Friday, August 31, 2012

The “Ardor’s Bridge” campaign is over.

It has been a stressful month. Between the people supporting the idea of “Ardor’s Bridge” and the stress of watching our contribution numbers creep too slowly toward our goal, I feel torn.

I’m relieved to at least know the outcome. I’m sorry that I couldn’t drive this project home.

Here is the letter that I sent out on my social media and email channels today:
The “Ardor’s Bridge” campaign is over.
We didn’t hit our target goal. No one that pledged a contribution to our kickstarter campaign will be charged. The campaign is done.
We didn’t make it.
We tried to develop an idea and raise funds to see it through. We raised about 20%. To the 18 people that did contribute, and those who wanted to do so but couldn’t for a variety of reasons, I want to say “Thank You”. Thank you for taking the time to read what this project was about. Thanks for reaching into your own pocket in a time when we all feel the economic pinch. And, thanks for believing that every kid deserves to be part of the dialogue that helps to change the culture they face every day.
We didn’t make it. We’ll pull back, regroup and explore some other options. If we can find a way to bring this about, we’ll let you know. I hope we can count on you again in the future for your support.
Thanks for all of your belief and support. I appreciate it.
For my first play, it wasn’t a bad effort. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but, it was written in the right spirit. It was written as a tool for positive change. I wanted to do my small part in helping schools change the culture of indignity and bias that faces every kid that doesn’t feel like they “fit in”. When you realize that the kids who don’t fit in vastly outnumber the kids that do, you start to see the frustratingly stupid way we as humans treat each other, and allow ourselves to be treated. You start to understand the frustration and fear each kid faces, to varying degrees, every day in school.

My play/video project didn’t raise enough funds on kickstarter to get it off the ground. That doesn’t mean the problem goes away. Kids will still be bullied. Kids will still be mocked for who they are perceived to be instead of who they are or what they do. But, since enough of us haven’t taught our children not to punish others for having the audacity to be themselves, the state has stepped in.
The state government has passed a law that charges schools with changing the culture in their buildings.

Laws mean consequences for those that run afoul of them, and punishments for the offenders. But, you can’t change fear and ignorance through punishment. That can only be done through dialogue. Understanding between kids is the only thing that will start that change. Schools will need your help.

For those parents who do not teach their kids to hate, your kid is going to need your guidance. Singling other children out for being different is a common way for kids to act on their own fears. This can get out of hand pretty easily and surprise those parents who teach tolerance at home. Schools will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to bigotry and will err on the side of caution in the early days of these new laws. Please make sure that your kids are aware of the new guidelines, even if they seem outrageous to you. They are still real, still laws and will still be enforced. Change will come as common sense takes hold, but for now, remember that administrators, teachers and your kids are all going to need you to be involved. Dialogue, understanding on all sides and tolerance for the views of others is what is needed, now more than ever.

For those parents who still feel that LGBT kids should be mocked, made fun of or brutalized, be aware. This is just the beginning of change. The days when it’s acceptable to openly and actively discriminate against another American based on their sexual orientation are coming to a close.

I wanted to help by writing a play with a story about tolerance and acceptance, filming it as a movie, and then making that film available to schools to be used as a way to get those dialogues going between students and their peers. That’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t expect to change the world or cure the ills of society. I just wanted to help. To that end, I gathered together a bunch of people who also felt that this was a worthwhile cause. Still more saw the value of it and contributed funds. Even more planned to do so but couldn’t for a variety of reasons. We all knew that we weren’t going to single-handedly fix the world. We just wanted to help a little. If we all help a little, that can add up to a lot.

We’ll find a way. As the creative and generous people I brought together for this project move back to their regular lives, the dream lives on. We will all find ways to help. And, who knows… maybe we’ll find another way to produce “Ardor’s Bridge”. If it’s a good enough idea, the universe won’t let it die.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm A Little Worried

With only a few days to go, I have to admit, I’m getting worried. For the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to raise money for a project. I’ve raised about 10% so far, and that’s not without a bit of spamming and shaming my friends and family. I live in a reasonably stable section of the planet. The amount I’m trying to raise shouldn’t be too big a deal. I have two meetings coming up where I’m hoping to convince some people of the importance of my ideas, but, one never knows how those things will turn out.

Perhaps a little background is in order.

A few months ago, the local school district where I live hosted a meeting outlining the latest ruling from the state. It was actually bigger than that. A law had been passed, outlining the steps schools had to take to ensure that bullying, discrimination and general assholery would no longer be tolerated among the students. No more shoving the geek in a locker, no more marginalizing the fat kid. The real thrust of it, though, was tolerance. Kids that identified as gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual were to be treated as if they deserved basic human dignity. They were to be treated as if they should be judged by their actions instead of being judged by how far they were from “normal” or “typical”.

Excellent in theory. Impossible in practice.

Rules and laws, by their definition, require punishments and consequences. But, you can’t legislate intelligence. You can’t punish someone into believing something they don’t believe. If you have a kid who delights in pushing around a smaller kid, no amount of punishment will change that. The only option is to try and reach that kid through meaningful dialogue. The only chance to change that kid is to prove to him that there are no “groups” or “communities” of people except the one we all share.
Schools are going to need tools that they can use to get those kinds of conversations started.

So, I wrote a play. I plan to produce it and film it. I want to make the subsequent film available to schools to be used as a way to help get those conversations started.

After I wrote it, I took it to a school administration official. I asked him if he thought I’d hit the right tone. I asked him if I had gone too far, or not far enough. I picked his brain and made sure that what I had on paper was what was needed to make a difference. He assured me that this was a worthwhile idea, and my script was definitely something that could help.

My confidence bolstered, I sat down with some really creative people and asked them to help me. I asked them to read it and consider directing it and handling the musical direction. Gracefully, they agreed. So, I started a campaign on one of the online crowd funding websites. After a few fits and starts, I got my project up and running.

More creative people signed on. I secured the actress I wanted for the lead role, and another that I had written a pivotal role for as well. Through my director friend, I am excited about the choreographer that has agreed to be involved. My wife has agreed to manage the project, and no better project manager can be found. My friend who will be in charge of costumes is second to none in terms of tenacity and brilliance under fire. It is all coming together. Now I just need to secure the rest of the funding.

If I don’t make it, the project may be shelved for a while, while I try other sources of funding. More likely, though - this project will die.

Please help. Follow this link to contribute. Dance Play project.
I could tell you the story, I could tell you all about my childhood and how I got to where I am now. I could tell you why this is important to me and why it should be important to you. But, the bottom line is that these kids need to be able to go to school and learn without fear or having to smile through the indignities other kids visit upon them. I want to help make that happen.

I was telling a friend about this project and how worthy it is and he said to me, “Hey, what are you going to do? The world is a cruel place.” I thought about that for a minute, and replied, “No, it isn’t. It’s just full of cruel people.” But to his question, I indicated my project and said. “This is what I’m going to do. What are you going to do?”

And so, I ask you the same question. Will you help? If so, thanks. If not, thanks for reading this far. I hope you find a way to make a difference, too.