Starting a school theatre program isn’t easy in the best of circumstances. That’s why ETF’s JumpStart Theatre program exists to build sustainable theatre programs in middle schools where there previously were none.
Just before the pandemic, Detroit Public Schools became the latest school district to join the JumpStart Theatre program, thanks to the partnership of ETF, the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), and a generous gift from SMTD alum and Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller. Then COVID school closures and restrictions put the program’s launch on hold.
Now the program is underway: November 18, teachers from three partner schools participated in their first bootcamp. A critical part of the JumpStart Theatre model, bootcamps provide teachers with hands-on training and mentoring that equips them to produce their first full-scale musical production. Each bootcamp covers a different aspect of musical theatre.
The participating teachers gathered at Spain Elementary-Middle School for a four-hour session. Bootcamps typically happen during the school day but staffing shortages with substitutes have made it challenging for schools around the country to cover classes, and Detroit is no exception. So, this first Bootcamp took place after school.
Facilitators from JumpStart Theatre partner iTheatrics led the teachers in a series of warmups, choreography, and storytelling exercises designed to make putting on a musical simple and straightforward.
“The ideas and tools shared at our first Bootcamp were fun, empowering and instantly usable,” said Robin Myrick, community programs manager for SMTD’s Office of Engagement and Outreach. “What an awesome way to start our JumpStart Detroit journey!”
Teachers will participate in two more bootcamps: In December 2021, they’ll learn technical theatre elements, and in January 2022, rehearsal techniques. Then they’ll spend the subsequent months preparing for their chosen spring musicals (rights donated by program partner MTI):
⋅ Duke Ellington Conservatory: Madagascar: A Musical Adventure JR.
⋅ John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy: Annie JR.
⋅ Spain Elementary-Middle School: Lion King JR.
“Through the DSA Pathways initiative, Detroit is striving to offer rigorous high-quality performing arts education at Detroit School of the Arts and four feeder middle schools,” said Richard Sperling, lead consultant for DSA Pathways. “JumpStart Theatre expands on the district’s commitment to enrich students’ education through theatre. We’re so excited to launch this program.”
In addition to Detroit, JumpStart Theatre operates in five other cities. SMTD is the first university to serve as the local partner; regional theatres with strong education departments serve that role in other locations. Current partners are Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, La Jolla Playhouse in California, Mountain City Center for the Arts in Frostburg, Md., Stages St. Louis, and The Children’s Theatre in Cincinnati.
JumpStart Theatre schools in all those locations are resuming activities with the return to in-person school, and many face challenges re-establishing their foothold after a pandemic hiatus. If you’d like to help, consider making a gift for JumpStart Theatre. Learn more about the program and how your donation makes an impact.