Supporting School Theatre: A Personal Mission

As the 2020-21 school year draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on how the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) has served our students and teachers. While no nonprofit has been untouched by the pandemic, EdTA operates at the intersection of three dramatically impacted industries: theatre, education, and live events. As such, this school year has been filled with challenges, change, and crisis.

By Julie Cohen Theobald

As I celebrate my 10-year anniversary as executive director and president, I’ve been cast in a new role. Beginning in September, I will serve as an appointed trustee of the Educational Theatre Foundation. I have decided to pursue a new career opportunity, and the EdTA board is conducting a national search for its next executive director.

This work has always been more than a job for me. The mission of supporting theatre education is personal, stemming from my own experience in theatre as a child. Now it truly becomes part of my personal mission, as I shift from an employee to a volunteer.

As I reflect on the mission and the past decade’s accomplishments, I am so proud of the birth of ETF. With this foundation, we have grown a network of funders that enables the organization to shape so many more lives through theatre education: The Educational Theatre Association and International Thespian Society have been recognizing excellence in school theatre for decades; now ETF is building access and supporting the journey to excellence. For example:

  • The JumpStart Theatre program has grown from its 2015 pilot to establish sustainable theatre programs in 10 states and 40 schools, with the latest rollout happening as we speak in Detroit Public Schools.
  • The emerging Pathway program for building racial equity through school theatre has never been more relevant.
  • Our Thespian Relief Fund has been a lifeline for so many programs that lost momentum, with 175 grants awarded to 136 schools to date.
Julie Cohen Theobald with Holmes Middle School participants in the 2015 JumpStart Theatre pilot

The upcoming school year is a pivotal one for school theatre, and we need your help. While teachers heroically kept theatre alive in the pandemic, student interest and engagement has declined. In a recent EdTA survey, 51 percent of teachers reported their theatre program participation was down by half or more.

The fight is not over. Every child deserves access to theatre in their school. Let’s continue to work together to shape students’ lives and nurture their skills, confidence, and joy that comes through theatre.

Thank you for your support and partnership that has led us to this moment.

Picture of Julie Cohen Theobald

Julie Cohen Theobald

Julie Cohen Theobald is the former executive director of the Educational Theatre Association and past president of the Educational Theatre Foundation. She has a lifelong involvement in theatre and 20 years of business, marketing, and management experience.