Advanced could be associated with every part of Leavenworth’s High School campus, but the performing arts theatre. By the time staff applied for the ETF R.I.S.E America Grant, their aging stage floor was a great safety concern.
ETF R.I.S.E America was a competitive $10,000 grant funded by NBC and awarded to 50 high schools in 2018 to cover critical theatre program needs.
The Leavenworth auditorium was the center of numerous school plays, district events, presentations, concerts and more. Winning the grant, which covered a portion of the floor cost made the community positively aware of the auditorium’s needs.
“Winning the grant created a buzz about theatre here, like never before,” said theatre program director and Thespian Troupe director Jennifer Morgan-Beuchat, “There was a new sense of pride, worth and validation, not just with our theatre kids and program, but also district-wide.
The grant’s buzz made it all the way to the Leavenworth Unified School District who decided to provide the additional funding needed to complete the stage floor. During the floor installation, Matt Dedeke, the school district’s director of facilities noticed the theatre needed more than flooring restored. With the support of the Leavenworth Board of Education, the district repainted the auditorium, repaired the carpet, provided new house lighting, and upgraded the stairs leading to the stage.
The board also approved new microphones, including a traveling wireless system for the theatre program’s touring productions. The ETF R.I.S.E. America Grant led to the update of an auditorium that was not only important to Leavenworth’s students but the entire community.
Once the new stage floor was installed, students began to practice their tap dance for the upcoming musical, Newsies. Morgan-Beuchat described the students dancing on the new floor as sheer joy.
“The sound, the look, the texture – they were in awe at first, almost afraid to walk on it,” she said, “The pride in using the stage has changed how they practice, perform, and treat the auditorium on a daily basis.”
The new developments further inspired Mason Frasher, a former Leavenworth Thespian troupe president turned Northwestern University music major to write an additional grant to Northwestern to request an expert choreographer to teach tap technique. Frasher’s efforts further demonstrate how ETF’s grant inspired an entire community to see the value of theatre education.
“We are only one school, but please know the impact this grant has had on the Leavenworth community,” said Morgan-Beuchat, “Our program focuses on how theatre changes lives, and now the city has opened its arms to that reality.”