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An Interview With American Ninja Warrior’s Allyssa Beird

As regular readers of this blog know, it is generally focused on art and creativity. However, those themes can expand far beyond what one might think. In the case of possibly America’s most well-known teacher, and almost certainly the most athletic, creativity comes in the form of finding the right balance between her full-time career in the classroom and her passion for competition. That person would be one Allyssa Beird, one of the biggest names from the television sensation that is American Ninja Warrior.

I recently had the chance to communicate with Ms. Beird and got some wonderful insight into her world.

For those who don’t know, she has always been an athlete. She started out in gymnastics at the age of 3 and competing in that sport until she was 18. During middle school, she began cross country and continued through high school in which she also went into track and field. Later, she would get into marathon running and eventually obstacle events like ANW.

Before every run, she makes sure she warms up properly and has visualized the course a few times. “I find a quiet place, close my eyes, and try to run through the course in real-time, timing myself after a few run-throughs in my head,” Beird stated.

And in case you are wondering, the camaraderie between competitors on the show is real, it’s not just something made for ratings. “The ninjas are like my second family. There’s even a hashtag across social media of #ninjafam,” she stated. She mentioned that she actually gets more emotional when friends reach their goals than when she reaches them. One example was when Michelle Warnky and Jesse “Flex” Labreck made history by completing the Cincinnati City Finals this year.

Some of her closest friends from the show include the aforementioned Warnky and Labreck as well as those she started her journey with, Jenny and Dave Cavanaugh. And of course, we can’t forget James McGrath.

“The ninja community is one of the most warm, welcoming, amazing communities of which I have ever been a part,” Beird mentioned.

Photo Credit: The Ninja Coalition www.ninjacoalition.com

When it comes to her work as a teacher, she mentioned that there are several aspects of the job that relate in some way to the competition.

While there is sometimes a mixed reaction, all generally positive when students and parents first meet “Ms. Beird,” she finds her mild celebrity status a bit humorous. And, after a brief time of answering student questions and parents interested in chatting, things go back to “business as usual” in her classroom.

Even though she doesn’t use many ninja-specific elements in her classroom, Beird knows there are lots of things that apply to ninja competition, school and as a general approach to life overall. Goal-setting is one such idea. She likes to help students set goals and make progress to achieve them. And when they get there, they have a buzzer celebration in which each child gets his or her picture taken while hitting a buzzer similar to the one on ANW. The picture goes up on the wall along with the goal. “It’s really motivating!” Beird stated.

Whether the goal is something to do with math, reading, writing, etc, it’s key to have them. “If students truly believe that they can succeed in doing something through hard work, there is never a reason to give up, even when things become difficult or confusing,” she mentioned.

Photo Credit: The Ninja Coalition www.ninjacoalition.com

And when it comes to her role, she says that teaching and competition have similarities in a few ways. The ability to respond instantly and adapt to unexpected events is critical. And when they happen, having a lot of mental fortitude is essential so that the bumps along the road do not affect her decision making.

And for those of you out there who might be considering making an ANW run of your own, she’s got a little advice for you.

If you live near a ninja gym, make sure to go. If not, find another option to train like a park, playground or structure you can use to make your way across like an obstacle. Build your strength with exercises including the all-important pull-ups for the upper body. But perhaps the single most important thing is to be ready. “There is not a right way or a wrong way to train for ninja, but I think it’s best to truly feel ready when you hit that ‘submit’ button on your application,” she stated.

 

Talented Artist/Set Designer M.K. Hughes

When one thinks about the performing arts, most of us probably tend to dwell on a few details. These may include such things as the acting, storyline or music and dance if it is a musical production. But there’s another part of the story that helps to create the magic, the set design.

Photo from Instangram@mkhughesdesign and Patreon

Painter and muralist M.K. Huges is one of the people who bring the action to life via her wonderful and engaging set designs. A graduate of Southern Illinois University with a Master’s in Theater (Set Design), she has experience working with the Alabama and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals and is now responsible for the sets on the numerous shows conducted at Point Park University, a Pittsburgh area school widely recognized for theater arts.

Photo from Instangram@mkhughesdesign and Facebook M.K.Hughes Design

For more info on this talented young lady, check out her official website or any of her social accounts including Patreon.

 

 

Amy Oestreicher in her hit one-woman musical Gutless & Grateful

Following sold-out runs at The Triad NYC, The Bijou Theatre, United Solo Festival, Barrington Stage Company (Tony-Award winning William Finn’s Cabaret Series) and a nationwide tour from Washington D.C. to Hawaii, the captivating Amy Oestreicher will bring her hit one-woman musical Gutless & Grateful back to NYC at the internationally acclaimed Metropolitan Room on February 5th and 25th, 2017.  Through interwoven song and dialogue, performer Amy Oestreicher shares a primal piece of live-storytelling – weaving her near death experience and inspiring perspective with an eclectic set of songs, hilariously highlighting struggles, triumphs and “beautiful detours” in her life.

