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News Release: Launch of JumpStart Theatre in Detroit Kicks Off 2020 Theatre In Our Schools Month

an actor stands in front of a tudor townscape theatrical set
The outdoor production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Amercian Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, with lighting by Michael Peterson.

University of Michigan Enters National Partnership to Bring Theatre to Detroit Middle Schools

Detroit middle schoolers will get their shot to experience the educational benefits of theatre starting next school year, thanks to the producer of Hamilton, the University of Michigan, and the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF). A new partnership between ETF and the University’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) will bring JumpStart Theatre (JST), a program that creates sustainable theatre arts programs in middle schools where there previously were none, to Detroit in 2020-21 — growing JST’s reach to six areas around the country.

Funded entirely by gifts and grants, the JST expansion to Detroit is made possible by a gift from Jeffrey Seller, an SMTD alum best known as the producer of Hamilton, which won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

“I know the power of theatre, and I love Detroit,” said Seller. “Theatre is a tool for problem-solving, working together, and finding success. Getting kids involved in theatre will help create our next generation of citizens, no matter whether they become artists, doctors, lawyers, educators, accountants, or whatever else.”

“The power of theatre to shape children’s lives is exactly why we are making this landmark announcement about Detroit, which is engineering an arts renaissance in its schools, in coordination with the national kick-off of Theatre In Our Schools (TIOS) month, which takes place annually in March,” said Educational Theatre Foundation president Julie Cohen Theobald.

“The purpose of TIOS is to raise awareness about the impact of theatre education and draw attention to the need for more access to theatre programs for all students. We are proud and excited to partner with the University of Michigan as the leaders in adding theatre to the arts transformation going on in Detroit schools.”

The JST model complements the other initiatives underway in Detroit, which is making a major investment of resources and expertise in the arts, with theatre as one of the core arts forms. The others are dance, visual arts, instrumental music, and vocal music. ETF and SMTD are two of the 24 partners making the programs possible.

JST participant schools will be chosen through a rigorous application process and receive materials, budget, and training support to produce their first full-scale musical production. The support will continue for three years until the program becomes self-sustaining. Non-theatre teachers are equipped with skills and resources to produce their school’s first musical through a proven combination of boot-camp style training and hands-on mentoring.

“I am thrilled about our new partnership with JumpStart Theatre and the Educational Theatre Foundation,” said David Gier, Dean of SMTD and the Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music. “With aligned missions of bringing the performing arts to our communities and children, this new program will help us amplify the great work of both SMTD and JumpStart Theatre in the greater Detroit area.”

“As the first University to become a JumpStart Theatre partner, we know this program will provide shared, quality experiences for our Detroit partner middle schools students and teachers, as well as our U-M students, inspiring multiple generations through the joy of theatre,” said SMTD Engagement & Outreach Director Sarah J. Rau.

ETF operates JumpStart Theatre through a national network of regional partners, who are selected based on their track-record of success in running educational programs for children. JumpStart Theatre partners are: Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, Ga.; La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, Calif.; Mountain City Center for the Arts, Frostburg, Md.; Stages St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.; and The Children’s Theatre, Cincinnati, Oh


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