Blood is thicker than mud on ‘Monster Jam’ circuit
James Brown proclaimed in his 1966 song that “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
Until recently, it had been considered a “man’s man’s man’s world” in motorsports.
Monster truck competition had long been a playground for men. While largely considered to be a family-friendly sport, the monster truck audiences were heavily composed of fathers, sons and male buddies.
Fast-forward to the present day and a new crop of female competitors and fans have put the guys on alert with “Monster Jam,” 7 p.m. Feb. 23; 1 and 7 p.m. Feb. 24, and 1 p.m. Feb. 25 at PPL Center, Allentown.
The roster for the event features top athletes, male and female, of the monster truck pro-circuit. In addition to longtime fan favorite, “Gravedigger” driven by Tyler Menninga, two of the eight trucks competing in “Monster Jam” are driven by women.
Myranda Cozad takes the reigns of “Scooby Doo,” and “El Toro Loco” will heat things up under the command of Kayla Blood.
“I’ve been driving for three years,” says Kayla Blood in a phone interview.
Prior to competing in “Monster Jam,” Blood was a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter.
“I actually got into MMA when I was in the military. I always kind of just did off-the-wall stuff ... whatever somebody challenged me to do.”
She’s certainly not afraid of challenges. This former “tomboy” is not afraid to get into the thick of things.
“I grew up always very hyper-competitive. I wanted to be the best in everything I did. Whether I was competing with males or females, I competed the same way.
“After I got pregnant with my little boy, I kind of went through this phase where I was just doing my hair and my makeup. I ended up going to cosmetology school and getting a cosmetology license. I feel like that kind of helped me learn how to dress myself for ‘Monster Jam,’ because without that, Lord knows what I would look like,” laughs Blood.
“There’s roughly at least 30 girls [driving monster trucks]. I know when I first started three years ago there was probably 10 or 15 and now each year we are just getting more and more awesome, talented females that are coming into the sport and it’s just really blowing up. When females win, it’s just an awesome message as well for all the little girls.”
The women driving on the pro-circuit are a diverse and supportive group. While tough competitors on the track, off the dirt they share a common message of empowerment for females.
“We’re all different personalities. We’re from different places,” says Blood.
“It really is kind of cool when we all get together, but we all have that one goal. We understand that we are here, and we’ve been given this platform to be able to show all these little girls why women are here and why we are driving these big trucks and doing all this stuff.
“At the end of the day, we all come together and we all get along and we’re there for each other. Whenever one of us wins an overall event we’ll all send out [congratulatory] texts. It’s like my band of sisters.
“We know whenever we go out on the arena floor we are competing against each other. The helmets come on: it’s competition.
“But as soon as we come off the arena floor, we are definitely there to support each other and be there for one another.”
Like NASCAR, “Monster Jam” is scored on a point system. The season runs weekends January through March, culminating in the “World Finals” in Las Vegas, Nev.
“Whoever wins the championship in each tour will have a free bid into ‘World Finals,’” explains Blood.
“‘World Finals’ is where it all happens. Everything we do from the first of the year is all for ‘World Finals,’ to get us there point-wise.”
Lehigh Valley fans will witness a battle for the championship with each competitor driving customized, high-powered vehicles: “Monster Jam” Speedsters, “Monster Jam” ATVs and “Monster Jam” trucks.
Fans have the chance to vote for the truck winner in the donut, wheelie and freestyle competitions by real-time, in-arena voting on their smartphones.
In addition to “Grave Digger,” driven by Menninga; “Scooby Doo,” with Cozad, and “Toro Loco,” with Blood, “Monster Jam” cars and drivers include: “Max D,” Colton Eichelberger; “Zombie,” Bari Musawwir; “Megalodon,” Buddy Tompkins; “Soldier Fortune Black Ops,” Tony Pcjs, and “Monster Mutt Rottweiler,” Jack Brown.
Unlike with many other sports, men and women are not segregated into separate divisions. They compete head-to-head.
“We’re all competing on the same floor. What we are doing is the same whether it is against women or men.
