ETF’s signature program continued to build sustainable middle school theatre programs across the country.

JumpStart Theatre

2022 represented a fresh start for ETF’s JumpStart Theatre program: After two years disrupted by the pandemic, all 45 schools in the program were able to stage spring musicals.

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Here’s how the program works: Five regional theatre partners administer JumpStart Theatre in nine states. After a rigorous application process, schools make a three-year commitment. Thanks to partners iTheatrics and Music Theatre International, each school receives $12,000 worth of services, training, mentoring, and support annually to produce a full-scale show for their community.

JumpStart Theatre also provides teacher stipends and modest budgets for sets and costumes. Students are involved in every aspect of the production: performance, costumes, sets, technical support, and design. The support continues for three straight years until the program becomes sustainable.

06 jumpstart theatre showcase students on stage yellow shirts

A few highlights from 2022:

  • The University of Michigan School of Musical Theatre and Dance activated JumpStart Theatre in Detroit. Schools were able to participate in the full program for the first time since the partnership began in 2020, thanks to a generous gift from Hamilton producer and Detroit native Jeffrey Seller.
  • Alliance Theatre, the JumpStart Theatre regional partner in Atlanta, expanded into rural Brooks County, Ga., with a hybrid model of in-person bootcamp training and virtual mentoring.
  • Cincinnati JumpStart graduate schools received “boost grants” from a generous donor to ensure their nascent programs could ramp back up.

Both students and teachers carry the impact of JumpStart Theatre beyond the stage. See what participants have to say:

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“The 2022 JumpStart year was like a renaissance. After working around the restrictions and limitations brought about by the pandemic, our educators and their communities were energized, motivated, and ready to sing loud as they revitalized the spirits of their schools with their passion for musical theatre. Many of our partners saw marked differences in reading fluency, attendance, and general excitement to be back at school from their casts — something we’ve always known is a byproduct of arts in our schools.”

—Angelo Cerniglia, Education Director, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati

“One of our eighth graders has grown so much through the theatre program. He has some struggles in his content classes, with difficulty in focusing, reading, and staying within class boundaries. He is a resource student and receives support in his classes, but in theatre he has become a leader. He has gained a lot of confidence in his skills to read and memorize and being able to channel some of his body energy into the arts.”

— Innovation Middle School, San Diego

“Performing in the musical has forced me out of my comfort zone in a good way!”

— Turkeyfoot Valley School student, Maryland

JumpStart Theatre Impact

Schools

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Regional Partners

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Students

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Teachers

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© 2023 Educational Theatre Association

ETF’s signature program continued its momentum to build sustainable middle school theatre programs across the country, despite pandemic challenges.

JumpStart Theatre

In 2020, JumpStart Theatre schools faced the same fundamental challenge as other educational theatre programs — making theatre happen in a pandemic. But JumpStart Theatre schools aren’t like other programs: The 39 participating schools are part of ETF’s flagship program to build sustainable theatre programs in middle schools where there previously were none.

Here’s how it works: Six regional theatre partners administer JumpStart Theatre in 10 states. After a rigorous application process, schools make a three-year commitment. Thanks to partners iTheatrics and Music Theatre International, each school receives $12,000 worth of services, training, mentoring, and support annually to produce a full-scale show for their community. JumpStart Theatre also provides teacher stipends and modest budgets for sets and costumes. Students are involved in every aspect of the production: performance, costumes, sets, technical support, and design.

Some highlights from the year:

  • iTheatrics led two virtual “bootcamp” trainings for 110 JumpStart Theatre teachers during the 2020-21 school year due to pandemic restrictions. Attendees got valuable tips for leading virtual warm-ups, boosting the visual elements of an online performance, and even getting students to actively engage in lessons.
  • When in-person performances weren’t possible, JumpStart Theatre schools got creative with virtual alternatives, including TikTok challenges and Facebook singalongs. Los Coches Creek Middle School, a San Diego JumpStart Theatre school supported by LaJolla Playhouse, created a filmed production of Annie JR. complete with weekly “viewing parties.”
  • Each regional partner devised ways to keep theatre front and center in its JumpStart Theatre schools. See a city-by-city rundown of their innovative activities.
  • JumpStart Theatre launched in Detroit with the University of Michigan’s School of Music and Dance as the local partner — marking the first partnership with a university, which could open the door for future partnerships with similar institutions.

Both students and teachers carry the impact of JumpStart Theatre well beyond the stage. Take a look at what participants have to say: 

“Special needs students don’t often have a chance to shine, and theatre gives them that moment. As they worked together, general education students demonstrated increased empathy, patience, adaptability, and willingness to compromise. All the students involved in theatre have improved in a variety of areas, including overall academics, engagement, and confidence. They have even applied their newfound theatre skills to other classes.”

– Stephanie Brahim, Los Coches Creek Middle School, San Diego

“Our program immensely enhanced our Latino [ESL] students’ willingness to communicate. The students have better attitudes, self-confidence. Theatre has helped us to recognize the struggles our kids face when they don’t speak the language and to see them grow and communicate.”

– Ligia Cuevas-Johnson, Roberts Academy Teacher, Cincinnati

“My friends and I are so excited now that we have a piece of something at school where we can be ourselves.”

– Frostburg, Maryland, student

“I’ve gained new friends, I fit in so much better, and I’m just genuinely happier.”

