Act 1: March Madness – The Broadway Musical

I vividly remember the first time I went to The Peace Center here in Greenville for a show. My great aunt “Marcar” took me and my siblings to see the traveling production of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast. She pulled some strings and was able to get us seats in a box. The first time in my life I felt bouije – and I ain’t even sorry about it. I remember wheeling my chair all the way to the edge of the box and resting my head on the balcony. I did not move until the show was over. I was enamored with everything. The costumes were gorgeous, Broadway people are beautiful (jawlines for DAAAYYYYSSS) and everyone sings and dances throughout the entire thing! This is how life truly should be.


Over the years I have kept every single playbill from every single production I have been to. They are in a shoebox under my bed. I have laughed, sobbed, cringed, held my breath, exhaled loudly, prayed, and so many more actions at these productions. There have been a couple that are rare enough to have made me do all of these in one evening. Many of these shows can teach us so much about life, who we are, and how we can be better versions of ourselves. The theatre going experience is something I wish we could require for all people. It is a vital art form that deserves protected status in our society. What does it need protection from? The constant barrage of attacks to funding and the continued questioning of whether or not it is necessary.

Money Makes the World Go Round. And apparently to use that money you should have something called a budget (I don’t know what that means either). When making budgets you don’t always have enough money and so everybody gets less or somethings get cut from your budget all together.When it comes to making budgets for funding everything from countries to schools, one of the first things that gets cut is funding for the arts and other subjects (including social studies) that get lumped into the category of humanities. This is both wrong and shortsighted. It will save you pennies today but it will hurt you in the long run. If you disagree, thats fine, but you are still wrong and now you go rock on somebody else’s less cultured front porch. Research backs it up.

Studies have shown effective arts integration raises test scores AND increases social learning (empathy, tolerance, etc.) skills that are vital in everyday life. You don’t like that one go and Google it yourself. There are thousands of studies that have come to similar conclusions. And with all that information our current Predicament President continues to advocate for cutting funding or completely eliminating funding altogether for important programs like The National Endowment of the Arts, The National Endowment for Humanities, and dozens of other agencies. I want even mention the millions he wants to spend on a military parade that the military doesn’t even want; I will just leave you with today’s hashtag instead: #overcompensating .

If none of the above sways you on why the theatre is important and why you should go, allow me to give you my personal reasons as to why you should give it a chance. This list could have equaled the number of minutes in a year, but for the sake of brevity, I will keep it to the most important.

#1 – Theatre is Life.

There is a well known saying that says “Theatre is Life. Cinema is Art. Television is Furniture.” While I don’t 100% agree with it putting theatre completely above cinema and television I do feel it is the most authentically human experience you can observe – because you are actually watching people do it. Oprah once struck me over the head with one of her many pieces of wisdom during a commencement address when she said:

“There is a common denominator in the human experience that we all share. We all want to know that what we do, what we say, who we are matters. We want to be validated. Every single person in every single confrontation in every single encounter than you have is really about do you see me? Do I matter to you?”

That speaks perfectly to the crux of every single Broadway Production I have ever seen. I challenge you to try and come up with a show where that is not a major piece of the plot line or one of the character’s journey throughout the story.

#2 – Theatre is for Everyone.

Every Broadway Queen just said “YAS!”  There is a reason the LGBTQ community gravitates towards the theatre. It was the first place that truly accepted them for who they were. There is a reason theatre kids literally glow when they get on stage. It gives them permission to exude the art that is a fundamental piece of their souls. And while they are on that stage people will clap and cheer for them instead of tease or belittle them. Some of the greatest Broadway songs of all time speak directly to this point. While many of us have been moved to tears the lyrics behind these powerful songs are so relatable because we all want to find our place in the sun where we belong. If you would like examples look here. Or here. Or this one too. But don’t forget about this one. And last, but certainly not least, Shrek! Two years ago the Tonys had the tough job of airing on the same Sunday that 49 beautiful souls lost their lives at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. James Corden scrapped his entire opening monologue that was filled with what I am sure are funny jokes to do a somber cold open that was backed up by the Broadway community’s most important stars say this:

It was powerful to watch. It was an elegant remembrance that didn’t darken the whole night of an awards ceremony. It was a hug the LGBTQ community needed. It was proof that somewhere there is a place for us all.

