Posts Tagged ‘MAPP’

When Volunteering Feels Like Coming Home

highway sign for Lapwai Idaho Nez Perce Indian ReservationI am in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce reservation (the tribe is more correctly referred to as “Nimiipuu“–the people), working with kids on the rez, mentoring genius and agile young minds who gain confidence in their voices and stories right before my eyes. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done, and I’ve been blessed to return four years. This program of Mentor Artists—MAPP, is a huge force in my life.

In the program–a one-week, short burst of intensive learning where teens, many of whom have never seen live theatre, by the end of five after-school days and all day Saturday, will have written a two-character, one-act play. In a culture that honors storytelling, astounding imagery and characters as varied as the wind, Coyote, a gun, river grass, a silver necklace, a lunchbox, a wolf fighting for pack dominance, a diamondback, mother and daughter songbirds, and so many more come to vivid life.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, and one of the most inspiring vets I know, Tony Johnson, my brother here, passed up the big tribal community center event honoring vets for their service to instead build the fire, heat the stones, and prepare the herbs/medicine to sweat with us. This connection, these shared prayers and songs, this fraternal bond, cracks open my heart. Tony is one of many here that are truly my family, and every time I am lucky enough to travel here, they welcome me home. I am often hugged and told, “We’ve been waiting for you, Brother” even after two years between trips.

I wish this feeling on every single one of you. May you have the joy of watching young minds push boundaries beyond what they previously knew, ushering stunning story into being…may you discover a place where community connection is everything…may you take such a strong stand for young people that you will do everything you can to assure their burgeoning pride and success…may you know the feeling of having so much respect for another that it brings tears to your eyes…may you travel far from home to feel the joyous intensity of coming home…I wish this on every single one of you.

What Price Irony? Rich Potato Salad

483170_75337697So…I don’t blame the dude. The dude was just having fun. The dude was hungry.

Kickstarter went viral with the fundraising campaign of Zack Danger Brown who, being an irreverent fella, decided to start a fundraiser to crowd fund ten bucks so he could make some mediocre potato salad. Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding sites (like Indiegogo) are the life’s blood of many creative projects…and this guy has earned (thus far) over $45,000 from 5,571 donors. People jumped on the irony bandwagon, perhaps donation plea exhausted, like we all are, and threw money at this joke project. His total had actually been about $70K but then dropped 30 thousand to the low/mid forties…not sure what’s up with that–quite possibly people revoking their pledged donations.

The cynicism of this whole thing kind of weirds me out.

I get it. I get that it’s funny to fund potato salad. Having run projects through fundraising obstacle courses and angst pits myself, I wish I’d thought of it and just called a youth education program “Potato Salad” or similar…but that’s just it. Those five- and ten-dollar donations from around the country could make a real difference for some truly world-bettering work. If it is so inconsequential to us that we can toss a twenty at irony, why is it like pulling teeth to get $20 to fund a program for mentoring youth living on Native American reservations ( summer fundraiser for creative arts education for underserved youth–an organization I am proud to work with and support) or educational supplies to displaced kids in Haiti? These are just two examples of funding efforts I have personally undertaken.

I in no way mean to devalue the incredibly generous folks who have supported my efforts and the millions of other worthy causes out there. They truly make a huge difference, no question about it. Cynicism isn’t the guiding principle of most of us…and yet…here we are.

That potato salad thing really puts a burr under my saddle. There are rules that prevent Zac from donating the funds raised to charity, but that’s not his fault. I don’t blame him and have read he is looking for ways to give back and get around the bylaws of Kickstarter (maybe making tons of actual potato salad to donate to homeless shelters, or similar). This will assuage my rankled sensibilities…but that double-edged money is nothing haha vs. money is too tight to give to good causes dynamic has me perplexed and challenged.

Throwing money at a problem doesn’t often solve the problem, but funding worthy causes and tirelessly working service groups to empower them to do great work, essentially on our behalf, means the world to so many cash-strapped charitable and philanthropic organizations who are trying to keep the doors open. I know I’m preaching to the choir with readers of this blog…but isn’t that a little more profound than Russets and mayo and vinegar for a joke?

….annnnnd…now I’m hungry.


I’ve known Tom Kellogg for several years—was lucky enough to work with him creatively when I was living in Los Angeles, and recently, the crazy small world of facebook made our worlds once again intersect. I had been dimly aware, over the years, of his playwright/arts work with at-risk kids, but didn’t know many details. I knew the kids, and his colleagues, were lucky to work with him—not many are as giving and committed as he, and even fewer get such joy from wrestling with big issues and figuring out how to see the world with fresh eyes. It cracks your world open to be around Tom as he has this energy of, “Well, sure, that’s the way you understand your life…but how about if you look at it like this?” That’s a real gift to the rest of us.

Thomas Dean Kellogg (Cherokee, Choctaw, Celtic, Slavic) is the Artistic Director and Founder of MAPP and theatre fofo. He has designed, developed, and implemented many successful playwriting/ mentoring programs throughout North America over the better part of the past two decades while pursuing his other passion of producing, writing, and directing theatre. He continues to travel nationally and internationally, to conduct his mentored writing workshops, train artists and educators, and to produce theatre.

The Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (MAPP), is an arts consultancy company that partners with schools and not-for-profit youth development organizations to share Thomas Dean Kellogg’s unique playwriting workshops with young writers and to provide community presentations of the work.

A group of young people, each paired with a mentor actor or writer, participate in a progressive series of intensive playwriting workshops led by Master Artist Thomas Dean Kellogg. With a core emphasis on the importance of the young person’s dreams and aspirations, Kellogg’s method introduces fundamental playwriting tools that explore the use of metaphor, the creation of characters through sensory and emotional work, monologue, dramatic storytelling, and theme. The young people are taught to examine the dynamics of conflict, and write plays where crisis, urgency, and possible consequences are explored.

The process culminates in public staged presentations of the young writers’ original plays by professional actors.

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