– Roberts Academy student, Cincinnati

JumpStart Theatre

Participating Schools

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Regional Partners

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Student Cast Members

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Student Crew Members

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Volunteers

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Teachers

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© 2021-2025 Educational Theatre Association
Jumpstart Theatre logo

The JumpStart Theatre program creates sustainable theatre arts programs in underserved middle schools where there were none.

Participant schools are chosen based on a rigorous application process and receive materials, budget, and training support to produce their first full-scale musical production. The support continues for three straight years until the program becomes sustainable.

Upcoming JumpStart Theatre Events

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The impact of JumpStart
is an inspiration

Meet Za’Khyra

At the start of the year, Za’Khyra Whitfield was a quiet, conscientious young lady who came to Gamble Montessori and didn’t have a lot of friends.

In the first weeks of school, she had started meeting with our school psychologist. Za’Khyra had reported symptoms of depression. Our psychologist learned that one of the things Za’Khyra did to calm herself was sing a favorite Disney song. She had a beautiful voice, and we all encouraged her to try out for the musical. She got the role of Erzulie, the goddess of love, in our production of Once On This Island, Jr. She had a show-stopping solo. She was so proud of herself.

“Za’Khyra is the kind of student that a program like this touches and changes. It didn’t just change her individually by giving her a great experience – which it did – but it literally changed her life.”
Representative of James N. Gamble Montessori School, a JumpStart Theatre grant recipient school

Help start a theatre program in an underserved school through the JumpStart Theatre program

JumpStart Theatre happens with help from you!

JumpStart Theatre is made possible in part by support from:
Eleanora C.U. Alms Trust, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee

Thank you to our donors for their generous support of the Educational Theatre Foundation.

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Funds one teacher's participation in the professional development "boot camp" series.
$ 0
Provides technical theatre and production needs for one school for a year.
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Provides one participating JumpStart Theatre teacher's stipend for a year.
$ 0
Sponsors one school for an entire year, covering all costs associated with JumpStart Theatre.

JumpStart Theatre News

ETF’s signature program continued its momentum to build sustainable middle school theatre programs across the country, despite pandemic challenges.

JumpStart Theatre

In 2021, JumpStart Theatre schools faced the same fundamental challenge as other educational theatre programs — making theatre happen in an ongoing pandemic. But JumpStart Theatre schools aren’t like other programs: The 39 participating schools are part of ETF’s flagship program to build sustainable theatre programs in middle schools where there previously were none.

Here’s how it works: Six regional theatre partners administer JumpStart Theatre in 10 states. After a rigorous application process, schools make a three-year commitment. Thanks to partners iTheatrics and Music Theatre International, each school receives $12,000 worth of services, training, mentoring, and support annually to produce a full-scale show for their community. JumpStart Theatre also provides teacher stipends and modest budgets for sets and costumes. Students are involved in every aspect of the production: performance, costumes, sets, technical support, and design.

Some highlights from the year:

  • iTheatrics led two virtual “bootcamp” trainings for 110 JumpStart Theatre teachers during the 2020-21 school year due to pandemic restrictions. Attendees got valuable tips for leading virtual warm-ups, boosting the visual elements of an online performance, and even getting students to actively engage in lessons.
  • When in-person performances weren’t possible, JumpStart Theatre schools got creative with virtual alternatives, including TikTok challenges and Facebook singalongs. Los Coches Creek Middle School, a San Diego JumpStart Theatre school supported by LaJolla Playhouse, created a filmed production of Annie JR. complete with weekly “viewing parties.”
  • Each regional partner devised ways to keep theatre front and center in its JumpStart Theatre schools. See a city-by-city rundown of their innovative activities.
  • Support from a generous donor allowed ETF to issue “boost grants” to seven Cincinnati schools so they could resume live, in-person productions in the 2021-22 school year despite financial obstacles resulting from COVID.

Because of the pandemic disruptions, 2020-21 was  treated as a “bonus” year — schools that were in their third year wouldn’t graduate until after the 2021-22 school year.

Kids on a zoom call for JumpStart Theatre
MCCA leading classes online

Both students and teachers carry the impact of JumpStart Theatre well beyond the stage. Take a look at what participants have to say: 

“We certainly are proud that we made the best of ever-changing schedules and learning models and kept moving forward. Just having the push to get our students engaged in the virtual toolkit experience opened doors that we know will start us off on the right path for 2022.”

— Jaime Vandergrift, Flat Rock Middle School Teacher, Atlanta

“This program has actually helped me as a teacher to be more outgoing. When I first started, I was actually quite shy. I learned to not take myself too seriously, and to actually have fun. This is a concept I will take with me into next year as I am preparing the drama students for their production.”

— Mrs. Keith-Dixon, Pointe South Middle School Teacher, Atlanta

“This is probably the most comfortable I’ve been in any class for a pretty long time. It’s even helped me speak up more in other classes, even if it’s just in the chat.”

— San Diego student

“I’ve gained new friends, I fit in so much better, and I’m just genuinely happier.”

– Roberts Academy student, Cincinnati

JumpStart Theatre

Participating Schools

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Regional Partners

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Student Cast Members

Icon illustration of the masks of comedy and tragedy
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Student Crew Members

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Volunteers

Icon illustration of a hand raised in the hair
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Teachers

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© 2021-2025 Educational Theatre Association