#3 – Theatre is Political Activism

As a history teacher allow me a chance to give you some historical background. HIV/AIDS was discovered and diagnosed in the early 1980s. There was no funding and research being done by the government – President Reagan didn’t even say the word AIDS until the late 1980s. The LGBTQ community was hit hard and the Broadway community was being decimated. Writers, choreographers, musicians, dancers, and singers in the prime of their lives were dying by the hundreds. When they government offered little help the Broadway community began doing it themselves. They have been protecting their own and many others since then. Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS were created and eventually merged into Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The organization has raised over $285 million for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, education, and research funding. And how might they have done that? By singing. and By getting naked for Broadway Bares. Attending a Broadway Bares is one of my bucket list items.


One of the only tame photos I could find from Broadway Bares, Google though. You will see what I am talking about in point #4. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

#4 – Theatre is Sexy, Talented Eye Candy

jeremy jordan

One of my favorite things about a show being in town at The Peace Center is it makes scrolling through certain “social networking” apps a whole lot more fun. Most actors (and yes I am including females in this statements) range from early 20s to late 40s. Then men have jawlines and cheek bones for days. I would literally chop of my arm for hair that swoops like theirs does. Ladies have impeccable smiles and legs that come up to most women’s shoulders. And I am just gonna throw this out there. Broadway booties are better than non Broadway booties. On top of all that going for them, they sing and dance. At. The. Same. Time. It is just not fair. If you are skeptical of my analysis perhaps you will take the advice of the lady who sits behind me. She is somewhere in the area we would call middle aged and she comes to the show with her sister. Last time Book of Mormon was in town when one of the Mormons appeared on stage she whispered (my teacher hearing kicked in) to her sister: “he could ring my doorbell any day, but I would prefer he ring at night.” I laughed through most of the first act. Sebastian Stan and Jeremy Jordan are all you need to know. Or you can check out other actors and actresses yourself.


Sebastian Stan. He even makes the name itself sound sexy.

#5 – Theatre is an escape from life about life.

This one might just be the most important of all. Theatre is about real life, but that only matters because it let’s you forget about your own life for a few moments. You may be stupid. You may be ugly. But you are HERE! Take a load off our your Kinky Boots and let some awesome people sing to you just how wonderful it is when you go “dancing through life.” You will love it! They will make you laugh, make you laugh and beg for more all in under three hours. After its over I will take you to a whoopee spot – and you don’t even have to rouge your knee. Only an artistic medium like the Broadway Stage could accurately portray the bitch of living.¹

To have a full circle moment from where I started in the beginning I will leave you with this: A Great NC State basketball coach who once led the WolfPack to a National Championship. Years later as he was dying from terminal cancer, Jim Valvano let the world in on an excellent piece of wisdom. He said there were three things you should do each day for it to be a good day. Those three things were: Laugh, Think, and Have your emotions be so powerful they move you to tears. Coach Valvano was right. Its a helluva day when you laugh, think, and cry in one day. So go to the theatre, and have yourself a helluva day.


¹  10 Points for Slytherin (are you surprised I was sorted there) if you can tell me how many musical references I have in this post and what musicals they came from.  Good Luck!


Stephen Hawking: A Life “To Infinity, and Beyond!”


Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity over the Atlantic. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

If there ever was a man who lived a life that truly lived every day by the motto we all remember from our high school english classes “Carpe Diem.” that man was Stephen Hawking. Although I agree, Hawking did live his remarkable life by that motto, I feel like a more appropriate motto for Hawking would be one from our old Pixar friend Buzz Lightyear: “To Infinity and Beyond.” In my humble opinion, this is far more fitting of man man who sought to understand the universe and the world we live in – and defied that universe and world by continuing to survive in a world that deemed it impossible for him thrive, let alone survive.

