Paula Vogel: Episode 3 Rewrites & Revisions OR How I Learned to Drive Part II

First Online with Fran Episode 2: Starting a Workshop!

Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Paula Vogel

On Feb. 8th, 2012, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Paula Vogel spoke at the Drama Bookshop in Manhattan. This five part series will feature clips that highlight topics of her discussion. The first of the series is called “The Great American Bake Off.”

First On-Line With Fran was shot and edited by Brandon York Productions with special thanks to Nancy Reardon and the Drama Bookshop in Manhattan!

Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize winning play “How I Learned to Drive,” played on Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre, and was the first professional NYC production of the play since its premiere 15 years ago.

Marla Lewis: Grammy Winning Songwriter for Kids, Parents, and Teachers

“I never expected to win a Grammy,” says Wantagh Award-winning singer/songwriter, Marla Lewis. “I just love to write songs that teach, entertain, and sometimes raise a smile. I’m really proud of my work.” 

After 25 years of writing songs for adults and children, Marla’s tune, Leap of Faith, became part of a compilation CD called All About Bullies…Big and Small. The CD won a Grammy for Best Children’s Recording.

Leap of Faith is about a timid little girl named Faith who finds her courage.  On the playground she sees a bully push a small kid down. Before she can even think about being afraid she stands up and says, “Cut that out!/Leave that kid alone right now!” Everybody in the playground stops, stares the bully down, and cheers Faith. The bully turns and walks away.  Everyone is jubilant, and Faith discovers how much inner power she has.

 During the course of her career, Marla taught ESL (English-as-a- Second Language) in New York City schools. She utilized her musical talent to teach lessons across the curricula from grammar, to math, to social studies, science, and literacy skills.  For example, to teach irregular plurals Marla created a chant “One Foot, Two Feet” and added movement to act out each body part.  “The combination of aural, visual, and kinesthetic modalities accommodates children’s varied learning styles,” says Marla.  For a kindergarten math lesson, she has the children sing this ditty:  If you know how to count you can add by one.  “I also use folk songs, for example, Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd,to teach kids about slavery, and how the slaves used the North Star to find their way to freedom.” 

Marla uses many of her songs in her original professional development workshops for teachers. One workshop deals with how music and movement facilitate literacy.  Another workshop teaches collaborative songwriting.  “I wrote one of my favorite songs, We Love to Read, with a second grade class! The kids were very excited about learning to read. They were amazed at how those  ‘squiggles on the page’ became letters. We had a magical time working together!”

“You don’t have to be a musician to do this.  You just have to enjoy the music and . . . know how you’re going to use it to teach the lesson.”  This is what classroom teachers do best and to this day Marla’s music is sought out by education practitioners around the country to integrate her songs into lessons of their own invention.

To produce professional quality recordings meant finding resources:  “Funding in the arts is not easy.  I have recorded two albums for kids and they each cost me about $30,000.  I used all live musicians; I didn’t skimp on anything, but I didn’t exactly use a New York City studio, either.”  With the staunch support of a producer, Bob Stander of Huntington, Marla sold over 3,000 CDs, and won Parent’s Choice Awards for both We All laugh in the Same Language (2005) and  I Love to Talk to Plants (2008). 

Although retired from public school teaching, Marla continues to pursue her art by producing videos at home and uploading them to her YouTube channel.  “The Arts are the most positive aspect of man and womankind . . . if we made a time capsule to show another species in space what we’re about, we’d include our greatest achievements, which are our works of art, scientific discoveries, and speeches made by our greatest leaders.  I honestly don’t understand why drama, music, art, and dance are not valued as much as science, math and social studies.” Further, Marla adds, “The arts empower us and give us the ability to make a difference. “

To find out more about Marla Lewis and her music visit her website  “We all Laugh in the Same Language!”

Olivia Bouler: Taking Flight


Twelve-year-old Olivia first gained fame two years ago when she offered her paintings to people who donated to the National Audubon Society in response to the BP Gulf oil spill. To date, she has created more than 500 paintings and raised more than $200,000 for the Audubon Society. She’s also published a book, lobbied on Capitol Hill for environmental reforms and spoken to school children in different states and countries about her passion for animals.


In August, she was honored for her work at the International Year of Youth Culmination Celebration at the United Nations and personally invited by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama this past December to attend a holiday reception. Over the February winter break Olivia traveled to Costa Ricato study bird wildlife in their natural habitat. Her first gallery show is in the planning stages for this coming season.

And if she had not had the opportunity to pursue the arts, Olivia emphatically exclaimed, “Oh, my God! My life would be over!”  The Arts have not only been the conduit through which she channels her energy and enthusiasm for her causes, but also a respite for coping with her emerging adolescence:  “I’ve seen other kids who don’t have the arts and they turn to the wrong things . . . if they had considered taking [an art class] instead of another class with another grade and another period of the day, it would have saved them.” And it’s not even about being able to draw.  The ability to freely respond to any given moment has transcended to her writing skills.  Praising her English teacher, Olivia can compose two pages to a written prompt within 10 minutes.  Playing the saxophone challenges her to take risks and improvise:  “You just keep on going;  just pick up that pencil and start writing. I can tell you there are brilliant writers [in my class] there are brilliant players, brilliant singers [who will] never be heard because they are so scared of doing a solo because they’re afraid of what people might think; they will just not get up in front of that stage and expose themselves even in a group.”

Besides the arts’ capacity to instill courage for anyone who dares to accept the risk, Olivia is cautious about protecting her personal boundaries.  “Kids, personally, don’t like me in school.  I’m just too different, and bouncy and boisterous.”  Despite composing a song to perform for the school talent show Olivia decided that it was too revealing emotionally and decided to do another selection.  ‘It’s really good, it’s really put together and I may perform it at another event where kids won’t attack me because kids [can be] monstrous.”

It’s this secure sense of self-esteem that the arts have armed Olivia to pursue her dreams.  For as long as she can remember she always wanted to “do something crazy, radical, and kind of awesome with my life.”  Her “epiphany”, if you will, was the moment her parents put a pencil in her hand.  Since picking up that pencil, she has 30,000 people who follow her on Facebook and is more determined than ever to do something really amazing for the arts and the environment:  “We are like birds! We have to sing our song before our time goes out . . . we have to sing our songs NOW before it’s all gone.”  By her example, we can be certain that her message will resonate for all humanity and be realized in our lifetime. “Go birds!”

Contact Olivia on her website and Facebook!