Potter Sisters in Two Night Production of Pride and Prejudice

Becky and Annie Potter are two peas in a pod.  They both went to Athenian; they both starred in nearly every Athenian theater production while they were here; both went to UC Irvine; both studied theater, and now, they are both in a production of Pride and Prejudice for the second year in a row with a local theater company. The Potter sisters are a dynamic duo who embrace theater arts with their hearts and souls. Annie and Becky began their theater careers at The Athenian School, and as such, agreed to share some thoughts about their experiences since leaving Athenian.  [col grid=”2-1 first”]

Becky Potter ’02

Becky is on the far left, bottom row
After graduating from Athenian, I began studying theatre at UC Irvine. I started by playing mostly animals and young kids (that’s what you get for looking young and being 5’1” in an acting program) but I did end up using my Shakespeare skills (thank you, Dick!) playing Silvius in an all female production of As You Like It. When I graduated from Irvine, I came back to the Bay Area and started working full-time at the Willows Theatre Company, where I had performed often during my time at Athenian and every summer in their annual production of John Muir’s Mountain Days.

While I was working during the day at the Willows, I began performing at night with Butterfield 8 Theatre Company. We do a lot of classical text-based work at Butterfield 8 and over the past five years working with the company.  During this time I was also getting my MA in drama from SF State and most recently became a member of the theatre faculty at Oakland School for the Arts where I co-directed the all school musical this spring (Les Miserables School Edition with 65 cast members grades 6-12!). I’m very excited to begin another year there in the fall and continue to juggle my teaching and directing at the school with performing with Butterfield 8 in the evenings as well…because I have all those great time management skills I learned at Athenian!

Becky’s Butterfield 8 Bio

Becky Potter (Elizabeth Bennet) is always thrilled to be returning to Butterfield 8 where she has appeared as
 Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, Nancy in the staged reading
of Abigail Dreary, Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Imogen in Cymbeline, Leona in Zelda’s Mama’s Cookin’, Thomasina in Arcadia, Ophelia in Hamlet, Viola in Twelfth Night, and most recently, as Lady Windermere in Lady Windermere’s Fan. Becky graduated from UC Irvine where some of her favorite roles included Claire in Fuddy Meers, Silvius in As You Like It, Dunyazade in Arabian Nights, and Ruthie in Bat Boy. In the Bay Area she has been seen in such shows as In the Beginning, Fiddler on the Roof, Inherit the Wind, Brimstone, and every performance of John Muir’s Mountain Days (all for the Willows Theatre Company) and in Peter Pan (DLOC). Becky currently teaching theatre at Oakland School for the Arts.

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Annie Potter ’07

Annie is second from the right

I just graduated from UC Irvine this year. I double majored in history and drama and minored in French, which was surprising for me. I did two summer trips abroad.  The first was an archeology dig through UCLA in Kent in a little village outside of Canterbury working on an Anglo Saxon Monastic site, and I also spent a summer in Paris with the UCLA summer program where we took walks around Paris and learned about Medieval French history. I performed in many plays at Irvine and also assistant directed a couple including Cyrano de Bergerac and Curse of the Starving Class. I graduated with Honors in Dramatic Literature, History and Theory, which mostly means that I focused on the theoretical side of theatre. I wrote an honors Thesis for that program on Popular Theatre during the French Revolution.

I’m sort of the expert at being a little sister because I was also a little sister at Irvine. Being a little sister at Athenian was slightly warm and comforting because I always felt that I had an insight into the way things worked that some class mates with out siblings might be lacking. I felt that at Irvine too. Maybe I’ll do my graduate work somewhere Becky didn’t go before me.

I remember that in my sophomore year at Athenian, I seriously considered if I could really study acting in college. Marc Lionetti said something that sort of solidified that it was a totally acceptable thing to do, and I’m glad I did even though I feel like now I’m leaning toward the slightly more academic in my interest in theatre. I think that becoming interested in critical theory of theatre is almost impossible not to do coming from Athenian.

Annie’s Butterfield 8 Bio

Annie Potter (Lydia Bennet/Georgiana Darcy) could not be more delighted to be in this production of Pride and Prejudice. She was last seen at Butterfield8 in the staged reading of Abigail Dreary and also performed in The Birdhouse and Much Ado About Nothing. She attends The University of California Irvine where she studies drama and history, and has recently appeared in Into the Woods and The Servant of Two Masters. She has also performed in many productions at the Willows Theatre, including many years of Mountain Days. Favorite Productions include: In the Beginning, Big River, Urinetown, 
Pippin, Bat Boy and Lorca in a Green Dress.[/col]

Becky on Butterfield 8 and Pride and Prejudice

Butterfield 8 was founded as the theatrical branch of the New Urban Dance Company. Artistic Director John Butterfield originally formed a group of actors to perform monologues to compliment dance pieces and eventually the company branched off to do its own theatrical work. Butterfield 8 performed shows at the Lesher Center and Town Hall Theatre before finding a home in Concord at Cue Productions. The Mission of Butterfield 8 Theatre Company is to provide audiences a fresh take on classic plays and foster the creation of new works.

