over three days entitled “For All Generations.” I’m really excited about it. It includes one 10 minute musical, several comedic pieces, and several dramatic sketches all centered around how our past has shaped us into what we are today.

I love writing for RLT. 10-minute plays are a treat when they are written well, when they are well centered and direct stories. They can hit home in powerful ways. I’ve had people walk away from our performances amazed at what the kids have done. I’ve been amazed to. It’s such a privilege to watch them grow and see it all click in front of an audience when the lights come up.

I can’t wait for Nov 20 because of that reason.

Here’s our entire cast and crew for this year: 11 actors, 4 technicians, 1 director, 1 choreographer.

matt_brandon_rlt.10.27.14-15.15.28 FINAL 2014 RLT LOGO


The Hipster

A throw-back, nonsensical song of rhymes which conveys the coolness of ‘The Hipster.’  From the dramatic sketch “Walk” written for the RLT Players.  You can also check out Julie D’s great performance of ‘The Hipster’ on the link below.

It’s the jing it’s the jang, It’s the ring it’s the rang

It’s the walk on the wild side baby

It’s the wind in the hair, It’s the top down flair

It’s the walk on the wild side baby

It’s the jaunt, it’s the flaunt, It’s the hip, it’s the haunt

It’s the walk on the wild side baby

It’s the whole world sitting, grinning, staring as your moving down the tracks

It’s the whole world beating, sinning, bearing when you’re on your way back

It’s the tip it’s the toe, It’s the party groove flow

It’s the walk on the wild side baby

It’s the bling it’s the blang, It’s the fling it’s the flang

It’s the walk on the wild side baby

It’s the crawl it’s the ball, It’s the nothing at all

It’s the walk on the wild side baby

It’s the whole world waiting, skating, dating as you groove on down the pike

It’s the whole world fleeting, beating, pleading, jealous of my nik(e)

It’s the jing, it’s the jang, it’s the jaunt, it’s the flaunt, it’s the tip it’s the toe, it’s the crawl, it’s the bawl, It’s the walk on the wild side baby.


RLT Live Performance:


Road Less Traveled Dramatic Sketches Now on KINDLE!

I just published on the KINDLE the seven original dramatic sketches that our group the RLT Players have been performing.

These are great for schools, youth groups, churches, & other drama groups who like to perform low-prep, set-free drama productions which are really fun but ultimately meaningful.

They are available for only $1.00.  What a deal!  Please pass this along to anyone who likes drama or wants to go down the road less traveled.

Here’s a brief synopsis of each skit.  The starred ones can be read in their entirety on this blog.  Thanks everyone!

Sketch 1: “A Walk with Robert & Frost” – Traveling companions Robert and Frost the Polar Bear come across two paths which diverge in the woods.
***Sketch 2: “Almighty Might” – A man stands quietly in front of the gate to the presidential palace waiting for a revolution to come.
Sketch 3: “Tutti Fruitti” – Durian and her buddy Jackfruit have to endure the prideful taunts of Mango.
Sketch 4: “Wisdom Builds a House (Folly Destroys It)” – Based on Proverbs 9, Wisdom invites the whole city to her banquet at her grand house on the hill, but Folly has other plans for the night.
***Sketch 5: “(Traffic Jam on) A Highway More Taken” – A strange phenomenon called Traveler Indifference comes over the nation’s citizens who suddenly stop everything they have been doing. Two TV newscasters investigate.
Sketch 6: “Take Me to Your Ruler” – Turmoil erupts in the Kingdom of Stationary as Clip delivers a threat to Ruler from Meter Stick of the Democratic Republic of Office Supplies. Lined Paper and Duct Tape try to save the day.
Sketch 7: “Walk” Explore the different walks of the Hipster, the Ants, the Despair Walker & the Sacrificial Walker