Building racial equity through high school theatre programs

Students perform a musical number from The Wiz.

The Story of Pathway

The Pathway grant program honors the late Craig Zadan, a visionary with a lifelong commitment to addressing issues of diversity. He helped make musical theatre more accessible to millions, continually breaking down industry barriers around race and helping many careers.

The Pathway program emphasizes how a school theatre experience can open avenues of opportunity, not only in the fields of theatre and entertainment, but along any life trajectory.

In school, theatre participation helps build students’ skills in communication, collaboration, perseverance, problem solving, and empathy. There is a correlation with higher attendance and test scores, and academic performance. The evidence is convincing: Young people who participate in school theatre are more likely to succeed in life.

But, people of color and low-income communities of color face disproportionately less access to theatre in their schools. According to a National Endowment for the Arts study, Black and Hispanic students had less than half the access to arts education as White students.

Pathway aims to enhance the school theatre experience and impact in communities facing racial disparity by creating opportunities for students to work with industry professionals of color while performing works that encourage dialogue around racial equity. 

Craig Zadan

How does it work?

ETF awards $10,000 grants to high schools for the production of a musical or play that encourages dialogue around issues of race and racial equity. Grant funds are used to hire professionals of color who act as mentors to students, building relationships and seeding vision for potential career pathways. 


Pathway is a nationwide program that operates in the United States and its territories.

Show Selection

The application allows the submitting school to include up to three project concepts/shows that further the conversation on race or racial equity. Final selection of the title is made in collaboration with ETF as part of the grant awarding process.


Mentors are hired in collaboration with ETF and working professionals in the theatre industy or other relevant industries related to the content of the show being produced. Each participating school must hire at least two mentors of color that commit to working with students on various aspects of the production, such as lights, sound, costumes, music, direction, etc.

Community Involvement

Schools culminate the project with a minimum of three performances open to the community and one community event promoting racial equity dialogue.

"It was so great to hear how the story of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti changed people’s lives. I was genuinely surprised when people came up to me, telling me they needed the story of not backing down and taking on life headfirst. This shows me how vital artists are to the world. I'm filled with joy, gratitude, and curiosity for what the future has in store.”
Nicholas Alexander Wilkinson II as Fela Kuti
Nicholas Alexander Wilkinson II
Pathway student, lead actor in Fela!

Apply for a Pathway Grant

The application period for the 2024-25 grant cycle is open through April 1.

A free EdTA account must be created to access and submit the form.

Pathway Advisory Board

Kenny Leon headshot
Tony-winning director Kenny Leon
  • Kristin Chenoweth
  • Kenny Leon
  • Audra McDonald
  • Bette Midler
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Danny and Lily Pino
  • John Stamos
  • John Travolta
  • Nia Vardalos
  • Renee Zellweger

Thanks to these organizations that support the Pathway program.

Concord Theatricals logo
Find Your Light Foundation logo
Music Theatre International logo

Help build racial equity in schools today.