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Grants Awarded to Fire-Impacted Schools, Funded by MTI

Malibu High School Spring Awakening performance

The Educational Theatre Foundation is pleased to announce that three California high schools damaged by last year’s fires will receive grants to aid their recovery thanks to a grant funded by licensing agency Music Theatre International (MTI).

The 2018 wildfire season was the most destructive on record in California, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center. The MTI California Fire Relief Grants offers grants to high school and middle school theatre programs in California that were negatively impacted by wildfires in 2018.

Petaluma High School, impacted by the Camp Fire, will buy essential equipment. Drama teacher Jonathan Knox says the intense smoke required the closure of his school theatre for four of the six days scheduled for their fall production of Cinderella Waltz. The resulting loss in revenue was compounded on several levels since the Petaluma program is self-sustaining, with no revenue from any source but ticket sales. Losing two-thirds of the performances in 2018, Knox says, “has a heavy impact on our ability to produce other shows. The grant will enable us to purchase badly needed wireless mics that had already had been postponed due to the cost the fall production that, because of the smoke closures, were not replaced with ticket sales.”  Grant awarded: $1,500

ParadiseCA 2018
Paradise Intermediate School

Paradise Intermediate School in Chico, also affected by the Camp Fire, will replace school iPads that were lost during evacuation. Drama teacher Heather Brown explains, “The iPads were being used for filming our productions and using the apps to edit. On the morning of the fire, they were unlocked and resting on the counter waiting for drama students to film their planned-out skits. We evacuated the school that morning. Those iPads haven’t been seen since.  Now the whole school is working out of a warehouse that requires us to be especially respectful of our coworkers teaching in the aisles next to us. Teaching drama is even more of a challenge than ever before. We are recovering together with the camaraderie of the close quarters; students are being nurtured and cared for while learning in a big, loud setting. The grant will enable us to replace the technology the students enjoyed.”  Grant awarded: $2,500 

Malibu High School was impacted by the Woolsey Fire. They will use the funding to recoup their losses caused by having to reschedule and cancel performances. “When the fire raged over the 101 Freeway and down Kanan Road, we all feared that Malibu High School would be gone,” said theatre director Jodi Plaia. “Fortunately, there was only minor structural damage; however, the devastation continues to impact us. When the fire broke out we were a week away from opening Spring Awakening, ready to head into tech rehearsals. But tech would have to wait for another two-and-a-half months.”

In addition to the month-long fire evacuation, mudslides and flooding caused by severe rains further delayed the production. In the end, there were just two performances. The school wasn’t able to recoup the costs for reprinting programs, replacing costumes, or extending set rentals. “Financially and emotionally, our community, our school and our students, have been through a devastating time,” said Plaia. “However, the one thing that has remained intact is our spirit. This group of theatre students, this Spring Awakening cast, crew and orchestra, will forever be bonded in a way that words could never describe.” Grant awarded: $2,500

Malibu High School Spring Awakening performance
Malibu High School Spring Awakening performance

The ETF grant application site remains open with a goal of assisting any schools that may only now be able to evaluate their needs. Impact may include damage or destruction of equipment and facilities, cancellations of events, loss of projected revenue, dislocation of faculty and students, and related issues.

ETF President Julie Cohen Theobald, said, “We are so grateful to generous donors and partners such as MTI who appreciate how having theatre in schools has a positive impact on the entire school and its community. These grants are in direct support of ETF’s mission to provide financial support where it is needed most.”

MTI President and CEO, Drew Cohen, said, “In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for these grants, but these schools have demonstrated quite clearly why, in the real world, it is imperative for organizations to provide support when circumstances warrant. The theatre community prides itself on being there for one another and we are proud to work with ETF to be there for these schools and their students.”


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