A group of student actors from Clark Montessori High School rehearse a scene onstage

Educational Theatre Foundation provides funding to help seven tri-state area theatre programs perform this spring 

Students at seven Cincinnati-area schools will be back on stage this spring thanks to special “boost” grants from the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF).

The schools are all graduates of JumpStart Theatre, ETF’s flagship program that creates sustainable theatre programs in middle schools where there previously were none. Participant schools receive three years of training, materials, and funding to produce an annual musical, giving them a “jump start” in building their theatre programs. 

Aiken New Tech, Clark Montessori High School, Felicity Franklin Middle School, Finneytown High School, Gilbert A. Dater High School, James M. Gable Montessori High School, and the Oyler School were all on the cusp of performing their 2020 spring musicals when the pandemic hit — and their shows were canceled. 

Those cancellations had devastating effects on the schools’ ability to sustain their programs. After graduating, JumpStart Theatre schools rely on box-office revenue to cover the costs of mounting their musicals. The last-minute cancellations left those programs unable to recoup the funds they’d already invested in costumes, rentals, scenery, and other production needs.  

“It took three years to build interest and create a program that had stamina and a thriving learning environment,” said Tiffaney Hamm, director at the Oyler School. “When COVID-19 hit, it threw our school into an emergency. The home lives and environments of our students weren’t secure.” 

The boost grants will help the programs recover from their financial losses and continue their path toward long-term sustainability. Oyler, for instance, is currently working on a production of High School Musical JR. and has added a theatre class to the school curriculum as a result of receiving a boost grant. 

“We’re thrilled to provide our Cincinnati graduates with the financial support to start producing theatre again,” said JumpStart Theatre program director Lori Valentine. “Participating in theatre enhances students’ social-emotional learning skills, which is a critical need for children in this pandemic.” 

The Cincinnati JumpStart Theatre boost grants were made possible through generous support from The Austin E. Knowlton Foundation and an anonymous donor. Organizations and individuals can support JumpStart Theatre by donating online. 

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