As a company member, the wonderful thing that Butterfield 8 provides is a home for a company of artists. We have a strong base of actors and designers all doing the work for the love of it and we have created such a strong ensemble that we are able to challenge ourselves with pieces like our world premiere production of Pride and Prejudice, which was created for the company by one of our members.

We originally staged Pride and Prejudice last year as a two-part event. Part 1 and Part 2 are performed on different evenings (some double days as well). Our commitment as a company to text work (and of our playwright Donald Hardy to the original story) makes Pride and Prejudice a unique piece of theatre where the characters speak much of the original narration from the book as well as the dialogue. Far from making the piece static, the ensemble is constantly onstage and moving as part of the action and doubling as multiple characters. We had a great run last summer and so we are remounting it this August with much of the original cast. For anyone interested in “word for word” style theatre, or fans of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen, this is a not to be missed production!  My favorite compliments we got last year were from people who thought they hated Jane Austen but truly enjoyed our production!  As an actor, it’s one of the most challenging and rewarding roles I’ve ever played and I’m so happy to be a part of it!

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice runs August 1-26 at Cue Productions Live in Concord. The show runs mainly Thursday through Sunday.  For showtime and ticket information to see Annie and Becky, click here.


Photos provided by Becky and Annie, as well as http://www.b8company.com/index.html

Reflections on Safety after Colorado Shooting from the Head of School

From the Desk of Eric Niles, Head of School

My son and I went to see the latest “Batman” movie this week (not a midnight showing mind you, but a daytime one).  I thought I was calm as I sat in the theater until the credits were rolling and an emergency exit at the front of the theater abruptly opened.  I was startled to attention yet quickly realized that patrons were simply using that as an exit after the movie.  I exhaled.  If I was unnerved by the happenings in Colorado last week then I have to believe that our children may be very uneasy and looking to us for guidance and care.  While this latest shooting didn’t occur at a school, all educators quickly recall Columbine and other school violence and we pray that it never happens under our roof and to our kids.  I am no exception.  Please know that we take the care and safety of all Athenian students as our highest priority and we will quickly respond to any warning signs that might surface in our community.  As you process this with your kids, we thought you might appreciate some resources about how to talk to them about this violence.  This one comes from the national PTA and links to a variety of other sources: Education Week’s K-12 Parents and the Public.  Hope you are all doing well and we look forward to connecting again in a very short time.

Additional Resources:

National PTA: Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children and Child Safety.

Time: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Colorado Theater Shooting

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: Talking to Your Children About the Dark Knight Shooting in Colorado

Update from Uganda

This is a follow-up to A Summer of Service for French Teacher in Uganda.

Mary has been in Uganda for a couple of weeks now and her adventures continue!  Here are two brief updates from Mary with a few more pictures of working with students at a school and volleyball clinic.

July 20

The Salt and Light Academy  represents progressive education here in that children are disciplined through relationships and words and caning is not permitted as it is elsewhere. It’s an independent day and boarding school founded and run by Ugandans.  It is one of the best primary schools in the Jinja area.  I taught students in primary grades 3 – 6, working with them on reading and thinking skills.  Critical thinking is a new style of learning for Ugandan primary students since their education system is based on rote memorization. Students must pass a national exam at the end of primary 7 in order to be permitted to attend high school, reciting verbatim the answers they have learned in class.

For the weekend, I’ll be working on my volleyball skills as the group from Santa Barbara runs a skills clinic for high school students in the Jinja area.


July 24

We spent a day with high school students from Lord’s Meade Vocational College, introducing them to the game of volleyball. Members of the Dos Pueblos high school team from Santa Barbara and a coach from the Santa Barbara Volleyball club ran the clinic.

I’m picking up some Lugandan words and to say “no worries” is  “tawali mutawana.”  So I wish you tawali mutawana during your summer break!

‘Cause Nobody’s Funky as Us: The Athenian Wilderness Experience

Thanks to Death Valley 2012 Group III for filming this “music video” while on course!  Good luck to the students departing for the High Sierras on July 25!  We can’t wait to hear about your adventures.

What is AWE?

