Every season for the past eight years, thousands of public-school students from New York City’s five boroughs have been provided with a meaningful introduction to excellent theater through Open Stages, Lincoln Center Theater’s education program. Committed to reaching children who may not have discovered the relevance and energy of live theatrical performance, Open Stages targets underserved youth enrolled in schools that provide limited in-school arts support. Many participants are attending the theater for the first time. It is the program’s goal to offer these students an experience that enables them to discern connections between issues in their lives and the dilemmas faced by on-stage characters they encounter. In so doing, Open Stages seeks to foster their interest in the theater in hopes that they will make it an integral part of their lives.
Open Stages has been designed to train teachers to use the arts effectively in their general curriculum. Teachers from a variety of disciplines – English, math, history, science, drama, social studies – participate in a series of workshops over the course of a year. They are guided to develop classroom exercises that encompass relevant social issues (racism, violence, censorship, conflict resolution, cultural identity etc.) that appear as themes and subtext in the plays their students will attend. The program is divided into two groups by grade level, with high-school students attending LCT productions, and intermediate-school students seeing a Shakespeare play performed by third-year students of The Juilliard School.
Open Stages high-school students have attended performances of The Heiress, A Delicate Balance, An American Daughter, Ivanov, Parade, Via Dolorosa, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, Marie Christine and Contact. Middle-school students have seen a range of Shakespeare productions including Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It.
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