May 14, 2023

Culver City Students Learn from Professional Arts Organizations in the Front and Center Theatre Collaborative


Culver City Students Learn from Professional Arts Organizations in the Front and Center Theatre Collaborative

Does your elementary student come home talking about pirates or storytellers in their classrooms? Do you wonder how your high schooler got to see a performance at a local theater? These experiences and more are made possible by the Front & Center Theatre Collaborative, a unique program model funded through donations to CCEF. This successful initiative has been in place for over 10 years, connecting with professional arts organizations to provide theater arts education for all CCUSD K-12 students. Our arts partners: 24th Street Theatre, The Actors’ Gang, Center Theatre Group, Story Pirates, We Tell Stories and Young Storytellers, provide in-school and after-school workshops, assemblies and field trips. Each organization is able to offer their unique perspective and teaching skills to engage students in non-traditional ways that complement their regular classroom instruction and improve academic achievement in the areas of literacy, history, social studies and language arts.

24th Street Theatre, Story Pirates, We Tell Stories, and Young Storytellers work with elementary school students. The 24th Street Theatre conducts in-class workshops for all fifth graders; students also visit the theater’s historic home in downtown Los Angeles, to learn how a professional production is staged. Story Pirates teaches story structure, character development and self-expression to all fourth grade students. Teaching artists work with students to develop their own stories and then perform the student stories in a school-wide assembly. We Tell Stories is a multi-ethnic community of artists that connect young audiences with the ancient powers and wisdom of storytelling. Their interactive performances at the elementary schools bring world folklore, fairy tales, literature, legends, and mythology to joyful life. Young Storytellers’ Script to Stage program mentors 5th graders and inspires students to discover the power of their voice.

Our 4th-6th grade students get to work with Culver City-based theater group, The Actors’ Gang. Professional actors visit 6th grade social studies classes to bring historical scenes to life. The after school program for 4th & 5th graders introduces kids to theater through performances, helping kids find their own creative voices and reinforcing empathy and human emotion.

“Our Education Department has been infusing the art of acting and theater making into the history classes at Culver City Middle School for over a decade now,” shares Adam Jefferis, Programs Manager for the Actors’ Gang.

“Time and time again our teaching artists witness the students of CCMS theatricalize what they know, remember, and are inspired to bring to life. The students are given the opportunity to collaborate with one another alongside our teaching artists, honing in on their teamwork skills and bringing to life the classroom material with their own imaginations. It’s as much a learning experience for us as it is for the students and we look forward to fostering creativity in the classroom every year.”

Haylei Torres, who teaches 6th grade Ancient History, says the experiences with the Actors’ Gang inspires student learning and also serves as inspiration for her as a teacher. She plans to incorporate the use of creating and performing tableaus in her classroom. “The most compelling reason for exposing students to this kind of experience,” she shares, “is its effect on their self-esteem. My students felt valued during the process, and a sense of personal accomplishment during the performances.”

A 2022 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts Education Partnership reviewed numerous research studies to explore the importance of theater education in student learning and academic and personal growth. The report states “Studies show theater’s positive impact on student success and bolster findings that theater education promotes identity development and growth, builds empathy and relationships among peers, and empowers participants to transform their understanding of their place in the world.”

Your gifts to CCEF make it possible to fund these exciting opportunities for our students. Last fall, your donations sponsored a performance of East West Players’ traveling play, When Yuri Met Malcolm, for 150 Ethnic Studies students at the Robert Frost Auditorium. Told through the prism of her unlikely friendship with Malcolm X, When Yuri Met Malcolm explores the legacy of American civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama.

More recently, CCHS film and theater students attended a performance of Anna Deveare Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at the Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum. Twilight is a stunning and seminal play that explores the devastating human impact of the five days of uprising following the Rodney King verdict. Experiences like this allow students to learn about historical events and social studies in a unique and oftentimes, more memorable way.

CCEF is grateful for generous support for the Front & Center Theatre Collaborative program from Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as past support from the Fineshriber Family Foundation and the Collins Foundation.

Ask your students about their visits with the Story Pirates, Actors’ Gang, Young Storytellers, Center Theatre Group, 24th Street Theatre, and We Tell Stories. Donate today to sustain and expand these and other exceptional programs at every CCUSD school.