Back to school. It’s a time for buying new pens and pencils, backpacks, and laptops. It’s a time for getting organized and planning ahead. It’s also an exciting time in education as school systems across the country are embracing the concept of S.T.E.A.M., which integrates Art + Design into the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math. This movement is spearheaded by the Rhode Island School of Design “to foster the true innovation that comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer . . . because art and design education teaches students flexible thinking, risk-taking, and creative problem-solving needed to solve today’s most complex and pressing challenges.” Whether you are a teacher, student, or parent, there is good reason to incorporate arts-focused activities and theatergoing into the schedule this school year. Here are a few ways to do so.
1. Bring a student group to a Broadway show (and other Times Square attractions).
According to the Student Youth Travel Association (The Voice of Student & Youth Travel), the No. 1 travel destination in the United States for students is New York City (followed by Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Florida). The Broadway League, the national trade association for the commercial theater industry, estimates that more than 1 million students younger than 18 attend a Broadway show annually. “Producers want students to attend their shows for a positive educational and entertaining experience,” says Brian Harasek, Director of Group Sales for Broadway Direct, which has affiliate offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, and elsewhere across the country. When planning a class trip, Harasek advises teachers to book early. In fact, teachers need to reserve tickets in the fall if they want to have the best shows at the best prices for their spring break holidays. Group sales agents can help educators and/or parents determine which shows are the most age-appropriate for the groups, as well as give advice on booking student workshops, tours, restaurants, and other special activities.
In addition to arranging tickets to a show, Broadway Direct Group Sales can also arrange for admission to attractions that can enrich a school trip to Times Square, such as:
- Wicked presents Behind the Emerald Curtain, a 60-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show conducted by a member of the cast. This special presentation is the perfect educational complement to every Broadway show.
- Check out National Geographic Encounter, a completely immersive experience that brings visitors into the world under the sea.
But you don’t have to be part of a school to get group rates. Whether it’s a family, a group of friends, or office coworkers, as few as 12 people can count as a group. “Theatergoers don’t realize that they can organize their circle of friends into a group and get the same benefits as a school,” Harasek says. Seeing a Broadway show as a student can lead to a lifetime of theatergoing. At every age, Harasek wants to remind teachers, parents, and students alike, “beyond the convenience and savings, booking theater tickets, workshops, and restaurants in advance is the best way to have the peace of mind that everything needed for a great trip is taken care of.”
To book as a group for any show on Broadway, visit Broadway Direct Group Sales, or call 800-714-8452.
2. Arrange for students of all ages to experience Broadway firsthand with a performance workshop.
If your class wants to get in on the act during their visit in New York, a performance workshop is a great way for students to hone their presentation skills and build their confidence. Camp Broadway has been presenting customized and curated educational workshops for more than 19 years for student groups of all ages and skill levels. Their Broadway Series features a cast member teaching a song and dance number from their show, or groups can request an interactive session on a wide variety of topics, from careers in production to improvisation and stage combat. “Experiential workshops help to contextualize theater for the students,” says Melissa Caolo, managing director for Camp Broadway. “Working directly with a professional enables the students to learn performance techniques from experienced professionals as well as ask questions about the industry that might be of interest to them. Sometimes hearing a personal story from a working actor is all it takes to dispel the myth that working in show business is easy or glamorous — which is often communicated on today’s reality television shows.”
Camp Broadway’s team works with all shows on Broadway and is uniquely poised to help each group design a program that best suits the needs of their school and its students.
3. Bring Broadway into the classroom.
Can’t make it to NYC? No problem. Any class anywhere can feature Broadway in their classroom by visiting Stagenotes.net, an information-rich website that features a wide array of free theater-arts lesson plans and resources designed to help teachers comply with the new Common Core standards. The site features dozens of study guides for Broadway and touring productions. In fact, StageNotes just published an enhanced digital toolkit for Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s touring production of The Phantom of the Opera that features background on book author Gaston Leroux, digital renderings of the Paris Opera House, insights into this historic theatrical property written by its producer Cameron Mackintosh, themed lesson plans that can be easily assimilated into the classroom with a click of the mouse, and much more. StageNotes also connects teachers to books, music, scripts, and many other resources they can use to connect their students to the vast musical theater cannon. New materials are posted regularly, so visit often.
No matter where you live in the country, the first place to go for the best of Broadway, high-quality programs and unique activities at affordable prices is the professional performing-arts center or theatre in the area. Whether you are going as a family, a social club, or with a school field trip, the theatre will provide the services you need to make it a memorable and educational experience.