#JumpStartTheatre Initiative Launched by EdTA, MTI and iTheatrics!

#JumpStartTheatre Initiative Launched by EdTA, MTI and iTheatrics!

By Jason Cocovinis on February 12, 2015

Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), Music Theatre International (MTI) and iTheatrics are launching JumpStart Theatre (#JumpStartTheatre), a new program bolstering theatre education.  JumpStart Theatre will train educators to develop sustainable musical theater programs at underserved middle schools that do not currently offer theatre in the curriculum or after school.

JumpStart will conduct a pilot program in three Cincinnati area middle schools during the 2015/16 school year, and will then expand the program on a national level. All Cincinnati metro-area middle schools may apply to participate in JumpStart Theatre through February 23 at schooltheatre.org/jumpstarttheatre. Selected schools will be announced in the spring, and will begin implementing the program in their school in the fall of 2015.

Broadway stars on and off stage - Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story, NBC’s Smash, Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach), Megan Hilty (Wicked, Smash), Darren Criss (Glee), Disney Theatrical Group president and producer Thomas Schumacher, and Andreas Deja (animator) - helped raise $6,020 for the program by signing items for auction during the recent Junior Theater Festival, an annual event held in Atlanta celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater.

Pasek and Paul signed a copy of their Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach album, which they debuted at the festival by giving away a free copy to the 4,500+ participants.  Hilty, Pasek, Paul, Criss, Luca Padovan (who sings the role of James on the CD) and book writer Timothy Allen McDonald signed a James and the Giant Peach poster.  Andreas Deja, renowned for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios and the supervising animator for Scar in The Lion King, donated a sketch of Scar drawn during a festival presentation about Disney’s The Lion King by Thomas Schumacher.

“James is a child placed in a remarkable situation who - with the help and support of some new friends - is able to achieve great things,” says Benj Pasek. “We think it’s a fitting tribute to Roald Dahl that the James and the Giant Peach album helps young people experience the power of the arts,” adds Justin Paul.

A designated teacher will lead the JumpStart school program using tools and resources provided by EdTA, including workshops led by nationally recognized master teachers in theatre education, dedicated program managers, access to a library of MTI’s Broadway Junior musicals, and a budget for the technical elements of the production such as costumes and props.

“Studies have shown that theatre education helps our young people become better students and citizens.  The experience of being in a musical teaches life skills like accountability, respect, teamwork, discipline, risk-taking, and creativity,” said Julie Woffington, Executive Director of EdTA.

"It's exciting to see this program finally come to fruition as there have been a lot of people working behind the scenes to make this happen. This will forward our goals of raising the next generation of artists and audience members around the country," said John Prignano, Senior Operations Officer of MTI.

Selected schools make a three-year commitment. Each school will receive services and materials valued at $12,000 annually in the form of training, mentoring, and producing a full-scale show for their community. Students will be involved in every aspect of the production: performance, costumes, sets, and design. EdTA will also host a yearly JumpStart Theatre showcase, bringing participants together to share their work.

“Musicals are the ‘super food’ of arts education.  Being part of a show allows students to explore music, dance, and acting, as well as visual and digital arts as they design sets, costumes, lights and sound.  A musical teaches young people important life skills as they collaborate, listen, and problem-solve in real time,” says Timothy Allen McDonald, founding chairman of iTheatrics and book writer of James and the Giant Peach.

Additional donations to the program may be made to schooltheatre.org/donate or via check at Educational Theatre Association: JumpStart Theatre Campaign, 2343 Auburn Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45219 (please make a note on the check that it is going to JumpStart). JumpStart Theatre has already received a starter grant from the Ohio Arts Council.