By Marcia Pobzeznik
TIVERTON - When her husband died two years ago, a heartbroken Gloria Crist wrote herself a note sometime later that ended up in the middle of a pile of papers: “Sing, write, tell your story.”
“Life stopped for a while,” Crist said.
She found the note a year ago.
“I need to sing again,” she said.
Crist has spent her adult life entertaining people - in theater, in musical revues, on television. She even worked short stints as an opening act for comedian Don Rickles and singer Tom Jones.
Originally from North Carolina, Crist has been the director of the Tiverton High School drama club for several years. Earlier this year she formed a nonprofit group called The CORE Organization. It stands for “Creative Outreach Reinventing Expression,” and its goal is to get students in kindergarten through Grade 12 involved in the arts.
The after-school program began this fall and has 75 students enrolled in programs like film-making, fine arts, acting and voice. It will expand this winter to include classes like costume design.
The first season will end Friday with a benefit performance at 7 p.m. at Tiverton High School to raise money for materials and to offset tuition for students, some of whom attend on scholarships. “I hope one day to make it a free program through grants,” Crist said.
“One Night Only,” a musical revue, will include performances by Crist and her drama students, as well as students in the CORE programs and Tiverton based guitarist/singer Christopher James Farias. A “decadent dessert” and champagne reception will follow at Sandywoods Center for the Arts, where art created by students in the programs will be on display.
The arts, said Crist, give students “another way to navigate this world and navigate who we are. If they can find their voice, get closer to finding out what they want to do and who they want to be, whether in arts or not, I have done my job.” Crist mentioned the memorial service she had for her husband after his suicide in early September 2014. The drama students showed up with flowers they placed around the tent set up in her yard for the service.
“It reminded me that what we all do matters because we all are all going to go through things that are unexpected and unimaginable, so we have to continue to do the work that makes this world a better place,” Crist said.
Gloria Crist sings a song on Sunday at Tiverton High School during rehearsal for a musical revue to benefit The CORE Organization.
Dave Hansen | Staff photos
Members of the Tiverton performing arts after-school program rehearse on Sunday at Tiverton High School. The program began this fall and has 75 students enrolled.
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“I love what I do,” she said of working with students.
Asha Taber, a production assistant for the revue, is a high school freshman who is happy to be involved in raising money for the arts programs.
“It's important to get our youth into activities like this. It gets them involved so they don't sit on a couch all the time,” Taber said. “A lot of people who don't get involved in something end up on drugs. Something like this keeps them away from bad behavior.”
Emma Baker, a seventhgrader, said being involved in the music revue and studying acting in the CORE program “is kind of like another outlet. I get to express myself. Some kids don't know how to do that.”
“I'm excited for the show,” said Jackson Baker, a fifthgrader.
Fifth-grader Samantha Joslyn said she likes being a part of a show that will help raise money to expand the CORE program. “So if somebody wants to do acting or voice or art they'll have the opportunity,” she said.
“It helped me overcome my fear of large crowds of people. I used to have a lot of stage fright.”
“I just like acting,” said Lyla Staskiewicz, a fifth-grader who believes it's important for young people to be involved in productions. “It makes them feel important,” she said.
Jeremy Mello, a high school sophomore, said he's been involved with drama productions since he was in second grade.
“It's helped me connect with people and make friends,” Mello said. “Acting is such a huge part of the world. It teaches you communication and helps you out in life. Communication is a huge part of life.”
Just before she ran back up on stage during a recent rehearsal, Emily Caraveo, a freshman who loves to sing said, “I just feel you can express yourself in different ways.”
“It's an experience you probably wouldn't get anywhere else,” said Maeve Banal, a fifth-grader. “It's a different thing to learn, a different thing to do.”
Tickets to the music revue and reception are $25 and can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets. com/event 271159, or at the high school Friday night.
Members of the Tiverton performing arts after-school program rehearse on Sunday at Tiverton High School for their musical revue to benefit The CORE Organization.
Dave Hansen | Staff photographer