I was saddened when I woke up to the news of the passing of Stephen Hawking earlier this week. I have always been someone who loves an underdog story and while he might not argue it himself, many of us would have put Hawking squarely in the underdog box. What surprised me the most about his passing, however, was definitely my students knowledge of his death at the age of 76. What would my students know about a theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author of note when I am pretty sure most of them can’t even spell the word physicist?¹

I teach high school freshman (typically 14-15 year olds for those unfamiliar with the American public school system) and although the narrative that teenagers of that age are self-absorbed and only care about themselves is dangerously misinformed, pieces of that narrative ring true every now and then. I was confused as to how they would know about Stephen Hawking, someone who refused a knighthood from the British government over their funding (or lack thereof) in the late 1990s? The answer was so simple that I immediately wanted to punch myself for trying to knit with only one needle. I could almost hear Mr. Hawking’s distinct computer-generated voice saying “Bless your heart.”

My students are familiar with Stephen Hawking because, like millions of other people all over this country, they watch The Big Bang Theory. Even though you don’t need me to tell you (because if you watch CBS at all they tell you so often they must think we are deaf or dumb as a post and can’t remember) Big Bang is one of the highest rated comedies on television right now. It originally was about 4 scientist friends with an emphasis on 2 of the 4 (Leonard and Sheldon) and their interactions with the “dumb blonde” (Penny) who moves across the hall from the two scientists who are also roommates. My Papa loved The Big Bang Theory, a show he renamed Sheldon.

Although over the years the show has expanded to included more members (Bernadette, Amy Farrah Fowler, Stuart the Eeyore-like comic book store owner) the general premise has remained the same. One thing that has remained constant since the beginning has been the references to Hawking and his revered status in the physics community. Although Howard has playfully poked fun at the sound of Hawking’s “voice,” the high regard they show him on the show for his role in making physics “cool” to millions of people has been one of the few unbroken rules on the show. The episode where Sheldon,  who is not crazy, his mother had him tested – is one of most watched episodes of the entire series.


For those of you who do not watch The Big Bang Theory allow me to put the clip above into context for you. If Sheldon were a real person, this would go down as the most amazing/most embarrassing moment in his life. For Sheldon this is the celebrity he would most want to meet. If you still can’t comprehend or understand, here is a close list of alternatives of what it would be like:

  • Any of the Boliek Siblings meeting Beyoncé. Or Blue Ivy. Or Rumi. Or Sir. Or Solange. Or pretty much anyone associated with Beyoncé.
  • My dad meeting Ric Flair.
  • Every 20-something female in America meeting Megan Markle and secretly wishing they could club her over the head and trade places with her.
  • Most 10 year old boy (or girl) meeting Batman, Superman, or any of those other “super powered” mans that make up heroes.
  • Every 10 year old girl (or boy) breaking down meeting Wonder Woman.
  • Every gay in America feeling their oats over meeting whichever pop queen it is that slays them and gives them life.
  • Every Trump supporter getting to meet Vladimir Putin to tell him thank you over putting that current monstrosity in the White House.

Now that you have sufficient context as to understand the clip above, I’ll move on. Through his appearance on TBBT and other shows over the years, Hawking cemented what I think will end up being one of the most important pieces of the great legacy he leaves behind: to the delight of nerds everywhere, Hawking made science relevant and cool. After doing some research I now know there are several college courses that focus on the influence of TBBT. Thousands of science teachers across the country (shoutout to my friend Lisa Ms. Howell who has told me she is one them) have been able to use a primetime network sitcom in an actually productive way to help demonstrate a concept or principle. And to the chagrin of animal rights activists everywhere, millions of us who watch the show now can claim to know (although we still don’t probably understand fully) the equation below:


To those of you still confused allow me to put it in the terms you and I understand. That is the equation that goes along with the thought experiment most of us will collectively know as the paradox called “Schrodinger’s Cat. And TBBT fans everywhere let out a collective “Oh yeah! The possibly dead/possibly alive cat in the box!” For those who don’t watch the she show you can find a detailed explanation here. The author has no desire to pretend to know enough to teach the concept to you.

