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Educational Theatre Foundation Awards Schools Affected by Disasters

The grant will aid theatre programs in schools damaged by a tornado and a hurricane, respectively.

CINCINNATI: The Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) has awarded grants to two schools impacted by natural disasters. The grant was made possible by a partnership with Music Theatre International (MTI).

Students at Palm Bay Prep Academy collect donations after Hurricane Michael. The 2018 hurricane demolished the building that housed the school’s auditorium. (Photo courtesy Palm Bay Prep Academy)

“We are so grateful to generous donors and partners such as MTI who appreciate how having theatre in schools has a positive impact on the entire school and its community,” ETF president Julie Cohen Theobald said in a statement. “These grants are in direct support of ETF’s mission to provide financial support where it is needed most.”

The two schools awarded are Washington Middle School in Cairo, Ga., and Palm Bay Prep Academy in Panama City, Fla. Washington Middle School was hit by a tornado in March 2019, while Palm Bay Prep Academy was damaged by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

Washington will use the grant to fund backdrops and sets for their upcoming spring musical. The March tornado hit three weeks before their production of The Little Mermaid by Doug Wright, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater; as Washington lost seven school days, many teachers opted not to miss further class time to take students to the production, resulting in lower ticket sales.

“This loss of revenue has greatly impacted our show season,” said Washington’s Junior Thespian troupe director, Austin Harrell, in a statement. “We are not currently in a position where we can raise these extra funds as our community is still recovering from this devastating tornado.”

Palm Bay Prep Academy will also use the grant to fund a school musical, and to purchase a curtain and sound and lighting equipment. “Our theatre classroom, which housed our entire script library, and the auditorium, our performance space, was part of the demolished buildings,” said Palm Bay’s Thespian troupe director, Shelly Blancq, in a statement, adding that “our students have proven the old adage ‘the show must go on.’ Theatre can be extremely therapeutic, and there is no better way to build a sense of community than through a strong connection in the arts.”

“In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for these grants, but these schools have demonstrated why it is imperative for organizations to provide support when circumstances warrant,” said MTI president and CEO Drew Cohen in a statement. “The theatre community prides itself on being there for one another and we are proud to work with ETF to be there for these schools and their students.”

Founded in 2017, ETF is the philanthropic arm of the Educational Theatre Association and home of the International Thespian Society. ETF provides financial support to enhance excellence in theatre education and expand access to school theatre programs.

MTI is a leading theatrical licensing agency that grants schools as well as amateur and professional theatres rights to a large selection of musicals.

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