by Madison Palmieri ’22 A&E Staff
The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) has announced that five public elementary schools in the Providence community have been chosen for this year’s Disney Musicals in Schools initiative, through which they will have the opportunity to produce a Disney musical at no cost.
The program aims to foster theater programming in schools across the country and around the world, especially in areas where children may not otherwise have access to theater nor the opportunity to perform.
Beginning in January 2020, Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary School; Robert L. Bailey, IV Elementary; Harry Kizirian Elementary School; Carl G. Lauro Elementary School; and Webster Ave Elementary School will participate in the 17-week program. Each institution will be supported by a team of PPAC teaching artists and receive performance rights and education materials.
The initiative will not only introduce local children to the world of theater, but also train their educators to teach them more about it. Through the program, teachers will learn how to play the roles of producer, director, and choreographer.
All of these efforts will result in the performance of 30-minute Disney KIDS musicals at each school, after which the Providence Performing Arts Center will hold a Student Share Celebration where the five schools will each have the opportunity to perform in front of their fellow students, teachers, families, and other members of the Providence community.
Significantly, this is the Providence Public School District’s first year participating in the Disney Musicals in Schools initiative, and it appears that this program may become a mainstay in the district, as five more elementary schools in the city are already set to be selected for next year. In addition, the grant lasts for two years, guaranteeing future development as well.
The program is structured to build relationships both in schools and communities, allowing students to work together in order to develop skills crucial to the production of a musical, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. These skills will translate to other aspects of the students’ lives, whether it be learning in the classroom or playing on a team.
Launched in New York City 10 years ago as a result of growing concerns that public elementary schools lacked access to the performing arts, the program was met with immediate success and soon spread to other school districts throughout the country.
The musicals themselves are 30-minute adaptations of seven beloved Disney classics: 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Winnie the Pooh, and Cinderella.
No matter which musicals the Providence schools produce, the experience is sure to be memorable for everyone involved, especially for those students who lack access to the performing arts.
Indeed, in this era of tight budgets for school districts across the nation, the arts are usually the first programs to be cut from schools. Students are deprived of art, chorus, band, and theater, subjects crucial to the development of self-expression, imagination, and creativity. Disney Musicals in Schools works to combat this startling trend and ensure that students across the country will be able to enjoy the art of theater for generations to come.