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With Theatres Closed, Arts Education Goes Online

Date: Mar 11, 2021


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TDF School Programs introduce the performing arts to NYC public middle and high school students in meaningful ways for free. Before the shutdown, we brought 11,000 students and their teachers to in-person performances annually.

When schools and theatres closed in spring 2020, TDF quickly pivoted to virtual programming. We anticipate reaching more than 5,000 students online this academic year. Here's how we transformed three of our signature education programs for our online world.

Introduction to Theatre (formerly Stage Doors) is a semester-long program that introduces public middle and high school students to theatre. Nearly 10,000 students participate in a typical year. Because of the shutdown, performances are currently viewed online. At no cost to students, schools or educators, TDF teaching artists are available to join virtual classrooms or provide prerecorded theatre-based lessons. Thirty-three schools and 2,300 students across all five boroughs participated remotely last fall, and even more are being served this spring.

TDF's Introduction to Theatre program typically serves 10,000 students annually
TDF's Introduction to Theatre program typically serves 10,000 students in person annually

Wendy Wasserstein Project(formerly Open Doors) is a one-of-a-kind yearlong mentorship program serving nearly 200 students from 24 high schools annually. Under the guidance of professional performing arts mentors, groups of eight students attend and then talk and journal about six diverse shows. During the shutdown, the program has gone virtual with mentors choosing a handful of online productions to stream, followed by Zoom discussions. One hundred and twenty students from 15 schools are participating during the 2020-21 season. This year's program kicked off on December 9, 2020 with the live-streamed play This Is Who I Am, co-presented by NYC's PlayCo and Washington, DC's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Students then received free memberships to the streaming platform BroadwayHD to watch additional productions.

James Lapine and his Wendy Wasserstein group
Writer and director James Lapine and his Wendy Wasserstein Project group from Queens' William Cullen Bryant High School meeting on Zoom

Young Playwrights consists of three programs that ignite the spark for young storytellers. TDF's Young Playwrights Residency is a yearlong program serving more than 700 middle and high school students in ten NYC public schools. Participants enjoy performances and craft original works that are shared as staged readings. Graduates can apply to join the after-school Young Playwrights Group or the Young Playwrights Summer Program. During the shutdown, the Young Playwrights Residency has gone virtual, with participants creating audio plays. TDF teaching artists are currently leading weekly sessions for approximately 250 students at four schools. The more intimate Young Playwrights Group also continues with 14 students and the national podcast Playing on Air will be presenting the participants' final projects in late spring.

Watch a recording of the Young Playwrights Group's final 2020 presentation below.


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