As theatre audiences see fewer students, small theatre owners worry about the future of the arts. High schools are offering fewer arts courses, but it’s not always the fault of the students. Small towns are losing enrolment and as a consequence, they are forced to cut electives and teachers. Students pick what they can, but many times are without the option to take drama past the first year of high school and some students never gain the opportunity to take theatre or musical theatre as an extra-curricular. Without the exposure to the arts, students will never realize their untapped potential.
Though many theatres are worried, the local Grand Theatre is not. They have discovered that the key to keeping the arts alive is through student outreach programs. They tour local schools and put on productions so that students can see the excitement of theatre. They also encourage students in grades 9 through 12 to join “The Student Club” where students get six tickets to the Grand Theatre’s season productions. With the discounted price students are only paying $13.50 per show. Considering that a movie ticket is upwards of 15 to 20 dollars it’s an amazing deal for students, which makes them more likely to turn out and support the theatre.
Students are then offered an opportunity to join the High School Project and star in their own play or musical. It is completely cost-free to the students and they are hosted by the Grand Theatre. The Grand hires professionals to train the students in every facet of the theatre industry. From costumes, set design, combat, singing, acting, directing and everything in between- students gain the opportunity to learn whatever they choose.
The High School Project provides an environment for students to learn transferrable skills such as leadership, confidence, public speaking, communication, and a love of the arts among many others. The High School Project has been in London for nearly 20 years, and the Grand hopes that other theatres will adapt their system. The Grand believes that students want to participate, and are capable of growing beyond measure. Theatres just need to get out there and recruit students, because students want to be recruited.