The Athenian Wilderness Experience (AWE) is a 26-day backpacking course for students in their junior year and is graduation requirement of all students. Students attend either the Death Valley Course in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park in the spring or the High Sierra Course during the summer, which travels the Sierra Nevada high country in Yosemite National Park, Toiyabe National Forest and the Inyo National Forest. AWE includes extensive backpacking, navigation, first aid, low-impact camp craft, technical rock climbing, rappelling, peak ascents, natural history, a solo experience and service.

Students focus on promoting leadership, fellowship abilities, improving physical well-being, recognizing and acting upon individual strengths and weaknesses, and appreciating and care taking the natural environment. Opportunities abound to develop human interactive skills by sharing responsibilities, making group decisions, taking care of one another, and realizing personal potential.

Learn more here.

A Summer of Service in Uganda for Athenian French Teacher

For most Athenian teachers, the good work they do through the school year doesn’t stop when summer rolls around.  Some teach at Athenian’s Devil Mountain Summer Camp, others go to leadership conferences, and many work on independent creative endeavors.

But one Athenian teacher chose to spend her summer on the other side of the world (for the second summer in a row) caring for AIDS orphans in Uganda.  Mary Eid, Athenian’s Middle School French teacher, is a living example of what we hope all Athenian’s can master: a life of purpose and personal fulfillment.  Mary and her husband will be in Uganda for a month.  Mary’s work in Uganda is in support of Children of Grace, an organization closely connected to the Athenian community.  Founded by Mary Ann McCoy and directed by her husband Mike McCoy, an Athenian trustee, Children of Grace offers “hope to Ugandan AIDS orphans through education, healthcare, and empowerment programs to enable a better future.” Mary was inspired by the organization and its mission and chose to dedicate the only free time she has during the year to serving those in need.

As often happens within the Athenian community, when one person invests their time in an issue, others quickly join in supporting their efforts.  Mary Ann and Mike McCoy adopted a young Ugandan orphan in 2002, Zahara Nakibuule-McCoy.  Zahara attended Athenian’s high school and graduated in 2009.  Zahara’s community service project while at Athenian involved coordinating an Interim trip to Uganda and teaching women about charcoal conservation.  Zahara also took several of her Athenian classmates to Uganda to share her roots with them.  Another young woman adopted by a family local to Athenian will be attending Athenian in the fall.  Additionally, Eleanor Dase, former Head of School at Athenian, is a board member for Children of Grace.  With Mary’s recent trips to Uganda, and the presence of Ugandan students in Athenian’s student body, the ties between our communities continues to grow stronger.

Mary shares the following about her experience so far in Uganda:

I am volunteering in Uganda for 2 weeks with Children of Grace, an organization founded by Mary Ann and Mike McCoy (Athenian Trustee) in 2001 to provide support for orphans in Uganda. Through child sponsorships, Children of Grace funds the education, health and social welfare needs of over 750 Ugandan orphans. This is my second trip here and the friends I made last summer have welcomed me back with open arms.  This summer I am part of a team from Danville and Santa Barbara teaching in two primary schools and running a weekend volleyball clinic for high school students. Yesterday, we volunteered at an infant orphanage in Jinja called the Amani Baby Cottage and we worked on the construction site of their new location.  This was my first visit to the Amani Baby Cottage and it was a touching experience.

If you are interested in supporting Children of Grace, please visit their Getting Involved page.

To learn more about Zahara’s story, read an article from SFGate about her road to success.


Bounty Garden Overflows with Produce

If you were at Athenian before 2004, you may remember that the ceramics classes were held in the “greenhouse” next to the Main Hall.

Ceramics Studio, 1999

Once the Center for the Arts was created, ceramics moved to its own classroom and the greenhouse was converted back to its original purpose.  After several years, the Athenian garden now has an overflowing greenhouse full of organic produce, as well as a Bounty Garden and chickens.  There are 12 outdoor garden beds and an additional six in the greenhouse.  The produce, herbs, and eggs are used by the school kitchen year round.

Some of the many plants grown throughout the year include, in no particular order:
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Butternut Squash[/col] [col grid=”3-1″]
Tree collards
Pole beans

The garden is also home to the industrial composter.  This past year, 4 tons of waste were diverted from local landfills while creating enough compost to grow more than 1,000 lbs of organic vegetables!  The extra compost was used to fill the Environmental Science Bioswale with natural soil amendment.

Watch a video about Athenian’s industrial composter and how students “harvest” compost:

If you are interested in the day-to-day happenings in the garden, check out the The Athenian Garden Blog.  Please note that the garden blog is a functional, digital Farmer’s Almanac: a tool used by resident gardeners to log garden care and plant growth.