It is surprising to me how many people, even people who are great supporters of ETC, subscribers, etc., don’t really know what we do through our Education Outreach Programs. (Don’t worry – I’ll try to leave out most of Edu-speak) Most arts education falls within three basic categories – experience, skill-building, and integration. So what do we do?
The Fairy Godmother program, or the FGM, is our largest outreach effort. Generously sponsored by the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation, it was created to provide a beautiful theatrical experience for students from economically disadvantaged schools at no cost to them. We even make sure that they don’t have to pay for transportation, either through Artlinks’ wonderful Artbus program, or by picking up the tab ourselves. We do this to give these kids something brilliant, bold, and driven by imagination. I cannot tell you how many students have come through our doors during my three years here who saw their first live show through this program and each year I have at least one or two who ask me when they movie is going to start. When I tell them it isn’t a movie, but a play with real people, their eyes get big and a curiosity and excitement fills them. Part of the importance of experiencing theatre, especially at a young age, is to inspire. We want to inspire them to hope, dream, and create. To learn more about the story of our FGM program, click here.
Our other major education program is called Prelude. It is a chance for students to experience the process of creating their own play, from start to finish. We write it, design it, and perform it, and we do it all during a ten week residency at their school. This program is extraordinary because of the breadth of skills, and concepts it can teach. I work with teachers to customize our basic process to meet the needs of their students and because of this, each Prelude experience is unique. The previous post is an excellent example of this program. This isn’t all about acting, either. Prelude begins with the writing process and addresses many state standards. This program addresses the other two aspects of arts education, skill building, and integration. Skill building is fairly straightforward – we learn about acting techniques, public speaking and self-esteem. Arts integration involves using the arts, in this case, theatre, as a tool to teach concepts from another subject. Thus, if your students are having a hard time grasping how to count coins, we can write a play about it. The concept is discussed and explored, but in a fun and interactive way. If you want to know more specifics, drop me an email, or give me a call and I’ll be happy to share.
Those are our major programs, but I also provide workshops for schools who only have one class period to give me. These range in topic from science in theatre to playwriting. If schools call us asking for some educational support, I do everything in my power to help. This season alone, we’re working with a high school playwriting class, teaching preschoolers, developing a modification to Prelude that will allow it to be used for after school programs, and working to provide more opportunities for schools to see our shows. Our educational outreach is ever evolving, because we believe in supporting our community and our schools, and we’re here to help.
So you see, it is very different from the summer drama camps and scaled-down touring shows that are typical programming choices for theatres. Those are extremely valid and important aspects of theatre education, and may someday join our existing programs but, for many different reasons, we take a very different approach to theatre education.
So what do you think? What would you like to see offered by the ETC Education Outreach Program? Was there a special program at your school as a kids that was really inspiring?