JumpStart Theatre Update 52: Regional Updates and the 2019-20 Season

By Ginny Butsch posted 10-30-2019 00:00

A program designed to build sustainable musical theatre programs in underserved middle schools that currently have none.

This is a series of monthly updates about the JumpStart Theatre pilot program launched in Cincinnati, Ohio.
If you'd like to receive JumpStart Theatre updates by email, contact JumpStartTheatre@schooltheatre.org. To view previous updates, click here.

Building Confidence in Maryland

Pete and Coty Forno, the founders of Mountain City Center for the Arts in Frostburg, Maryland, recently shared a story with us about auditions at one of their schools. After a long day, the final student was called in to audition and she was clearly petrified. She quietly, and with as much confidence as she could muster, read her lines. Even though she lacked confidence, she had a natural delivery and something that drew the audience in. The teachers asked if she would be willing to sing. The fear in her entire body was palpable, but she agreed. She sang the lines and surprised everyone with a beautiful voice. They were surprised to learn she had never sung before. When asked, “Did you know you had that beautiful voice in you?,” she put her hands up to her face and struggled to hold back tears. Her entire body lit up with excitement and pride with this newfound knowledge. 

Northern Middle School students rehearsing for their JumpStart Theatre production

Training in Atlanta


All of the JumpStart Theatre regions have held their first training bootcamp of the year. For Alliance Theatre, it was their first time seeing the iTheatrics Method in action. Liz Davis, Alliance’s Manager of Education Services, described it as a “very strong professional learning opportunity for everyone in attendance.” Liz is a music teacher and was pleased to see iTheatrics lead the initially hesitant teachers through a song and dance to the point where they were feeling confident and excited to begin the rehearsal process.

The first JumpStart Theatre Bootcamp in Atlanta

Engaging the Community in Cincinnati

Each region is encouraged to invite additional attendees to their bootcamp as space permits, even if they are not part of a JumpStart Theatre school. It helps to expand awareness, engage the community, and share new training techniques. In Cincinnati, a band director from Kentucky attended. He shared that he was trying to provide places in his school for the students who weren’t interested in sports. His students had expressed an interest in starting a drama club and he agreed to lead it, even though he didn’t have much experience with theatre. After attending the training, he reported, “I’ve felt like a fish out of water, and now I feel like I can take these skills back to my classroom and have the students start learning.”


Brightening Futures in San Diego

Earlier this year, La Jolla Playhouse held their first JumpStart Theatre Showcase. Julia Cuppy, Director of Education and Outreach, was struck by one bright student in particular. After the performance, the student came up to Julia to thank her for giving her the opportunity to perform and expressed disappointment that her high school wouldn’t have a theatre program. She had learned about a local performing arts high school, but had missed the deadline to audition. The superintendent happened to be standing next to Julia, along with the district’s fine arts coordinator. They were moved by the student’s dedication and commitment and told her she would get her audition. She auditioned and was accepted, an especially exciting accomplishment considering how difficult the school is to get into! 


Announcing the 2019-20 JumpStart Theatre Season!


The fifth year of JumpStart Theatre is beginning and it is incredible to think about how quickly the program has grown. This spring, 27 schools will perform musicals in five different regions. Each school will hold at least two performances, one for students and one for the community. If you are located in or near one of these regions, make a trip to support these students and teachers in person. For details about dates and times, contact us.

Don’t forget about the graduates! All six JumpStart Theatre graduates have also selected their musicals for the spring:

ETF, in collaboration with New York City-based companies iTheatrics and Music Theatre International (MTI) has created JumpStart Theatre, a three-year scalable program designed to build sustainable musical theatre programs in underserved schools that previously had none.

ETF operates JumpStart Theatre through a national network of regional theatre company 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.; The Children’s Theatre, Cincinnati, Ohio.

JumpStart Theatre aims to:

  • be sustainable and implemented in underserved middle schools nationwide, engaging as many students as possible in all aspects of theatre, 
  • prepare students for high school, college, and the workforce by instilling the 21st-century skills of collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and creativity.


JumpStart Theatre is entirely supported by gifts and grants. Your donation provides access to musical theatre for underserved students and under-resourced schools. Help shape lives with your support!

Thanks to all the JumpStart Theatre Partners and Supporters