Each season, 1,200 DC public and public charter school students from over 20 such schools, representing all DC Wards, experience the magic of plays and musicals at Arena Stage through the DC Ticket Partnership… for just $4 per ticket.
But the DC Ticket Partnership is much more than $4 matinee tickets. The experience begins before students walk through the front doors of the Mead Center for American Theater and continues well after the actors take their final bow.
Arena Stage creates and sends student study guides for each student, and Curriculum Connections (lesson plans tied to Common Core standards) for teachers. Then, their teacher previews the production so they can prepare their students for the content of the show.
The week before the show, a team of Arena Stage teaching artists visit the schools to lead in-class, pre-show workshops. Pre-show workshops include historical background to give students context for the show and theater activities to introduce themes and theatrical elements. For example, before attending Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, students learned about the AIDS crisis and performed scenes from early in the play to show how theater can make history personal. They also brainstormed what an “epic” might look like on stage and discussed the history of the AIDS Quilt, which students would see on display in the lobby.
Pre-show workshops are also a time for students to learn how to find the seat on their ticket and prepare to be an energized and focused audience.
When the students come to Arena Stage, those same teaching artists from their pre-show workshop welcome them through the doors of the Mead Center.
For some students, it is their first exposure to the power of live professional theater. For others, it is an opportunity to deepen their love and excitement for the artform. Students gasped when Jane Doe fly in Ride the Cyclone, leapt to their feet after the tapping in “King of New York” in Disney’s Newsies, held each other’s hands during the final moments of Jitney, and cheered Catherine’s exit at the end of The Heiress.
After the show, Arena teaching artists return to schools for an in-class, post-show workshop. Sometimes cast members from the show may attend as a surprise, either in-person or virtually, volunteering their time to support youth in DC and DCTP’s mission. As you can imagine, students are invariably excited, sometimes shocked to have cast members in their classroom!
There are over 25 years of unforgettable memories of actors attending post-show workshops. Nate Dendy, who played The Mute in The Fantasticks, performed magic for a class at Charles Hart Middle School. Members of the cast of Jitney read a 5-line scene that students from Eastern Senior High School wrote. Stephanie Pope of Catch Me If You Can gave practical advice to the cast of KIPP DC College Prep’s production of Beauty and the Beast the day of their dress rehearsal, and followed up after her visit by sending the cast a break-a-leg video. In all cases, actors answer student questions thoughtfully and encourage students in their future pursuits.
The first part of the post-show workshop also includes a discussion of the show. Students think about the show critically, ask questions about how behind-the-scenes elements worked, and draw connections to their lives and experiences. Students always have insightful questions and superb observations. They notice every detail! They are huge fans of the work of Arena’s shops, technicians, and artisans.
The second part of a post-show workshop is an activity based on the show. For Anything Goes guest artist Kristyn Pope taught students a tap number. After The Mountaintop, students wrote persuasive speeches about issues that concern them. Following Sweat, students engaged in an activity that had them role play being union members and engaging in collective bargaining.
Our school programs invite young audiences to the theater and bring theater tools into the classroom. Teachers at DC public and public charter schools, grades 6-12, and in all content areas can apply to bring their group of up to 30 students via an application in September. Learn how to join us today.
Actor Bowman Wright looks on as a SEED Public Charter School student delivers her persuasive speech inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a post-show workshop for The Mountaintop.
Students from Charles Hart Middle School pose with Anything Goes performer Kristyn Pope after a tap dance workshop with her.
Students stretch to prepare for acting exercises in a post-show workshop.