“It gives us an opportunity to say [to the men], ‘We beat you.’ We like to rub it in their faces,” laughs Blood.
The men have come to accept the women competitors who have joined their ranks.
“Of course, with the guys and, you know, their egos, you kind of have to earn their respect. You just kind of have to show them that you mean business, that you’re not a just a girl flicking her hair trying to look pretty. You’re there to drive, to win and to kick their butt.
“They’re just like our brothers. We’re all a big family. At the end of the day, we are there to support one another and help each other out when needed.”
To the fans or simply the curious in the Lehigh Valley, Blood promises it will be a fun and thrilling weekend.
“Come on out. We have pit parties, and you can come and meet your favorite driver. Cheer on your favorite driver. Sometimes the little girls won’t come because they think it’s for boys and dads and stuff but it’s not. They’ve [girls] got to come out and support the females and show some love.
“My message to all the little ones out there is don’t limit yourself, believe in yourself and accept failure as part of the recipe of life. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, just go for whatever you want and don’t give up.”
Tickets: PPL Center box office; PPLCenter.com; 610-347-TIXX. Doors open one hour prior to event.
Q. My husband and I argue a lot. Although he has never hit me or been physically abusive in any way, he puts me down in front of the children, and screams at the top of his lungs when he gets upset. I don’t feel this is good for our children, ages six and 11, but I also think it would be even harder on them if my husband and I split up. I feel that I ought to put up with it for the sake of the children. What does the panel think?
The first reaction to the question by the panel was that children do what they see, and the father is their role model and is setting a bad example for them.
“It is important for this parent to find a professional to talk to,” said panelist Mike Daniels, “not to have any specific intention or expectation to split up, but just to have a sounding board; someone who is aware of family dynamics and the effects on children of parental behavior.” Daniels said this would help the parent “to explore what the options are because there are many different options here, not the least of which is having a life where she doesn’t have to put up with being treated badly.” Panelist Denise Continenza said she hoped at some point that the couple would consider counseling. “It doesn’t sound like the father recognizes there is a problem and how it is affecting his children. “Reading this question, it seems that the parent thinks ‘Unless he hits me it’s OK,’” Daniels said. “I think we need to actually use the terminology. Based on what the parent has written here, she is a victim. “Certainly, it’s not physical abuse, but she is experiencing uncomfortable, if not problematic behaviors. She is experiencing some victim-like situations. If she is being called names and belittled in front of the children, by definition, that is domestic violence, and we need to call it that. Then where is that line where enough is enough?,” said Daniels. Panelist Pam Wallace referred to the comment by the parent that she is putting up with the treatment for the sake of the children, but the parent doesn’t recognize that it is not good for them to grow up this way. Daniels added that what the father’s behavior is projecting to the children is “Daddy wins because mommy’s a victim, might makes right, and all those things that are unhealthy with a family.” Continenza said it was all right for parents to argue. “Healthy, productive arguing can show children how to resolve conflict.” The panel discussed counseling options. If the parent is working, there might be an employee assistance program available, or she could talk with a pastor.
Most communities also have a domestic violence program. Other suggestions were Turning Point in the Lehigh Valley (turningpointlv.org), where she could go for help, or be referred to another appropriate agency. The phone number is 610-797-0530. There also is a 24-7 hotline at 610-437-3369.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo; educator and former school administrator; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS. Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project weekly column is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
I am beginning a new semester in college and I often communicate with professors via email. Please explain the basics of email etiquette and how to format a proper email.
Dear Reader, The number of emails you send in your college career may seem endless. The way in which you communicate and present yourself when writing to your professors is extremely important. You should view how you communicate as a professional exchange.
It is in your best interest to be respectful and polite when communicating with professors. The words you use are a reflection of you and your attitude. As with any professional interaction, you want to convey a level of seriousness and professionalism. You do not want bad practices to follow you into your career, where daily and effective email communication is vital to good job performance.
Begin your email by addressing your professor by title and name. Never address your professor by his or her first name, unless they explicitly give you permission to do so. If your professor has a Ph.D, you should address them as “Professor (Last Name)” or “Dr. (Last Name).” If they do not have a Ph.D., or if you are not sure, address them simply as “Professor (Last Name).” Begin your email with a greeting addressing the professor such as “Dear Professor Jones.”
