Two Phila. teachers find some good in getting laid off

Posted: January 19, 2012

Getting laid off was devastating for Joshua Levin and David Orlansky, two young Philadelphia School District teachers with big dreams of making a difference in urban education.

But it was fortuitous, in a way: It gave them a lot of free time to polish their musical.

Awesome Alliteration: The Magical Musical, the freshman effort of the friends who grew up in Abington and now live in Manayunk, debuts Thursday night at the Adrienne Theater on Sansom Street.

It's the tale of an English teacher who runs up against the bureaucrat who banned all literary devices in a small town.

Mostly, it's a satire about education, said the two, whose BetaMale Productions company is making the musical happen through funds from Kickstarter, a national online funding platform for creative projects.

Levin and Orlansky wrote Awesome Alliteration; they are producing it along with their friend Zac Kind, who's not a teacher.

"When we started writing it, it wasn't as pointed a satire," said Orlansky, 24. "But after I spent two years in the Philly school district, it definitely started turning that way."

Teachers will laugh at the principal who rushes into a classroom to do an evaluation, paying attention only to objectives written on a blackboard and dismissing everything else. They might nod knowingly at the administrator who urges the teacher to raise student test scores, "but not too high. Raise them to a nice, non-suspicious level, so people don't think we're cheating," said Levin.

Orlansky, who taught special education at George Washington High in the Northeast for two years before receiving his pink slip in June as part of a wave of 1,000-plus teacher layoffs, is now working as a long-term substitute in the Lower Merion School District.

Levin, who taught elementary school in Washington, had been accepted to the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program and was slated to start with the district in September. However, he was cut before he worked a day.

Even though they poke fun at the profession, both are itching to get back to permanent, full-time classroom jobs.

"I love teaching," Orlansky said.


Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.

Awesome Alliteration: The Magical Musical runs from Thursday to Sunday at the SkyBox @ The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. Shows are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information, go to www.betamaleproductions.com.

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