At SCT, we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can build on our mission of providing children of all ages access to professional theatre. Experiencing theatre at a young age has proven to be a strong tool for young people to build their social and emotional skills, unleash their creativity, and learn more about themselves and the world around them. We also know that not every young person has the ability to make a trip to the theatre, so the mission of SCT’s Community Engagement and Arts Based Learning Programs is simple: let’s bring theatre to them.
The Community Engagement programs at SCT take actors, teaching artists, and other theatre professionals off the stage and into schools and community organizations that benefit from their expertise the most. “The priority in establishing these programs is always the community’s needs,” says SCT’s Associate Director of Education Tiffany Maltos. “We work individually with educators and program managers to identify what type of experience would benefit students the most. This could be an in-depth discussion about racism through a theatre piece like And In This Corner: Cassius Clay, a collaborative workshop on team building, or even an experience based around a subject they’re currently working on, like science or history. What is always consistent is our team’s ability to bring tools to the community that encourages growth in our youth.”
In recent years, SCT’s Community Engagement programming has seen tremendous growth; with a department increase of 30% in less than three years and 1,100 hours of programming in 2019 alone. The demands for this engagement was at an all-time high going into the 2020 school year. In addition to schools, SCT also works with community organizations like King County Juvenile Detention Center, Childhaven, and the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Service. “When the pandemic hit, we knew we were going to have to potentially shift our programming to accommodate distanced learning, and we’re confident in the structure we have in place to successfully hold these workshops in a virtual space.”
In addition to Community Engagement, SCT’s Arts Based Learning Program, which works to reach middle and high school students across Washington, has also had to adapt its fall schedule to accommodate the virtual world. In partnership with Kaiser Permanente, SCT has developed and performed productions aimed to spark proactive conversations around mental health, bullying, and other relevant issues today’s youth are facing. “Through these performances and post-show workshops, we have shown students examples of conflict resolution, coping strategies for stress, and how they can build resiliency within themselves,” says Arts Based Learning Program Manager Elizabeth Coen. “We knew it was very important to continue our programming, and immediately went to work on how we can reach these students in a virtual world.”
“We’re excited to bring our show Ghosted to high school students virtually this fall,” says Coen adding that the production has been adapted for this new learning format and will include opportunities for students to participate in conversations about mental health.
“We are still able to provide a space to talk through the strategies and tools presented in the show with students in a virtual classroom,” says Coen. “The highest priority is creating a space where they feel safe, supported, creative, and curious. As we learned during our virtual Summer Drama School camps and classes, SCT’s Teaching Artists are extremely successful in doing this work in a virtual space. We can’t wait to dive in this school year.”
Though the transition to virtual learning and the heavy impact of the recent changes in our community were daunting for program leaders, Maltos says she sees this time as an opportunity to grow SCT’s offerings. “This time has allowed us to think thoughtfully about how we can deepen our partnerships. How can we be as impactful as possible? How can this succeed in an online space and beyond?” Maltos says.
As for the impact she anticipates seeing in the coming months? “Our Teaching Artists understand the limitations and the possibilities of a zoom room,” says Maltos. “We are committed to bringing the highest caliber experience to these students during a time when they may need it most.”
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