JumpStart Theatre 2020-21 Program Highlights

August 6, 2021

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.

A map of the US showing the states that JumpStart Theatre is active in
JumpStart Theatre is active in schools in 10 states through our network of regional partners.

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.)

JumpStart Theatre students participate in a Mountain City Center for the Arts virtual theatre workshop.
Alliance-Theatre-mentor-leads-student-workshop-in-Atlanta
Kids taking a workshop with Alliance Theatre mentor in Atlanta

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.

Teachers attend one of two virtual bootcamps offered during the school year.

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:

All the schools began the year feeling extremely defeated. Only one school held theatre classes during the pandemic school year. However, by our last meetings in May, all the schools felt revitalized and hopeful. — Coty Forno, Mountain City Center for the Arts

By all means, we wish we could have had more than a weekly 30-minute club, but we certainly are proud that we made the best of ever-changing schedules and learning models and kept moving forward. Just having the push to get our students engaged in the virtual toolkit experience opened doors that we know will start us off on the right path for 2021-22. — Teacher Jaime Vandergrift, Flat Rock Middle School, Atlanta

This program has actually helped me as a teacher to be more outgoing. When I first started, I was actually quite shy. I learned to not take myself too seriously, and to actually have fun. This is a concept I will take with me into next year as I am preparing the drama students for their production. — Teacher Mrs. Keith-Dixon, Pointe South Middle School, Atlanta

Our kids are raving about the mini-bootcamp yesterday and had so much fun! All we keep hearing is how much they loved you too, Angelo! You’re a star! Thank you so much! - Teacher Julie Weber, Liberty Bible Academy, Cincinnati

I had so much fun in this class. It helped me make more friends and feel more comfortable. Actually, this is probably the most comfortable I've been in any class for a pretty long time, so it's really helped me out. It's even helped me speak up more in other classes, even if it's just in the chat. - Student, San Diego

I am so grateful for the support and ties to La Jolla Playhouse. Just knowing that we get two more years of support has really helped motivate me to stay and see the amazing things that we will do! Thank you so much! - Teacher, San Diego

One thing I have loved about our once-a-week Zoom Theatre Club is that it revealed just how talented some of our students secretly are. Some are phenomenal readers, some memorize choreography easily, and others can act with such personality that you wouldn’t know they were reading the script for the first time. - Teacher, San Diego

Thank you to all the generous donors who make JumpStart Theatre possible! See all ETF donors

An Alliance Theatre mentor leads a workshop with students in Atlanta.

An Alliance Theatre mentor leads a workshop with students in Atlanta.

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