Class Acts series brings live performance theater

Class Acts series brings live performance theater
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The Class Acts series gets students into the theater, and sometimes it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a live performance. PAC general manager David Mitchell said seeing a live performance speaks to the social well-being of students in a way nothing else can.

                        

The Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas brings Broadway shows to local audiences, but a smaller part of the PAC’s annual season brings equal thrills to children from a wide region of Ohio. The Class Acts Performances program, begun soon after the theater opened, gathers k-8 students for performances each season with a simple $1 ticket.

“Students are coming in for the program from a five-county area,” said David Mitchell, PAC general manager. “We typically put together one show geared toward middle school students, and the rest are primarily for elementary grades.”

Five shows each season are dedicated to the Class Acts program.

“School systems have received the program very well,” Mitchell said. “In 2016 we had 4,500 students. The next school year it was 5,500. This year we’ll have more than 7,500. So the program is growing.”

Mitchell said the program aligns with curriculum standards. “We talk to school districts for input,” he said. “If you’re pulling students out of the classroom, you have to be able to justify that. So we match the programming to Ohio learning standards from the Department of Education. We try to put together things that match the curriculum for what they’re learning in school. It isn’t just entertainment for the kids; they’re getting some instructional value out of it.”

Mitchell explained how transportation works. “The students are bussed in for the school day,” he said. “We do two performances each day.”

One of the shows this season is “Freedom Bound,” dealing with the story of the Underground Railroad. “Chocolate Milk, Por Favor?” is based on a children’s book about a new student in school who speaks no English.

“Along the way, differences are celebrated, centered around a love for chocolate milk,” Mitchell said. “Others have covered science concepts and anti-bullying. For Black History Month we’ve presented stories of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and the freedom riders in the south during the civil rights movement.”

Concerning finances, Mitchell said, “We’re actually taking a loss on the shows, financially. We get grants from the Ohio Arts Council, and that’s pretty much the only direct funding we get for the program. It doesn’t really make sense from a business standpoint to do something that loses money, but we feel it’s something we really need to do for the community. It gets students into the theater, and sometimes it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a live performance. We might do a math-based performance or one based in reading, but seeing a live performance speaks to you. It speaks to your social well-being in a way nothing else can. You’re educating the child as a whole and not just in academics.”

Mitchell said the PAC welcomes any local business or organization interested in helping to support Class Acts. “If people believe in what we’re doing and want to support that, by all means we would love to talk about it.”

Mitchell said some kids learn better visually. “Everybody learns in a different way,” he said. “You can read about the Underground Railroad, for example, and some students will get it; they’ll understand it. But for others, they come and see the story come to life and experience it, and it really clicks for them, and they get it better that way.”

Mitchell said the days with Class Acts performances make up his favorite part of the job. “I’m out there at the doors, watching them come in, and their eyes get wide. They’ve never seen such a big space before, and many have never been to a big theater. Their faces are wonderful to see.”

Find out more about the Class Acts program at the PAC website at www.kent.edu/tusc/pac/class-acts.


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