The main thing to remember is that your professors are busy and need you to get to the point. Make sure your message is clear and concise. A significant portion of email etiquette revolves around being considerate of the recipient’s time. Make sure that your email clearly identifies who you are. Including your first and last name, class, class time and day, and section number will help a professor to place you correctly.
Use correct spelling and proper grammar. Avoid using all capital letters. it insinuates shouting and yelling. Do not use slang words or emoticons (smiley faces, etc.) Remember you are trying to be professional. You aren’t texting a buddy.
Do not leave the subject line blank. The subject line is a deciding factor in whether someone will read on or not. Professors get a great deal of email, and they have to prioritize which emails to read and respond to first. Write a few words indicating the purpose of your message, for example: “Request for a space in your class.”
Email from your student email address if you have one. Leave the silly email address you used in high school behind to avoid ending up in a spam folder.
Explain why you are writing. Do you need to make an appointment to see the professor outside of his office hours? Do you have a conflicted exam schedule?
Whatever it is, make it straightforward. Use good grammar, punctuation and spelling. Double-check for embarrassing errors. Show that you care about how you present yourself in writing to your professor. Proofread. Use the spelling checker.
Please, before you press that “send” button, make sure you are being clear in your communication and courteous in your manner.
Respectfully Yours, Jacquelyn
Have a question? Email: email@example.com. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of Jacquelyn Youst Etiquette Consulting, specializing in protocol training. She works with the National Civility Foundation. All Rights Reserved © 2018 Jacquelyn Youst
8 DAYS A WEEK:
Singing with Force: The United States Air Force Singing Sergeants perform, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23, St. John’s Lutheran Evangelical Church, 37 S. Fifth St., Allentown. The event is part of the “The Arts at St. John’s” series, now in its 28th year. The chorus selected St. John’s as one of its stops in its annual tour which includes seven concerts in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The enlisted conductor is Technical Sgt. Taylor Armstrong, a Bethlehem native who began his career in the Air Force in 2005. The Singing Sergeants is the official chorus of the Air Force. Stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., the chorus includes 23 active duty Airmen. The Singing Sergeants presents more than 200 performances annually, performing a wide range of music styles, from traditional Americana, opera, and choral standards to modern Broadway and jazz. Tickets are required, but are free at: stjohnsallentown.org, or 610-435-1641.
In the pink: The 10th Anniversary Tour of Vital Theatre Company’s “Pinkalicious The Musical” will be presented at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Feb. 25, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton. The one-hour musical, with book and lyrics by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann and music, lyrics and orchestrations by John Gregor, is based on the best-selling children’s book “Pinkalicious” by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann. The musical adaptation is directed by Teresa K. Pond based on the original direction of Suzu McConnell-Wood. In the musical, Pinkalicious can’t stop eating pink cupcakes despite warnings from her parents. The musical debuted in 2007 at the McGinn-Cazale Theatre in New York. Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132
Moravian Academy: ‘Into The Woods’
Take a walk “Into The Woods” at Moravian Academy with fairy-tale characters from the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault as they journey into the dark and unpredictable forest in pursuit of their wishes.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the story of a childless baker and his wife whose quest to start a family ties the musical together with characters from “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel,” and others.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. March 2; 3 and 2 p.m. March 4, Dyer Auditorium, Moravian Academy, 4313 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem Township.
Jarrod Yuskauskas, Moravian Academy Director of Upper School Theater, directs “Into the Woods” with associate director Elizabeth Burke, choreographer Katie Keller, music director Dr. Yvonne Robinson, technical director Rob Riker, and orchestra conductor Dr. Richard Fanning.
Musical numbers include “So Happy,” “No One Is Alone,” “Children Will Listen,” and “Into the Woods.” The 1988 Broadway production received three Tony Awards and the 2002 Broadway revival scored two Tony Awards.
