Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How The Magic School Bus Books Come Alive

Based on the best-selling Scholastic book series written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, The Magic School Bus is an Emmy Award-winning animated television series that is seen in more than 39 countries and 16 languages. Now it's coming to life and zooming to The Orpheum stage this Saturday, January 28, as part of the Theatre's 2011-2012 Family Series.

This musical interpretation of the beloved book series focuses on one of the most important environmental issues facing the Earth today: climate change. However, how does a children's book address such a series issue like climate change with humor, fun, and even magic?  To find out, read the article below which is an in depth look from writer Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen, the creative forces behind The Magic School Bus.

Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen have collaborated for twenty years, bringing humor and true kidlike curiosity to science and learning. Booklist heralded Ms. Frizzle as “the wackiest, wisest teacher in picture books.” Two Magic School Bus titles have been named School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, and they have won countless state book awards, from New York to Nebraska.

Each The Magic School Bus book begins with in-depth research. Cole does extensive reading, visits museums, and talks with experts. Once she's collected enough information, the author synthesizes the facts into a dummy book with sketch ideas and text for the story, speech balloons, and school reports "written" by Ms. Frizzle's students. Cole also writes the jokes found in every book. Sometimes, a page in the dummy will have a layer of jokes, all on different colored Post-it™ notes. "Eventually when I go see my editor, if he doesn't laugh at the joke on top, I say, 'Let's see what else there is, and we peel them away until we find one that he laughs at," says Cole.

Once Cole has finished her dummy and it has been reviewed by a specialist, it's time for Degen to work on the illustrations. "I take out the dummy Joanna has prepared, I look at all the research books, I look at all the notes, and then I have a cup of coffee," jokes Degen. Next, Degen prepares series of sketches showing how every page of the book will look. The collaborative process really takes off when Degen meets Cole to discuss the sketches. They talk about the story line and decide whether the art works with the action and science in the story, all the while playing off of each other's imagination.

To continue reading, please click here.

Magic School Bus Live! The Climate Challenge is an official 2011-2012 Family Series Show. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (901) 525-3000 or go online at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Have you ever cried at a museum before? If you visit the National Civil Rights Museum you just might.

 Almost 44 years ago, a man named Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis, less than a mile from where I'm sitting at the Orpheum right now. Today, his memory is kept alive in the amazing institution that is the Civil Rights Museum, which includes the Lorraine Motel and several adjoining building.  I had been to the museum many years earlier for a school field trip, but had almost no memory of it. I figured, what better time to revisit than so close King's birthday?

I went to the museum over the weekend (with my trusty Passport, of course) and was completely blown away by the exhibits. It's a shame photography isn't allowed inside the museum, because words really can't do justice to how moving and well done they are. Photos, printed ephemera, personal letters, and posters are blown up to larger-than-life sizes and collaged together to create a giant timeline, flowing across several intimate rooms. The timeline is punctuated by special exhibits including a reproduction of the bus Rosa Parks sat on, a video wall showing the violence of the Birmingham riots, and a set up of King's "I Have A Dream" speech complete with protestors holding signs. Although I had read many of the stories of the Civil Rights Movement in history class, hearing their voices and seeing the exhibits about lesser-known players was a completely different, much more emotional experience (James Meredith's story in particular made me tear up).

The end of the museum is dedicated to King, his work, and the events that led up to his death. Across the street there is another exhibit exclusively about James Earl Ray and the investigation that eventually brought him to justice (although the exhibit also details the many loose ends that cast doubt on this neat ending).  I left the museum with a much better understanding of King's impact on our city, and his struggles that we continue to face even now.

The Civil Rights Museum is open Monday, Wednesday -Saturday  9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $13, but with your passport you can buy one get one free. I would definitely recommend ponying up the extra $2 for the audio tour, it's worth every penny.

The National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry Street  Memphis, TN 38103-4214
(901) 521-9699

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Win 2 Tickets to Million Dollar Quartet Via Memphis Music Passport

Great balls of fire! The Orpheum is giving away tickets to Million Dollar Quartet.

How do you get these tickets you ask? It's easy.

The Orpheum’s Memphis Music Passport is your chance to see the Tony Award-winning Million Dollar Quartet live on The Orpheum stage next month. In celebration this much anticipated Broadway sensation, The Orpheum is encouraging everyone to experience Memphis music history while also competing for the opportunity to relive rock 'n' roll's greatest jam session.  

This is how it works.
1. To qualify, you must present your passport with at least one stamp from any of the participating attractions including: Graceland, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio, the Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum, Beale Street, The National Civil Rights Museum, Backbeat Tours and The Orpheum Theatre.

2. Submit a photo of yourself holding your stamped passport page to with "Passport to MDQ" in the subject line (limit one entry per person).

The contest ends January 30th, 2012 at noon. The winner will be selected at random and announced on the official Orpheum Theatre website and Facebook page and will receive the following:

• 2 Tickets to opening night of Million Dollar Quartet February 14th
• 2 Tickets to the VIP cast party following the show

Don't forget that the passports are free and may be picked up at The Orpheum Theatre, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Booksellers at Laurelwood, and any of the participating attractions. So put on your blue suede shoes and walk the line through Memphis' very own rich musical heritage.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011-2012 Broadway Shows On Sale Now

2012 is finally here and with that you can expect to see some great things from The Orpheum Theatre. Let’s start with today.

Going on now at The Booksellers of Laurelwood is the on sale event for the rest of the shows in the 2011-2012 Orpheum Broadway Season including the ultimate jam session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis in the Tony Award-winnning production Million Dollar Quartet (Feb 14-19).

Get on over to the Booksellers at Laurelwood so you can also purchase your ticket to the French Riviera with George Hamilton in the hilarious La Cage Aux Folles (March 20-25), discover the weird and wonderful world of The Addams Family (April 24-29), or have the time of your life at Mamma Mia (June 5-10).

Can’t make it to the event? You’re in luck as tickets for these Broadway sensations are also available online at the official Orpheum website, The Orpheum Box Office (901-525-3000), the ticket counter at The Booksellers at Laurelwood and at all Ticketmaster centers (901-743-ARTS).

So what else can you expect to see from The Orpheum Theatre this year? Well, let me tell you. This year will be flooded with everything from great show announcements, concerts, movies, ticket contests and giveaways to stellar reviews, Memphis history, family fun, and community involvement you had no idea we did.

There's a lot of fun in store in this year (granted the world doesn't end) so stay tuned…

Happy New Year!