“Gutless & Grateful is not a story about a victim, but one of a survivor. Amy has channeled the pain of her experiences into something far greater.” – Michelle Alerte (Woman Around Town)

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Nominated for “Best Theatre Debut” in 2012 (Broadway World), and Bistro Awards Top Pick, and featured in Huffington Post, Gutless & Grateful, takes audiences on a musical journey of determination, grit and “guts” as Oestreicher shares her humor, her strength, and her soaring vocals with the world. Oestreicher’s script was inspired by the thousands of journal entries she kept over the six years she endured unable to eat a morsel of food or drink a drop of liquid.  Co-conceived by Oestreicher and musical director David Brunetti, the show is directed by Broadway-veteran Jerold Goldstein, also on piano.  “Gutless” also features the song “Still Alive” which was written for Amy by acclaimed composer David Friedman with lyrics by TV personality and lyricist Kathie Lee Gifford, after she appeared on NBC’s TODAY Show in 2011.

“One part moving testament to human indomitability, the other a thoroughly satisfying evening of song. While each element is strong enough to stand on its own, combined they illuminate and enhance each other. Rarely have I seen narration and song so artfully meshed, and Oestreicher’s likeability, good humor, interpretive skill, and manifest commitment to what she is saying and singing make us not only understand her story, but also feel it on a very deep level.”
-Roy Sander (critic for BistroAwards.com)

Amy had ambitious plans for Broadway, until she abruptly developed a blood clot the week before her high school senior prom. After being rushed to the hospital, her stomach exploded in the operating room, and after both her lungs collapsed, she nearly died. After waking up from a coma several months later, she was told she no longer had a stomach, and it was unknown whether she would ever be able to eat or drink again . After 27 surgeries and six of the past ten years unable to drink a drop of fluid, Amy’s digestive system was miraculously reconstructed and she learned that the human spirit heals through “gutsiness”, gratitude, and an overabundance of humor.
Amy Oestreicher is an artist, author, speaker for RAINN and TEDx, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright, eagerly sharing the lessons learned from a decade of trauma through her writing, performance, art and speaking.  Amy’s story and show have appeared on the TODAY Show, CBS, WNBC Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, Unmistakable Creative, Good Housekeeping, among others, and her writings have appeared in over 70 notable lifestyle, wellness, and arts publications.  Amy’s “beautiful detour” inspired her to create the #LoveMyDetour movement, a campaign inspiring people to flourish because of, rather than in spite of challenges- also the subject of her ’16 TEDx Talk and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour. Oestreicher will also be giving another TEDx Talk this February in Virginia.

Oestreicher’s story is always inspirational and surprisingly funny.” – Paulanne Simmons (Times Square Chronicles)

Come for a moving night of song, stories and possibilities, all in a 70-minute musical comedy. Gutless & Grateful is no ordinary one-woman show, but a powerhouse production that leaves the audience in tears, laughing hysterically, and savoring every last bite as though it were their very first.

Amy Oestreicher in Gutless & Grateful plays the Metropolitan Room on 34 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10010, on February 5th at 7pm and March 26th  at7pm.  Doors open 30 minutes beforehand.

Tickets start at $24 and there is a two drink minimum.. Tickets and information are available at http://metropolitanroom.com/event.cfm?id=239500 and by calling (212) 206-0440

For more information on Oestreicher’s unique story and highly esteemed show, visit www.amyoes.com  and follow her on Twitter @amyoes or Facebook @amyoestr

New Sci-Fi Fantasy Obsession – Netflix’s The 100

For some time now, my younger brother has been urging me and the rest of my family to check out the original shows on Netflix.

One such show he convinced me to watch is called The 100.

The series is exciting, seductive and mysterious with action and drama all rolled into one show. If you are a fan of the Hunger Games, the former NBC Series Revolution or the classic novel Lord of the Flies this should be something you should check out now.

The basic synopsis is that 100 juvenile offenders are sent to Earth from a space station that generations of humans had been surviving in after the planet was made inhabitable by nuclear warfare. The space station is running out of oxygen and the 100 are being used as guinea pigs to determine whether or not the Earth is now survivable. They are quite possibly humanity’s only hope for survival.

The show is so good I’ve actually joined the ranks of those who binge watch their favorite programs.

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