Every recent story from the JumpStart Theatre world begins: “This wasn’t an easy year for theatre; however … ” Important and exciting knowledge and skills have emerged from that however.
Theatre has continued, with more creativity and ingenuity than ever. For schools beginning brand-new theatre programs, this was a particular challenge, but they held strong and are eagerly anticipating their future productions.
JumpStart Theatre schools were just about to open their spring 2020 musicals when COVID-19 struck. The devoted teacher teams refused to give up and found ways to perform and connect virtually, teaching themselves to use video-editing software or joining their students on TikTok for musical dance challenges. They begin planning for the fall, hoping that the world would return to normal in the coming months.
Unfortunately, pandemic uncertainty and social distancing mandates wiped out chances for planning 2021 musical productions. ETF staff met with all regional partners and made the decision to designate 2020-2021 as a “Virtual Toolkit Year.” Each region was granted a stipend to use however they saw fit to continue to provide virtual support and engagement to the schools.
JumpStart Theatre has six regional partners
Our partners accepted the challenge and devised exciting ways to keep theatre education going. They provided live and pre-recorded virtual musical theatre workshops, as well as complimentary access to their streamed professional productions.
Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre granted streaming rights for their production of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati was delighted to discover that a couple of their schools allowed limited visitors, so mentors were able to join students and teachers for mini classes. Mountain City Center for the Arts (Frostburg, Md.) also was permitted to enter classroom to lead both virtual and in-person workshops. La Jolla Playhouse in California used the stipend to support curriculum development, creating a video series on topics such as movement and voice for teachers to use with their students. (See more examples.)
An Alliance Theatre mentor leads a workshop with students in Atlanta.
With the help of iTheatrics, ETF organized two virtual bootcamps for JumpStart Theatre teachers. A total of 110 teachers came together to learn how to improve theatre productions and boost student engagement in a virtual environment.
Schools scheduled theatre-related activities to stay connected to their students, including:
- Virtual drama clubs
- Script readings to explore script analysis
- Watching performances together
- Researching and collecting technical elements for future productions
One school in Georgia even decided to hire a drama teacher so students could learn even more about all elements of theatre production. Here’s another impact story from San Diego-area Los Coches Creek Middle School.
Because of the pandemic disruptions, 2020-21 will be treated as a “bonus” year — schools who were in their third year won’t graduate until after the 2021-22 school year. (Learn about the 2020 graduates.)
Participants are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming school year. JumpStart Theatre schools are eagerly selecting their spring 2022 productions from MTI’s Broadway Junior catalog. Auditions are being scheduled and performance dates penciled into calendars. iTheatrics is working with the partners to determine a plan for in-person training bootcamps. Additionally, our newest partnership with the University of Michigan is off to a great start with their first class of three schools. Students are excited to return to the stage in the coming months.
2020-21 Program Impact
JumpStart Theatre’s impact is best illustrated in our students’ and teachers’ own words:
Thank you to all the generous donors who make JumpStart Theatre possible! See all ETF donors