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Florida Studio Theatre and Van Wezel Partner To Provide FREE Theatre Enrichment For Students

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Area schools will have access to two shows from ArtsPower, a nonprofit that produces performances based on children's books.

Florida Studio Theatre and Van Wezel Partner To Provide FREE Theatre Enrichment For Students

Florida Studio Theatre (FST) and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has announced that the two leading Sarasota arts organizations will partner to provide virtual theatrical offerings, entirely free of charge, to Sarasota and Manatee County schools, extending as far as Charlotte and Desoto Counties. Typically, thousands of children travel with their classes to these arts venues every year to experience the magic of live theatre.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, FST and the Van Wezel are teaming up to continue to inspire young audiences through the arts with new virtual programming. Educators interested in accessing these streamed online performances can register via FST's website at FloridaStudioTheatre.org or the Van Wezel's website at VanWezel.org.

For more information, please contact FST's Director of Children's Theatre, Caroline Kaiser, or the Van Wezel's Director of Education & Community Engagement, Kelli Maldonado.

"In a time where so much has changed for children and gathering in large groups at the theatre isn't possible, we want to offer a little bit of normalcy to teachers and students," said Caroline Kaiser, FST's Director of Children's Theatre. "We hope that these virtual 'field trips' will give students an opportunity to see, laugh, and connect with new stories. We want to spark creativity, stir students' imaginations, and foster more arts-integrated learning in the classroom."

Area schools will have access to two shows from ArtsPower, a nonprofit that creates and produces theatrical performances based on beloved children's books. Ideal for students in Pre-K to second grade, Chicken Dance is a one-act musical version of Tammi Sauer's award-winning book of the same name. Geared toward students in grades 2-6, Anne of Green Gables is a musical adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel. Teachers will also have access to supplementary lessons and activities that they can integrate into their curriculum. Streaming will begin in October, and content will be available for registering teachers for the entire school year. To further enhance student engagement with the material, live talkbacks with the original cast members of Chicken Dance and Anne of Green Gables will also be available on select days, taking place over Zoom.

"Many teachers recognize the value of the arts and the impact it provides for their students. We are thrilled to offer these opportunities that provide the same artistic quality and curricular connections teachers have come to know and respect from our organizations, provided in a highly accessible virtual package," says Kelli Maldonado, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Van Wezel. "This is truly a partnership that has turned a challenge into an opportunity."

"We want teachers to know that we [FST and the Van Wezel] are here to help and support them this year," added Kaiser. "We want every child, whether they are learning from home or in the classroom, to have access to arts education and enrichment."

In addition to these two online musicals, both arts venues will make further no-cost programs available to area educators. Florida Studio Theatre will provide an interactive, virtual adaptation of its award-winning, arts-in-education initiative, WRITE A PLAY, giving students the tools and inspiration to write plays of their very own.

FST's WRITE A PLAY program has reached over 1 million young playwrights over the past 30 years and is being offered, for the first time, at no cost. Classrooms around the world will be able to participate in Zoom into Playwriting, a virtual workshop and performance of award-winning plays written by young playwrights ages 5-12. Conducted over Zoom, classes will work with FST actors and professional teaching artists to create plays based on their ideas. Students are encouraged to submit their plays to FST's Young Playwrights Festival playwriting competition to be considered for a full-scale production.

In response to the changing needs of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Van Wezel's Education Department has launched Artworks Anywhere, a new YouTube channel featuring on-demand projects in different art forms. The do-it-yourself model allows students, teachers, and educators to have interactive experiences that will foster learning in innovative ways. Viewers are encouraged to share their projects with the #ArtworksAnywhere hashtag, following a "See Art, Create Art, Share Art" model.

The performing arts hall will also present FREE live virtual workshops with teaching artists exploring visual arts, movement, and drama. These learning experiences are available free of charge thanks to the generous donors of the Van Wezel Foundation. Additionally, the Van Wezel's virtual On-Demand Schooltime Performances will serve students and teachers, allowing for more flexibility in timing and removing geographic barriers.

Florida Studio Theatre and the Van Wezel are partnering to give Sarasota and Manatee County schools, as well as Desoto and Charlotte Counties, free access to two online musicals created and produced by ArtsPower: Chicken Dance and Anne of Green Gables. These theatrical offerings are open to schools and home school groups on a first-come, first-served basis beginning in October. Interested groups can register via FST's website at FloridaStudioTheatre.org or the Van Wezel's website at VanWezel.org. For more information, please contact FST's Director of Children's Theatre, Caroline Kaiser, or the Van Wezel's Director of Education & Community Engagement, Kelli Maldonado.



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