Tony winner Kelli O'Hara announced as Theatre in Our Schools spokesperson

Tony winner Kelli O'Hara announced as Theatre in Our Schools spokesperson

February 5, 2016

The Educational Theatre Association and the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) are pleased to announce that Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara is national spokesperson for the Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) campaign. Jointly sponsored by the two organizations, TIOS is a program to raise public awareness of the value of theatre education and draw attention to the need for more access to quality programs for all students.

The partnership between EdTA and AATE follows the two organizations’ successful collaboration in creating the 2014 National Core Theatre Standards.

According to a January, 2016 article in American Theatre, based on data from licensing houses, it is likely that an estimated that 50 million people attend one of more than 37,000 school theatre performances annually. TIOS is an opportunity to inform them and millions more that the pleasure they get from seeing a show on stage is just one of many benefits that school theatre brings to all involved.

Winner of a 2015 Tony Award for her work in The King and I, O’Hara will be actively promoting TIOS throughout March. “Education is the most essential tool we can use in order to lead a full and passionate life," O'Hara said.  "Fortunately, I was given a great arts education at Deer Creek High School, where my dream was supported and shaped by drama teacher, Dixie Lee Jordan. She taught me what it meant to love art, to embrace differences, to break down walls of insecurity, and to grow as an actress and as a person.” Deer Creek High School is in Edmond, an Oklahoma City suburb.

O’Hara is known and loved by audiences on Broadway and beyond. She has garnered Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle nominations for South Pacific, The Pajama Game, and Light in the Piazza. In addition to her Broadway work, she is known for her work in the TV series Sex in the City and for her starring role as Mrs. Darling in “Peter Pan Live” on NBC. She has received critical acclaim for her performances at the New York Philharmonic’s productions of Carousel and My Fair Lady. She is a frequent guest artist on the PBS Memorial Day and July 4th telecasts, and has sung at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera.

The recent authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which asserts that arts education should be part of the well-rounded education of all students, makes this observance all the more timely. TIOS provides an opportunity for students, parents, communities, school boards and elected officials to become familiar with the benefits of school theatre participation.

TIOS is also timely in that its March celebration occurs the same month as the Americans for the Arts-sponsored Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., March 7-8. Additionally, both Music in Our Schools Month and Youth Art Month are observed in March.

EdTA Executive Director Julie Cohen Theobald said, “Just think about how many adults fear public speaking—that wouldn’t be the case if there was theatre in every school.” She added that participation in theatre in school is closely aligned with the development of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication, key skills cited in the 21st Century Skills Map, a guide for educators developed through a non-profit collaboration with business leaders.

The EdTA-Utah State University 2012 Survey of Theatre Education in United States High Schools found 95 percent of school administrators believe that theatre experiences improve students overall academic skills. Conversely, the National Center for Educational Statistics report, Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, stated that in 2010 only 28 percent of public high schools in high poverty areas offer theatre instruction.

While TIOS presentations and advocacy may happen anytime, March is the official Theatre in Our Schools month, with community- and school-based events and celebrations nationwide being led by AATE and EdTA adult and student members. EdTA’s student honorary organization, the International Thespian Society (ITS), is guiding student TIOS promotion efforts.

Local and regional events are already scheduled in New York City and Salt Lake City, as well as in California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

For more information and to register visit Theatre in Our Schools.