featured project: Lola's Lab
founder, playwright, brand graphics and illustration, curriculum writing, costume design, artistic direction, producer
LOLA'S LAB was an edutainment production company where I integrated my writing, production and design work. Beginning in 2010, I've wrote, produced, and directed over 40 original immersive audience adventures paired with a project-based curriculum in complex monthly camp environments with episodic theater. The business has served thousands of families and gave me a platform to exercise a wide array of creative and management skills while working with extraordinary visual and performing artists. As the primary writer/ illustrator it allowed me to create an imaginative brand with a large catalog of original material and products. I continue to turn the plays into new formats of interactivity today.
A little History on how Lola's Lab came to be so imaginative.
Lola’s Lab was actually my third arts program for children.
Art Circus is founded in 1998
II began teaching art after school outside of my other professional projects. I ran programs in 5 elementary schools and summer camps.
LNRN is founded in 2006
I cofounded LNRN to teach the arts from a perspective of appealing to both sides of the brain and rolled those schools into the first audience for these programs. I developed methods of teaching art, drama and movement content that would personalize the student outcomes, thereby engaging the students much more.
I wrote hundreds of lessons, including our signature series called Global Arts Odyssey, a cultural arts and diplomacy program which focused on 90 countries to elementary aged children. The program of schools and camps grew very quickly from 5 to over 40 classes a week in the dc metro area serving more than 800 kids a week. The success of the signature program program spawned summer camps and MiniTravelers, the same programs for preschoolers. In addition to creating the content, I designed and illustrated the teaching aids, brand identity, and handled all the technology.
In 2010 LNRN experienced the recession. Enrollment had lowered suddenly in our signature program because of the luxury price range. Additional pressure to serve more kids in our lower cost full day camps was creating a challenges. LNRN disbanded.
Lola's Lab is founded in 2010
Upon disbandment of LNRN, Lola’s Lab was founded as a strategic approach to offering high level creativity in the new recession landscape. I focused on innovation and uniqueness of what I could offer in order to differentiate from the low cost programs that had popped up to serve working parents when the recession hit. I wanted to attract a specific market of parents who still valued the dedication to cultivating imagination and creative confidence.
Lola’s Lab was a pioneer in its use of a highly visual style (seen in the pictures above) and story based immersive experiential learning. The staff wore costumes, the days were driven by a process of conjuring collective imagination among participants akin to LARP (Live Action Role Play.) I wrote scripts to activate a linear unfolding of information because I felt that ordering the associative learning would be even stickier than associative learning I had employed in LNRN. I directed the areas best teaching artists to activate the content. Live characters interacted with students throughout the day. This primed students with a personal relationship to the story and created a mysterious atmosphere of surprise. I employed cliffhangers and gamification in the writing to enroll and motivate the students into invest themselves the story adventures and to collaborate on solving problems which the characters were having in real time. These ideas were prototypes in the breakout sessions which included maker labs and taught principals of design thinking. Story adventure camps were 1-5 days long. Children were deeply invested in the story and their missions together. The training during our programs impacted the children at home, helping them build creative confidence, and collaborative skills.
The full impact was an experience unlike anything on the out of school market, traditional education, museum style learning or family entertainment. In truth, it was a merge of ideas that activated personal expression and learning in as many ways possible so that all participants had a “way in” that would resonate with them. It was a natural extension of my experience being a multidisciplinary artist, performer/director, writer, theatrical and costume designer.
I created a pipeline of over 40 productions, with repeatable, evergreen content that was always able to be personalized. Lola’s Lab was a land of many stories, each story was a play with it’s own product family of scripts, unique characters, curriculum, and story merchandise. We also performed short interactive productions at the National Children's Museum and other venues. By the end of year 4, I was developing interactive story books for sale. And by year 6, I began to format the live program for licensing by outside organizations. The program was presented by Encore Children's Theater in 2018 and a request for more in 2019. During this time I was experimenting with video production and adapting our program for e-learning and the design of the website for a subscriber based community with podcasts, video modules, achievement levels and participant interface technology strategies.
In 2019, despite the request for more, I ended live productions in year 7 to focus on reinvention of the story content for web based platforms and took a long look at how next steps of growth could not continue under my own direction without a larger production company to carry out what I could visualize. We had come to the end of an era in many respects but the dawn of a new one professionally where I knew I was best served to work on innovative storytelling in environments with sizable production budgets for incorporating new ideas and technology.