Austin's Journey to Houston - Week 5

The cast of "Austin The Unstoppable" reunites with one of their biggest fans. Little does nurse Rachel Johnson know, we are also her biggest fan! Her joy and compassion are contagious.

The cast of "Austin The Unstoppable" reunites with one of their biggest fans. Little does nurse Rachel Johnson know, we are also her biggest fan! Her joy and compassion are contagious.


NOTE: Carol Foose, a 2016-17 GSP Educational Touring Theatre cast member, has returned this season to join the cast of Austin the Unstoppable, which is currently touring Houston schools and organizations through a grant provided by Novo Nordisk in conjunction with its Changing Cities Diabetes program. During the next few weeks, we will be sharing Carol's thoughts from Houston as she chronicles her experiences on the tour. Below is the fifth installment.

On Friday morning, I woke up to an alarm and wanted so badly to hit the snooze button…again and again. Though my work is incredibly rewarding and exciting, even I have the days where I struggle to get out of bed. I rubbed my temples to relieve a small headache and routinely went about my morning, sleepily preparing myself for the day. Upon leaving the house, the Houston weather reflected my own mood with overcast skies above.  

While driving to Briar Meadow Elementary School, I started warming-up in hopes to wake up. Though out of bed and well on my way to seize the day, I felt sluggish. I couldn’t seem to shake the gray attitude. When we finally arrived to the school, the smile I mustered was made sincere. Though the sky remained overcast, the clouds darkening my mood were pushed away. All it took was the welcome of a warm school to reignite my passion for the work, which, in turn, joyfully woke me up for the day.

Briar Meadow is a very special school — one I will not soon forget. Upon entering the school, we met Peter Heinze, the school principal. He gave us a brief tour of the school and introduced us to some wonderful kids before introducing us to his students. Yes, you read that right. Briar Meadow Elementary is home to several goats and chickens for which the students learn to take responsibility.

Immediately before the performance, Mr. Heinze introduced us and asked the students to participate in reciting a sort of mantra for the school. Backstage, I began to tear up as I heard a sea of excited children proclaiming their own worth and declaring their vow to “dare to dream.”

Briar Meadow Elementary has secured itself into my memory and my heart. It was both exciting and relieving to be welcomed into a school that empowers its students to voice their opinions and follow their dreams.

Growing up, I was taught that being a “good student” was equated with being quiet. After spending a few mere hours at Briar Meadow Elementary, I left feeling a new sense of empowerment – excited to have a voice and excited to use it. I can only hope and imagine that the students of Briar Meadow feel the same empowerment that I felt before I left.

On Thursday evening, we had the pleasure of performing a teaser of Austin The Unstoppable at The Astorian, a beautiful venue in Houston, for the International Diabetes Summit, hosted by our very own sponsor, Novo Nordisk.  I felt humbled to meet so many people who were excited to hear about our experiences on the road with this story, especially representatives and employees from Novo Nordisk. Our performance went wonderfully, but our dear friend, Rachel Johnson (Montgomery Elementary School Nurse, featured in Week 2 of our journey), stole the show while publicly recounting her and her students' experiences while watching Austin The Unstoppable.

Despite our busy performance schedule, we still managed to explore more of Houston, revisiting Discovery Green and walking through the Downtown area. We spent many evenings this week at different restaurants cheering on the Houston Astros as they battled the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. I also returned to BARC. The Houston sun is certainly hot, but what really melts my heart are bright eyes, wet noses, and happy wagging tails, spreading a contagious and unmatchable joy.  

With another 6 shows completed, our total tally currently comes to the milestone 30 performances!  Please send healthy and positive vibes or way as we prepare to work with several other long audiences.

Erica Leigh and Katie Lugo introducing themselves to some wonderful kids — in this case, young goats.

Erica Leigh and Katie Lugo introducing themselves to some wonderful kids — in this case, young goats.

Mason Butler: Goat Whisperer

Mason Butler: Goat Whisperer

Carol Foose falling head over hooves at Briar Meadow Elementary.

Carol Foose falling head over hooves at Briar Meadow Elementary.

Met this 6-month old beautiful blue-eyed boy at BARC. He likes to stay healthy by monitoring his milk bone intake and chasing tennis balls.

Met this 6-month old beautiful blue-eyed boy at BARC. He likes to stay healthy by monitoring his milk bone intake and chasing tennis balls.

When you’re a sleepy monster, but you still have to cheer on your team...

When you’re a sleepy monster, but you still have to cheer on your team...

Mr. Pizza serving up some temptation.

Mr. Pizza serving up some temptation.

Stage Manager Erica Leigh is caught red handed enjoying some of Houston’s favorite donuts.

Stage Manager Erica Leigh is caught red handed enjoying some of Houston’s favorite donuts.