Putting the humor aside for a second, I want to focus on the lesser know side of Hawking’s life for a second: his earlier years. I myself had no knowledge of Hawking being born in an abled-body until I saw the movie The Theory of Everything. If you have yet to see it, I highly recommend it. It details the earlier years of years of Hawking’s graduate schooling and it includes his romantic relationship with the woman who eventually became his wife. If that is not enough to get you to see it maybe this will: it stars resident dreamboat Eddie Redmayne² as Stephen Hawking. For his performance of Hawking, Redmayne won a host of awards including an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

If you have not watched the trailer above, stop and do it. Towards the end of the trailer, Redmayne has a voiceover where he says a quote that Hawking gave in an interview around the same time his book A Brief History of Time. It is a quote that Hawking lived his life by, and now more than ever, one we would all do well to take to heart:

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. Where the is life, there is hope.

While many of us would be curled up in the fetal position about being diagnosed in our 20’s with a rare form of early onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, but in America more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease)³, Hawking never once let that stop him on his great quest to understand the relationship between space and time and how they fit together in our universe. Given just two years to live based on knowledge of the disease at that time, Hawking surpassed expectations by surviving for another four and a half decades. Racking up numerous accolades along the way, Hawking gave us research that has helped change the world, but more importantly he showed that people living with ALS – just like people living with countless other disease – are no less capable of living their full lives. All they need is to be given the chance.

If there every was a person worthy of The Today Show’s A Life Well Lived it would be Stephen Hawking. And although I have my own personal beliefs about what happens to us all eventually, I believe that as soon as Hawking crossed over, he had all the answers to the questions he searched so hard to answer. Mr. Hawking, you strove to go to infinity, and now you are beyond. I thank you for what you gave us, and I hope it is everything you thought it would be. And so much more.


¹ I include myself as one of those bad spellers. Physics is a hard word. Sue me.

² Although he is a resident dreamboat, I still have a bone to pick with Eddie Redmayne. Nobody should look that good, be a ginger, have cheekbones for days, AND be able to sing. Its just not fair.

³ ALS is a disease that millions across the US have been diagnosed with. Although there is currently no known cure, we are making great strides thanks to an increase in awareness (thank you ice bucket challenge) and great research being done across the globe. If you can spare a few dollars, why not donate to any of the numerous great organizations like The ALS Association, Project ALS, or The ALS Development Therapy Institute. All three organizations are leading the way on finding a cure for this disease. If research continues at the present rate, we should have a cure in our lifetimes.

An Open Letter: From One Patriot to 200 Others



Dear Walkout Patriots,

Today was aninteresting day in Greenville County School District to say the least, and I am sure that it was just as interesting at other high schools across the United States. According to reports on WYFF4 earlier today, you, the students of J.L. Mann High School, were the largest group of students to walk out at about 200 students. To those 200 students I have a few short things I would like to share with you.

