In March 2020, school theatre programs everywhere were rehearsing for their spring shows and preparing for Thespian induction and graduation ceremonies. Then the unthinkable happened: Schools shut down for COVID. Productions were canceled. In-person theatre came to a sudden halt.
And many theatre programs found themselves on a precipice: Without the proceeds from spring shows, how would they fund their future productions? How would they maintain their Thespian troupes? And what about the looming education budget cuts caused by a faltering economy?
ETF created the Thespian Relief Fund to keep school theatre programs alive in this time of financial need. Schools can apply for grants to start or renew their Thespian troupe, and grants to pay for program costs such as equipment and show rights — focusing especially on Title I schools with significant BIPOC enrollment and rural schools with few supports.
The fund got a jump start from Thespian alum Hailey Kilgore, who assembled an all-star cast for Project Sing Out! The July 20 YouTube event, featuring Chita Rivera, Vanessa Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg raised more than $50,000 — enabling the first grants to be issued.
By the end of 2020, ETF had issued $55,000 in Thespian Relief Grants to 64 schools, impacting more than 6,000 students.