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How TDF Welcomed Students Back to In-Person Theatre Education Programs

Date: Jul 29, 2022


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After 18 long months, TDF was thrilled to welcome students back to in-person theatre through our Education Programs. During the 2020-2021 school year when theatres were closed, TDF had pivoted to virtual programming, offering online arts education to over 6,000 students at 85 tristate area public middle and high schools. For the 2021-2022 school year, TDF took a hybrid approach, serving students both virtually and in person, depending on what worked best for each school. Below are highlights from our programs, which are offered to participants at no cost.

Introduction to Theatre provides a meaningful welcome to live performance for public middle and high school students. Nearly 10,000 students participate in a typical year. For the 2021-2022 school year, TDF served 5,761 students from 47 schools. In addition to bringing 1,900 students back to in-person theatre, TDF offered in-depth theatre workshops in 125 classrooms.

In October, TDF's Education staffers hosted their first in-person outing in more than 18 months, with students attending a performance of A Skate Play in Brooklyn's Golconda Skate Park. Inspired by Richard Bach’s novella Jonathan Livingston Seagull, A Skate Play is a fable about sticking to one's beliefs, even if they run contrary to society's norms.

In the spring, TDF hosted full houses of students at Robert O'Hara's reimagining of Long Day's Journey Into Night and Disney on Broadway’s The Lion King. We are already planning outings for the 2022-2023 school year and look forward to bringing even more students back to in-person performances thanks to the generous support of our donors. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at students attending The Lion King in the video below.

Wendy Wasserstein Project is a one-of-a-kind mentorship program serving nearly 200 students from 24 NYC public high schools annually. Under the guidance of professional performing arts mentors, groups of eight students attend a half dozen shows, each one followed by pizza, conversation and journaling. For the 2021-2022 school year, TDF had 22 groups totaling 176 students, who saw productions such as Company, Take Me Out and Hadestown. For the first time since 2019, the Wendy Project's end-of-year celebration was held in person. On June 6, 2022, students gathered at John Jay College to toast an inspirational season with words of encouragement from teachers, alumni and mentors, including writer-director James Lapine, actor Kathleen Chalfant and director Scott Ellis. Watch highlights from the event in the video below.

Young Playwrights consists of three programs that ignite the spark for budding storytellers. TDF's yearlong Young Playwrights Residency serves more than 700 middle and high school students in ten NYC public schools. Participants see performances and craft original works that are shared as staged readings. Students from any NYC high school can apply to the Young Playwrights Group, a yearlong after-school program, or the Young Playwrights Summer Program, a two-week intensive held in July. During the 2021-2022 school year, TDF worked with 403 students both in person and virtually. Check out this year's Young Playwrights Group Showcase, featuring professional actors reading the students' pieces in the video below.

It was particularly exciting to have these aspiring dramatists back at TDF's midtown Manhattan offices. During the Young Playwrights Summer Program, which just wrapped up last month, we saw these talented storytellers working hard in our conference room, in between outings to Broadway's A Strange Loop, Off Broadway's Heart and Mister Miss America, the Museum of Modern Art, The Society of Illustrators and a guided tour of the Drama Book Shop. They also enjoyed special Zooms with Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop creator Michael R. Jackson and star L Morgan Lee, and a final showcase of their works in progress directed by Zeynep Akca.

Below is a video of their showcase.

Top image: Students participating in TDF's Young Playwrights Summer Program. Photo courtesy of TDF.


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