Timothy Allen McDonald is the founder and CEO of iTheatrics, who strongly supports JumpStart Theatre. Student attendees of iTheatrics’ many Junior Theater Festivals are accustomed to beginning the weekend’s activities with a pledge that espouses, “I am an artist . . . When I share my talents with others, I make the world a better place.” The pledge finishes with the a line that brings a smile to any theatre lover’s face: “So help me, Sondheim.”
When asked of the correlation between legendary composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and the Junior Theater Festival pledge, Tim reminds us that it was Sondheim who, upon seeing declining interest in the Broadway art form, approached Music Theatre International‘s chairman, Freddie Gershon, in the early 1990s seeking Freddie’s help. That meeting sparked the idea that the company should adapt its musicals for performance by young people. The seed of the idea that has grown into the Broadway Junior® universe was planted by none other than Mr. Sondheim himself. Into the Woods JR. was among the first crop of shows specifically adapted for young performers.
Today, JumpStart Theatre schools aim to build sustainable musical theatre programs in middle schools using MTI’s Broadway Junior® materials – a perfect tool for teaching students and teachers the power of musical theatre. After Mr. Sondheim’s passing, Tim took to the main stage of the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta in January 2022 and reminded the 5,500 attendees of the icon’s passion for educational theatre, and invited them to purchase special “So help me, Sondheim” merchandise, the proceeds of which are donated to the JumpStart Theatre program.
“It is imperative that JumpStart Theatre continues to do the work it does to introduce theatre to students as part of their education,” McDonald says, “Especially as many of these school programs struggle to stay afloat after the pandemic has gutted their resources. The name ‘JumpStart’ has a more literal meaning now, and by giving to the program, we help to ensure that every kid everywhere has access to the transformative opportunities theatre provides.”
If you would like to help JumpStart Theatre’s mission to expand access to theatre in schools across the country, please donate to the Educational Theatre Foundation.