  1. You have inspired many and made many people very proud! As a 2007 graduate of J.L. Mann and a social studies teacher for Greenville County it fills me with pride to see you taking matters into your own hands and standing up for yourself. You have truly taken the mascot of our high school from something that is cheered for at a football game, and a living breathing beacon of what you did today! Do not let this moment go to waste. You have the nation’s attention – use it for good. Use it for change. Use it for the hopes we never have to go through another shooting like this again.
  2. You have outraged many and made many people very upset. This is not my way to try and scare you into submission or silence you. This is me being open and honest with you because after today I feel like you deserve this much. The fact that they are upset and outraged is okay. That is what makes this country great. We are allowed to disagree with one another. They are mad- let them be mad. They are upset- let them be upset. With that said, never let their anger, their voices, or their power silence you, intimidate you, or make you question your beliefs or actions. You are on the right side of history, and history will eventually show that.
  3. False Support stains both your character & the importance of this movement.  Many people have used your support of these walkouts as excuses to hurl insults about your knowledge of what is happening in our country. They say you are using this as an excuse to get out of class. I know you and I am surrounded by students like you on a daily basis. I know these people are wrong. But if there are some of you who indeed only walked out to get out of class, I humbly ask you to rethink your actions. You do nothing besides make yourself look bad, demean the #NeverAgain movement as a whole, and continue to add to the narrative that teenagers and young people today only care about themselves.
  4. Don’t be mad at the school district for not “supporting” you. While you may feel discouraged that the district did not support your walkout by telling you not to or by not allowing the media to report on what happened, they are only looking out for your best interest in their eyes. On a hot button issue such as this, the district is right to be concerned. My job as a teacher and the district’s job is first and foremost to keep you safe at the present moment. They made the decision they had to make in order to do that.
  5. Never. Let. This. Moment. Escape. You. I cannot stress this last point enough. You have the momentum of a student led movement behind you. The nation is watching. The world is watching. In your social studies classes you cover many student led movements. Almost every single student led movement in this nation has been successful. Your movement can be successful as well. Follow their steps into the history books., Shout until they hear you. Continue to speak out, speak up, demand to be heard, and VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.

I now would love to talk to those of you who did not walk out today. Because your voice is just as important and valid and worth hearing. I have a few things I would like to say to you as well.

  1. Never be afraid to follow your heart. If you wanted to be a part of the walkout today but chose not to because you were afraid of the consequences or the views of your friends, or your parents told you not to I want you to know that although you did not walk out today, you should never be afraid to follow your heart and do what you think is right. At the end of your life, your regrets should not be long. Always follow what your conscious tells you.
  2. If you disagree with the walk out movement that is also ok. You should never been forced to be a part of a walk out or protest. Your feelings and opinions are exactly that- yours! You are entitled to them. Although you disagree with the actions of your classmates today, I politely ask you to strike up a respectful dialogue with your friends as to why they felt the need to walk out. Who knows? They might change your mind or you might change theirs.
  3. Don’t accuse your classmates of dishonesty. It is not fair for your classmates to point fingers, blame, or accusations of not caring at your feet – so it is not fair for you to hurl accusations of hating the second amendment or wanting to take away guns at theirs. The only way we can possibly get to a solution on the issue of gun violence is by respecting our differences and finding compromises.
  4. You don’t have to walk out, but you do have to participate.  I cannot stress this last point enough. The nation is watching. The world is watching. Do not sit back and apathetically let others make the laws and answers for you. Shout until they hear you. Continue to speak out, speak up, demand to be heard, and VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.

Fellow Patriots, continue to represent the alumni of J.L. Mann High School with class, dignity, and distinction. Continue to be the best that Greenville County School District offers to the world. And about all else, continue to be a patriot:

a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights against federal government interference.”

With Great Respect and Admiration,

Wynne Boliek

Class of 2007


Tootin’ My Own Horn

635515863519347725-letter-to-the-editorAllow me a chance to show off my feathers for a moment because I am Proud as a Peacock about The Greenville News deciding to publish my most recent Letter to the Editor in the paper this morning. With everything that has been going on in the news over the past month related to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, Florida I felt it prudent that we oh, I don’t know, actually talk with some teachers about whether or not arming teachers in the classroom was a good idea. Because if there is one thing I have found after 5 and a half years of being in the classroom its people who have never been in the classroom or have an education degree always have an opinion on what should be done to fix public education.

Like what on rice, they always want to give that opinion as well. Take it from someone who (admittedly does not profess to know all the answers about every education conundrum we face today) is actually down in the trenches every day: we appreciate your desire and willingness to help, but leave it to the professionals and have a seat. That may seem blunt, but education so far is the only career where everyone feels the need to give their opinion – even if they are quite frankly, unqualified to comment. And as the old saying goes, “opinions are like asses. just because you have one, doesn’t mean you should share it. So, without further ado, you can read my letter in its entirety by clicking here. If you have anything you would like to share, by all means leave a comment. Unless you are going to be a negative nelly- then you can take that mess elsewhere.