Just as in Atlanta and other cities across the nation, the JumpStart Theatre program in San Diego is back in action after a pandemic-induced hiatus. In fact, all six regional partners in the JumpStart program resumed activities this year. After shutdowns and setbacks, everyone involved is eager to be participating in person with live theatre again, and experiencing the benefits of doing so.
La Jolla Playhouse held their final teacher training “boot camp” in February 2022 for teachers at San Diego JumpStart Theatre schools. La Jolla Playhouse is now in its third year of the program.
“JumpStart really was a jump start for our school! The four teachers involved wanted to do something creative like this, but we did not know where to start,” said Courtney Smith of De Portola Middle School (which graduates from JumpStart this year!). “[The training] helped us get organized and understand how to help students.”
JumpStart Theatre provides access to school theatre in middle schools where there previously was no programming. For three years, participating schools receive financial and logistical support to mount an annual musical, including training from iTheatrics, a leader in the development of methodologies to teach musical theatre in schools, and free show licenses from Music Theatre International. The process helps to create a sustainable musical theatre program once the three-year support and training period ends. “Our students have blossomed!” said Smith. “The have found a community in our school that they can truly be themselves. We have seen them grow in so many ways, and we are so proud of them.”
Educational Theatre Foundation and its partners work to help JumpStart schools engage as many students as possible in all aspects of theatre during the grant period. Theatre education helps students develop critical 21st-century skills like collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, and all too often the students who need these skills the most are left without access to school-based programming.
After each school produces their musical this spring, they will come together at the La Jolla Playhouse for a celebratory showcase performance on June 4. Performances are open to the public.
“JumpStart Theatre helped us bring the joy and empathy-building tools into schools where the arts are often not a priority,” said La Jolla Playhouse’s Director of Learning, Bridget Cavaiola Stone. “Jumpstart provides scaffolding from our elementary school programming into our high school programming, ensuring that our students get rich experiences in the arts in all grades.
“I have also loved working with our middle school educators as they connect to the world of theatre and discover their own artistic sides as well. Teachers persevered through the pandemic and are continuing to find ways to innovate to develop their theatre programs at their schools—including hosting outdoor performances and hybrid rehearsals. For a middle school teacher to connect with their students outside of the classroom is a priceless gift that develops strong relationships and a sense of community in a school.”
Cavaiola Stone shared that the benefits are not only visible in the students—the teachers reap the benefits of doing musical theatre as well.
“The teachers in their third year are much more confident and assured. They take risks in their directing and producing and can provide mentorship to second-year teachers and incoming schools,” said Cavaiola Stone. “The teachers often say they learn about their students through JumpStart in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. This connection enables students to find support and success in their academic classrooms as well.” ♦