It was a little over a week ago when I got on a plane to Los Angeles, with a super special scarf in tow. More on the details of the trip later, let’s get to the Reading Rainbow goodness.
The Reading Rainbow Live! event was held at YouTube Space LA, a new venue for video-makers and collaborators, located conveniently in the middle of a whole bunch of construction that throws off everyone’s GPS in a bad way. Our poor Uber driver was so confused trying to get us into the space, and I didn’t help things along by getting super carsick along the way.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, on my way to meet LeVar Burton, a childhood hero, I got so sick that I threw up in a paper bag inside our Uber car. Luckily, we were at a corner where I could run outside and compose myself like a decent human being (as well as take a little walk to throw away my…bag of vomit…I am still horrified at myself), but the stop-and-go traffic and the multiple winding turns around all that construction made my stomach flip. When we finally got there, most of us no worse for wear, they had little tents set up with water and snacks, and I was overjoyed to have a little time to calm down.
They also gave us tiny LeVars to tag with our latest adventures in reading on Instagram. Cute.
All of my pictures from this are from behind 3 rows of seats, plus it wasn’t super bright in there, so do forgive any blurriness. While we waited for the event to start, we were treated to clips from older shows, plus an awesome auto-tuned song put together from old clips.
I am not ashamed to say that I was tearing up a little. There were colorful mats spread out all over the floor in front of the audience seating full of children, and it occurred to me that this might be the first time they were ever getting to experience Reading Rainbow and being in a room full of adults who love reading, and it made me a little emotional.
Mark Wolfe, business partner and co-founder of RRKIDZ, started everything off by thanking the donors and telling them how successful the new Reading Rainbow app has been, as well as telling everyone about their new venture Skybrary, a huge collection of children’s books and video “field trips” (I never knew that’s what they called the live-actions parts. That’s adorable.) that are accessible from cloud storage to homes and classrooms all over the world. How cool. I wish there would have been something like that available when I was growing up, but then I doubt I would have ever come up for air if there were.
He introduced two videos, the first being the old episode of Reading Rainbow where they visit the set of Star Trek: the Next Generation and get to see all of the behind-the-scenes action. The next one was the first “field trip” for the new series, all about the history of space travel and the MAVEN launch from the Kennedy Space Center.
Again, tears welled up. You guys, it was so good. And just like I remembered. Interesting facts, beautiful photography, all delivered with the skilled hands of master educators…people who know that the best way to get kids to learn is to not talk down to them or make things too simple. Just make it cool, and kids will follow.
After that, it was time for a story, which meant it was time for some celebrity storytellers.
Jonathan Frakes. If you didn’t have a crush on Riker, you’re just lying to yourself. Jennifer Hetrick (Vash, from TNG and Deep Space Nine) came out right after that, but I didn’t get a good picture of her.
Armin Shimerman, the friendliest Ferengi you ever did see.
Michael Dorn, looking simultaneously exactly like and nothing at all like what I imagined under all of that Worf makeup.
Rosalind Chao, who I didn’t even know was involved with Star Trek at all, but I’ve seen the movie of The Joy Luck Club so many times that I don’t even care. Not pictured, Robert Picardo from Voyager because I was too short to ever see him over there on the side. Then, we got some video from someone who wished he could be there.
Oh, Brent Spiner. Data was the best.
He came! Yay!
They were all so fun and animated during the storytime, and the pages were projected onto the video screens so that everyone could see, not just the kids up front. It was such a wonderful idea. Then, we were treated to more videos from Star Trek cast members who wished they could attend.
Like Marina Sirtis!
And Gates McFadden, who really might be one of the most adorable people on Earth. Did you know she was a choreographer for Jim Henson Productions? Yep, she choreographed the beautiful waltz from Labyrinth and the stylized movements from the warring tribes in The Dark Crystal. That is so freaking cool. Then, one last guest arrived before the next storytime.
Kate Mulgrew! The applause was ridiculous.
She helped the gang read Watch Out for Wolfgang by Paul Carrick, a very weird and fun Three Little Pigs-esque story with robots.
After storytime and more clapping (so much clapping), it was time for something they called Star Trek Trivia, but was basically a big game of Taboo with Star Trek terms. The casts split up into two teams to duke it out.
There was a lot of wild gesturing and arm flailing. And cheating! Jonathan Frakes really just likes to yell out the answers when it isn’t his turn.
It was a lot of fun to see how much they still remembered from their shows. Q&A came next, and Kate Mulgrew had two of the greatest answers to really wonderful questions from the audience.
When asked how to encourage children to read from an early age, she said to read in front of them and to them all the time. Kids pick up on these behaviors and imitate them, so the best way for your kids to start reading is to be a reader yourself. Much applause. Then, when asked to comment on her experiences being a role model for young girls who wanted to become scientists, she declared that it was the whole reason why she took the role in the first place. She wanted to inspire others to follow those dreams, and the people at the event who were affected by her performance were all the validation that she’d ever need for taking the job.
Damn, that woman is amazing.
And anyway, that’s it.
Just kidding. We all want to know what happened with the scarf, right? At least, I hope we do.
After the event, they cleared us all out of the space in order to rearrange some things and get set up for pictures. Unfortunately, Brent Spine and Kate Mulgrew had to leave early, so they couldn’t stay for the pictures. Then, we got lined up again and they let groups in a few at a time. YouTube used its own official camera for the event, and each group got their photo taken and then was shuffled out of the space.
I panicked a little. I had the scarf wrapped up in my purse with my cute little handwritten note. I didn’t realize I was only going to have 20 seconds of time to explain myself before the line had to move again.
When we got up to the front, I walked up to LeVar Burton (yes, I just wrote that sentence, which is crazy) and opened up the wrapping for him, handing him the card and telling him that I made him a present. He was a little confused at first because I think he didn’t realize that I was talking to him. He looked back at me and said, “This is for me? Thank you so much! Why don’t we go ahead and take the picture?”
He’s wearing it! And look at all of their adorable smiling faces, along with me, my brother, and my sister-in-law! Everyone is so good-looking!
As I started to walk away, his assistant stopped me and said, “Did you make this?” When I said yes, Jeri Ryan called out, “Wait, you made that? It’s beautiful!” My brain short-circuited and all I could do was smile and nod. I watched as LeVar put my card in his pocket, and his assistant grabbed the scarf and folded it up. She said, “I’ll be sure that it goes in his office. I can’t believe you made this!” Again, more smiling and nodding. I thanked her profusely, and then it was over. We were shuffled out into the daylight, me with a big giant grin on my face.
Now, that seems like a lot to handle for one day(hell, for the whole trip), but stay tuned for another post on my LA trip that involves a whole ridiculous amount of celebrities, an astroturf carpet, and holding it together in a new dress and high heels, which I am not known to do.