Announcement of Major Gift from Hamilton Producer Jeffrey Seller
Adds to ETF Broadway Back to School Festivities Honoring Freddie Gershon
and Dr. Sharon Dunn

(CINCINNATI, OHIO, September 23, 2018) The Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) is pleased to announce a major gift from Jeffrey Seller, in support of its JumpStart Theatre program that builds sustainable musical theatre programs in middle schools that previously had none. The gift will enable the program to expand to a new city in 2019.

Seller is best known for his work on Rent (1996), Avenue Q (2003), In the Heights (2008), and Hamilton (2015),  which are transformational shows about “young people asking themselves: Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? What is my purpose?“

The announcement was made by ETF President Julie Cohen Theobald at the fourth annual New York benefit event for the Foundation where Freddie Gershon, Co-chairman of Music Theatre International (MTI), and Dr. Sharon Dunn, former Senior Manager for Arts Education for the New York City Department of Education, were honored with the Broadway Back to School Award that recognizes the furtherance of access and excellence in school theatre. Gershon and Dunn received the inaugural honor for their initiation of the Broadway Junior program, which inspired ETF’s JumpStart Theatre initiative to help build middle school musical theatre programs across the country.

ETF President Julie Cohen Theobald read a statement from Seller that said in part:

“Freddie and Sharon, I wish that Josh and I could be with you tonight and celebrate you as the first recipients of the Broadway Back to School Award. I love the Broadway Junior program and its impact on New York City, getting musical theatre into the schools. Josh and I are delighted to announce that we’ve made a gift to JumpStart Theatre, with the hope that what you got started will someday benefit kids in Detroit, as well as in many other communities. Thanks and congratulations!”

Theobald thanked Seller saying, “On a night where we celebrate Broadway giving back to school theatre, it means so much to receive this support from such a visionary Broadway producer. I’ve seen the transformative impact of JumpStart Theatre in the most underserved communities in this country, and this gift will change many lives for the better.”

Entertaining and engaging the sell-out crowd, current Broadway performers also devoted the evening to giving back to school—Preston Max Allen (We Are The Tigers, Never Better); Jeremy Brown (ASL Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof); Morgan Siobhan Green (Between the Lines); Caitlin Kinnunen (THE PROM, Spring Awakening, Law & Order: SVU); Justin Gregory Lopez (Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert on NBC, Evita, In the Heights); Michael Maliakel (Anything Can Happen: The Songs of Maury Yeston, Monsoon Wedding); Marcy & Zina (Ever After, The Marcy and Zina Show); Bonnie Milligan (Head over Heels, Kinky Boots, Search Party on TBS); Renee Rapp (2018 Jimmy Award winner for Best Actress); and Garrett Zuercher (Deaf West’s international Broadway tour of Big River, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Wonderstruck).  Each of the performers thanked one of their high school theatre teachers. And one was present.

One of the many touching highlights of the evening was when Tony Award-winning theatre teacher and Thespian troupe director Corey Mitchell from North Carolina was on hand to congratulate and have a mini reunion with his former student, Renee Rapp who performed “The Life of the Party,” from The Wild Party.

In addition the show includes International Thespian Society student performers from New York and New Jersey.

(Pre-event press release)

Freddie Gershon and Sharon Dunn to be honored by
The Educational Theatre Foundation

Key leaders in education and the theatrical industry will be honored by the Educational Theatre Foundation  (ETF) with the Broadway Back to School Award. The inaugural recipients are Freddie Gershon, Co-Chairman of Music Theatre International (MTI), and Dr. Sharon Dunn, formerly Senior Manager for Arts Education for the New York City Department of Education, for their work in initiating the Broadway Junior program, which was a breakthrough in the history of school theatre.

Further, the Broadway Junior program, founded by The Shubert Foundation, iTheatrics, and MTI in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education, inspired ETF’s JumpStart Theatre program which is now spreading across the country building musical theatre programs in middle schools in Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego, and Atlanta, with plans for continued growth.

Many at-risk students, who stand to benefit the most from theatre education, have little to no access.  The work of Freddie Gershon and Dr. Sharon Dunn has made musical theatre more accessible to thousands of children, serving the very important purpose of growing access, equity and inclusion. As the inaugural honorees, these worthy recipients set the highest standard and ensure the award’s continued impact.

The awards will be presented at a benefit cabaret of the same name, Broadway Back to School, on Sunday, September 23, 2018, at 7 p.m., at Feinstein’s 54/Below. Now in its fourth year, Broadway Back to School supports theatre education programs for schools in need by bringing together professional artists along with current high school students. The event features performances and interviews, dreams and reminiscences, to give back and raise funds for underserved schools.

The host committee for Broadway Back to School is headed by Hunter Bell, Tony-nominated playwright, and Vice President of the ETF National Board of Trustees.

ETF will also be hosting a West Coast benefit event, Thespians Go Hollywood, on November 11, 2018 in Los Angeles.

If you are interested in being a Sponsor or Patron for Broadway Back to School 2019, please contact Marion Combs, or 513.977.5539.

Get a glimpse inside Broadway Back to School 2017.

A standing room only crowd packed Feinstein’s/54 Below on Sunday for the third annual Educational Theatre Association benefit concert. The event was chaired and hosted by Hunter Bell ([title of show]Found).



Past performers

  • Thespian alum Jenna Ushkowitz from Broadway’s Waitress and The King and I and Fox’s Glee
  • Tony nominee and Thespian alum Hunter Bell from [title of show]
  • 2015 Jimmy Award winner Marla Louissaint from Caroline, or Change
  • Drama Desk nominee Julia Murney of WickedLennonThe Vagina Monologues, Falling, and The Wild Party
  • Honorary Thespian Susan Blackwell of [title of show]
  • Honorary Thespian Carla Stickler of Wicked
  • Blake Daniel of Spring Awakening
  • Graham Rowat of Mamma MiaGuys and DollsLoveMusik, and Dracula
  • Student members of the International Thespian Festival 2016 national cast and the New Jersey Thespians

Special thanks to Broadway Back to School’s 2018 sponsors and patrons!