Tickets: moravianacademy.org; Marla Strohl, 610-691-1600, ext. 325
LV Music teachers:
The Lehigh Valley Music Teachers Association (LVMTA) holds its 36th annual “Hannah Young Play-A-Thon” fundraiser, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 24 and 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 25, Lehigh Valley Mall, Route 22 and MacArthur Road, Whitehall.
Hundreds of Lehigh Valley music students are expected to perform at three locations in the mall. There will be pianists and other instrumentalists, and vocalists performing classical and popular selections.
Miss Pennsylvania 2018, Katie Schreckengast, a saxophonist and member of The Pennsylvania State University Blue Band, will attend at noon Feb. 25.
State books ‘Pinkalicious’
“Pinkalicious The Musical” sings and dances its way into the State Theatre Center for the Arts at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Feb. 25.
The show brings to life the popular children’s book, “Pinkalicious,” about the adventures of a little girl who loves pink so much that she turns pink, much to the dismay of her family.
Stephen Sunderlin, Artistic Director of Vital Theatre, the company behind the “Pinkalicious” tour, says that the production follows the story book almost exactly. “The show captures the essence of a book about family,” he says in a phone interview. “There is a playfulness, and also a real heart.”
Vital Theatre commissioned the live-action “Pinkalicious” after meeting one of the co-authors, Victoria Kann, at a book-signing. “We thought it would make a great play,” says Sunderlin.
Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann (book and lyrics) are co-authors of the “Pinkalicious” picture books. The sisters grew up in Brooklyn. Elizabeth is also a doctor with degrees from Vassar, Columbia and Albany Medical College. Victoria, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, teaches at the School of Visual Arts, New York City.
The popularity of “Pinkalicious” has led to more than 22 million copies of the book sold worldwide. PBS debuted a series based on the book Feb. 19.
“The story of Pinkalicious appeals to children,” Sunderlin says. “There is the princess theme, the tiara, the wand ... the cupcakes, the artwork. It captures a complete image of childhood.”
The show opens with Pinkalicious on stage. “She is dancing and singing and the kids are mesmerized,” says Sunderlin. “There are hilarious numbers.
“People make the mistake of thinking that it’s just a girls’ show. It is not. She has a brother Peter that’s in the show. Boys want the ‘Pinkalicious’ wand as much as the girls do. And, of course, there are the boys who come who love pink and tutus as much as the girls.
“This is a story that’s for the whole family,” Sunderlin says, “moms and dads, boys and girls, grandparents. You’ll see three generations at the show. In the end, it’s a show about a family that loves each other.
Speaking of love, the State Theatre is a favorite venue of Vital Theatre.
“We love the State Theatre,” says Sunderlin. “We’ve been there a number of times and it’s a great group to work with.”
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132
‘Bach Comes to Call’ on 10th anniversary
Children and their families get a glimpse into composer J.S. Bach’s personal life in the 10th anniversary performance of “Mr. Bach Comes to Call,” 3 p.m. Feb. 25, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Bethlehem.
The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, the Bach Festival Orchestra and Touchstone Theatre are collaborating on a theatrical journey through more than 20 works by Bach in the annual “Family Concert” conducted by Bach Choir artistic director Greg Funfgeld
Bach, the Baroque era composer (played by Mark McKenna), time-travels with three choir boys (Silas Taylor, Arts Academy Charter School; Ethan Silver, Springhouse Middle School; Matilda Snyder, Southern Lehigh Intermediate School) to a present-day piano lesson of 12-year-old Elizabeth (Abriana Ferrari, homeschooled). Bach Choir member Shannon Aloise plays Anna Magdalena Bach, wife of J.S. Bach. Together, they explore moments in the composer’s life and repertoire.
The film version, written by Susan Hammond of Classical Kids and produced by Green Treks Network and Touchstone Theatre, was broadcast nationally on PBS in 2008. Touchstone Theatre ensemble member and cofounder Bill George returns to direct the new production.
“The collaboration process between the Bach Choir and Touchstone Theatre is one of the more fascinating features of this production of ‘Mr. Bach Comes to Call,’ says George. It was thirteen years ago that Greg [Funfgeld] gave birth to the idea of translating the popular CD to the stage. In other words, The Bach Choir and Touchstone have been working on this production, in one form or another, for a good while. That is a remarkable phenomenon, and a great opportunity to perfect a work.”
