Do you remember the first live play you ever saw?
For me, it was Hello Dolly in downtown Chicago. The theater seemed so big and when the actors came onto the stage, their costumes were dazzling and the spectacle was to be remembered forever. I was lucky. We lived near Chicago and my parents could afford to take us to touring Broadway shows from time to time.
Not everyone is so lucky. Right here in Louisville, there are children whose families don’t have the resources to expose them to the arts. That’s where CenterStage Acting Out, a professional, touring, children’s theater company, comes in.
Its mission is to bring live theater into the schools and to create opportunities for children across the city to experience the arts.
“There are 98 Title I schools in JCPS,” said CenterStage Development and Outreach Manager Lenae Price. Those are schools where 50 percent or more of their students qualify for the free lunch program. “These are the neediest of the neediest – children whose families can’t take them to the theater – whose only opportunity to see a live performance could be Acting Out coming to their schools.
“Ideally,” she continued, “Acting Out would be in every Title I school every year.” But there are expenses involved in producing Acting Out’s plays – for securing the production rights to costume and set creation to paying the actors. Not every Title I school can afford to bring in a show every year.
To enable the company to visit as many schools as possible each year, Acting Out relies on generous funders to underwrite their performances. Recently, the Jones Family Fund has generously offered Acting Out $15,000 per year for five years if the company can raise matching funds.
“Our goal,” Price explained, “is to secure five-year commitments totaling $15,000 per year by the end of this year.
“This is about sustainability,” she continued, “making sure that Acting Out is a foundation program that schools can rely on every year.” Each show is educational, and Acting Out provides study guides to the teachers to help fulfill State education requirements.
Acting Out has also made a commitment to provide one Jewish educational piece every year and to do a musical theater piece. For 2015-16, they will be presenting And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.
It takes about $500 to get a show into a school. At each school, 200-1,000 children get to “experience the joy of live theater.”
To help meet the Jones Family Fund Challenge Grant, make your pledge online at CenterStageJCC.org or contact Lenae Price at 502-238-2763.