A Unique Partnership with Unparalleled Impact: The Front and Center Theater Collaborative

Photo by Todd Johnson

Nearly 900 children and adults packed Vets Auditorium on a rainy February evening for the Front and Center Theater Extravaganza— a celebration of the fun, sequential, standards-based theater arts programs that the Front and Center Theater Collaborative brings to CCUSD Transitional Kindergarten (TK) thru 12th grade students each year.

In classrooms across our school district, Front and Center theater programs have sixth graders acting out ancient Greek myths, fourth graders learning about the roles of character and conflict in stories, and fifth graders working one-on-one with theater artists to create their own original stories which are then performed on stage by professional actors. Front and Center brings theater companies to our schools and takes our students on field trips to experience theatrical performances in professional settings. In this school year alone the Collaborative’s art partners (24th Street Theatre, The Actors’ Gang, Center Theatre Group, Story Pirates, We Tell Stories and Young Storytellers) are delivering more than $200,000 worth of programming, 475 hours of classroom and afterschool instruction, and more than 30 assemblies and field trips across all CCUSD TK thru 12 school sites.

Overseen by the Culver City Education Foundation (CCEF), this unique partnership creates an unparalleled collective impact and gives CCUSD the highest concentration of theater arts programming per student of any school district in Los Angeles County.

These theater programs are fostering our students’ imaginations and collaborative spirits; teaching them to use their faces, their bodies and all of their senses expressively; and giving them a supportive, playful, creative space for taking risks and stretching their comfort zones. A Culver City Middle School mother of twins whose father died just before they started kindergarten expressed her gratitude for the program this way, “[Over] the years [my children] have grown deeper, more open and sympathetic. One of my favorite things about watching performances is that each actor trusts another to listen and be there when they feel like talking. And that’s why I can find ground to stand on when we go through these years … Thanks for this program.”

All of this happens thanks to our art partners who create the coordinated TK-12 programs, and our funding partners whose financial support makes the participation of the art partners possible. But to grow and sustain these programs, CCEF needs everyone’s support— including yours.
Because while the Front and Center programs are free for participating students, those 475 hours of theater arts programming for thousands of students every year could not exist without the fundraising efforts of the Culver City Education Foundation that tirelessly raises money to support these programs. It costs tens of thousands of dollars each year to run these programs— money that must be raised anew every single year for the programs to continue and flourish.

This year the Front and Center Theater Collaborative has set a fundraising goal of $20,000 to be raised by April 1 in order to help CCEF fund these extraordinary programs through the 2017-2018 school year.

So if you agree that theatre arts programming like this should be an integral part of our student’s education, please text 41444 to donate now. In the text box be sure to type 1) culvercreates (no spaces), 2) the amount you want to give, 3) and your name or any message you want to send. You will receive a text back with instructions on how to complete your pledge. You can also donate by sending a check to CCEF, P.O. Box 4178, Culver City CA 90231, or contribute online at www.ccef4schools.

By Leslie Adler, CCEF Executive Director and
Jody Reichel, CCEF Communications Chair