“I never like using the word ‘perfect’ anywhere close to the act of making art, as art is always moving, changing, subject to different forces. But enduring collaborations allow performers-creators to go deeper, and I think that’s the case with this most recent mounting of ‘Mr. Bach Comes to Call,’ a charming children’s introduction to classical music and the biography of J.S. Bach. The Bach Choir and Touchstone are dedicated to such enduring creative collaborations.”
McKenna praises George, stage manager Emma Ackerman and his fellow cast members. He enjoys discovering “surprising facts” about Bach’s life.
“Bach’s passion for musical expression was powerful. It was a true joy for him to communicate through the playful organization of distinct and varied sounds to create amazing emotional journeys,” says McKenna. “He was a connoisseur of listening and he was a master at using time to blend, contrast and pattern his musical imagination. So, my work is to imagine how someone with his playful, adventurous passion might behave. Bill George’s sense of rhythm is a great help in this process and Mary Wright, our costume designer, is also essential in transforming my appearance,” says McKenna.
Funfgeld takes on the challenge of merging classical music with a theatrical story.
“Directing this concert is quite different. It’s more like an operetta. There are cues that have to be coordinated with the actors; timing that’s very important between The Choir, The Bach Festival Orchestra and the cast. I even have a few lines, which I have memorized, and get to interact with the gifted members of our cast. You might say I’m wearing a few more ‘hats’ than if it was a traditional concert but that’s a fabulous opportunity and great fun,” says Funfgeld.
Funfgeld has several favorite moments in the show.
“I really love all of the music in ‘Mr. Bach Comes to Call.’ The excerpt from ‘Cantata 21’ is so touching, filled with pathos and emotion. It comes at a point in the drama where Bach is talking about the death of his first wife. The music is amazing. ‘Cantata 21’ is one of the most favorite cantatas for the members of The Choir. We all love it.
“We do part of the third movement of the ‘Fifth Brandenburg Concerto,’ which has a great harpsichord solo that I love to play. It’s full of energy and exuberance. There are three movements from Bach’s ‘Orchestral Suites,’ including the ‘Suite for Solo Flute and Strings.’ Again, astonishing music. Finally, there’s the ‘Adventures in Music,’ which combines ‘Pop! Goes the Weasel’ with a Christmas Carol and one of Bach’s ‘Gigues’ from one of his ‘French Suites’ for keyboard. It’s a real romp and incredible fun for everybody.”
Funfgeld and George stress the courage and perseverance Bach exhibited throughout his life.
Says Funfgeld, “His music expresses all the wonder of the world, profound joy and equally profound sorrow. He was always trying to learn and come up with new ideas, new ways of expressing himself and his thoughts. He put all his emotions into his music and that music is now a gift to every one of us to find love, and hope, joy and peace. Bach has so much to tell us and to teach us. I hope parents and grandparents bring their children and grandchildren, what a gift to give them. It’s going to be great fun, but it has a lot of meaning, too.”
Says George, “Bach worked with children, and as he says in the play, ‘Ach! It keeps me young!’ For me, the great thing about working with children is that they are experiencing Bach’s life, his music, often for the first time. They are seeing it with fresh eyes, and it is a priceless gift to be able to share it with them.”
Tickets: bach.org; 610-866-4382, ext. 115 or 110
Readers Pick the OSCAR winners
Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards have been announced.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the Academy Awards for 2017 outstanding film achievements, 8 p.m. (EST) March 4, Dolby Theatre, Hollywood and Highland Center, Los Angeles, televised live on the ABC-TV.
The Press Focus section again presents the “Readers Pick the Oscar Winners” contest. The person who picks the most correct number of Oscar recipients receives a $50 Penn’s Peak gift, Roxy Theatre movie tickets, a Press prize package, and may have his or her photo published in the Focus section of the eight Press newspapers and web sites.
Oscar Contest Entry Form: Page B4