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Building Your First Theatre in Our Schools Campaign

Nebraska Thespians with Senator Tony Vargas to celebrate TIOS

March is Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) month, an opportunity for thousands of educators and Thespians around the country to celebrate and showcase the transformative power of theatre education. Whether you’re putting together a campaign to raise awareness and celebrate within your school or looking to gain attention at the legislative level, there are plenty of campaign ideas to make it happen.

EdTA chatted with Jennifer Morgan and Teri Turner of the Advocacy Leadership Network (ALN) to explore how their successful TIOS campaigns can help you get started.

3 Theatre in Our Schools Campaign Ideas to Try

At its core, Theatre in Our Schools month is a way for theatre programs to celebrate and raise awareness of their work. Whether that’s visibility within the school or the community at large, finding campaign ideas often starts with “looking at the different areas we can help students in our schools and program be seen and valued,” says Morgan.

However, the scale of that visibility will also influence that work needed to complete your campaign. We have a full Theatre in Our Schools campaign guide, but here are three ideas to help you get started.

1. Plan a Spirit Week

Coming up with campaign ideas doesn’t have to feel like a big undertaking. “It’s baby steps,” says Turner. “Don’t look at the big picture all at once. There are little things you can do at your school to advocate that doesn’t feel like a heavy lift.” One of the places she suggests starting is with a spirit week.

Whether you’re coming up with ideas yourself or including your Thespians for brainstorming, the premise is simple – create a unique theme for each day that showcases and educates participants on theatre. Here are a few themes to get you started:

  • Theatre Shirt Thursday – Encourage participants to wear a shirt from their favorite play, musical, or theatre program like yours. Not only is it a fun way to teach folks about theatre classics, but also a perfect chance to raise funds – a win, win.
  • World wide web Wednesday – Let your Thespians do one of their favorite things, use social media! From sharing behind the scenes photos of your theatre program or their favorite musicals and theatre memes.
Students at ITF participating in Tech Challenge
  • Techie Tuesday – Pay homage to some of the unsung heroes of theatre by wearing all black. This is the perfect chance to recognize the vital role of technical crew members and show how students can get involved in theatre without being on stage.
  • Decade Day – Have your Thespians dress like their favorite musical decade. For example, 20s for Chicago, 50s for Grease, 60s for Hairspray, 70s for Mama Mia, and so on.

Your goal? Get students, faculty, and administrators excited about theatre, so be sure to set inclusive themes everyone can participate in to show their support.

2. Celebrate with Your Community

Some of your biggest fans outside of the school will be theatre parents, but the community extends well beyond them. Make your Theatre in Our Schools campaign an opportunity to open the doors and get folks excited about your theatre program. For example:

  • Host performances and previews of your upcoming productions.
  • Partner with local businesses to either raise money or as a place to post promotional materials for shows.
  • Offer theatre workshops and classes, particularly for students who can one day make their way into your program.
  • Create an advisory board with members from your local theatre scene to find collaborative opportunities.

Best of all, these efforts can grow and expand with the benefit of time. While it may not be the right choice to host a theatre festival this March, with a year of preparation, a plan, and open lines of communication with your community, you can easily plan something for next.

Nebraska Thespians meeting with Senator Tony Vargas
Nebraska TIOS Proclamation Display

3. Make an Impact with Policymakers

Finally, for educators looking to take their TIOS celebrations on the largest stage, working with policy makers is key. Both Morgan and Turner have led successful campaigns culminating in mayoral proclamations. “That affirmation of somebody who makes the laws in your state is really empowering,” says Morgan. “It gives the students even more inspiration to go forth and not be afraid to say theater is important to us in our schools.”

But how do you make it happen?

  1. Get in Touch – The nuts and bolts of contacting the government or mayor will differ on your location, but most have a contact form on the government site. There will likely be options to set a meeting or make a request, like a proclamation. This will also provide the information needed like your organization, purpose, and spokesperson.
  2. Put the Info Together – Once you know what’s required, work with your Thespians to gather info. “I ask the students what they think is important for our governor to know about Nebraska Thespians and theater in our schools,” says Morgan. “That’s the part that gives the students ownership, because there’s things they think about that I would never have.”
  3. Follow Up – Once you’ve submitted everything, be sure to keep tabs on the process. You’ll likely have a staff contact who will provide details on the application. Be sure to send a thank you note once everything is done!
  4. Celebrate and Share the Day – Finally, it’s proclamation day. Whether you’re getting a formal meeting with your governor, a town hall announcement, or a letter that you can frame and hang in your theatre space, be sure to include everyone in the festivities.

Get Rewarded: TIOS Outstanding Impact Award

And just like that, you’ve successfully celebrated your first (or 20th) Theatre in Our Schools campaign. No matter the scale of your celebration, the effort and value of participating cannot be understated. That’s why at EdTA, we’ve also made it a point to recognize troupes with our TIOS Outstanding Impact Award. Points are awarded based on your TIOS activities, and top scoring troupes receive a prize package in collaboration with Disney Theatrical Productions and Music Theatre International.

So whether you’re planning out all your themed theatre days, opening the doors for your community to learn more about your program, or heading to your local government offices, be sure to document your journey and post with #TheatreInOurSchools!


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