CCA keeps the arts alive through statewide community theater partnerships
CCA's connections to theaters across the state allow students to pursue hands-on creative learning.
Some kids are born with music in their veins and performing in their personality.
For many students, opportunities to nurture these talents are few and far between, thanks to rigid school schedules and limited theater options.
Commonwealth Charter Academy seeks to provide as many avenues for creative expression as possible through partnerships with local community theaters across the state.
CCA sponsors the Ephrata Performing Arts Center in Lancaster County, a relationship that includes musical theater workshops and hands-on internship opportunities.
The Scranton Cultural Center also partners with CCA, providing an avenue for Arts and Humanities Conservatory workshops such as the Arts Engage program and a stage for the annual “Thriller” dance performance. These workshops are a big hit with CCA students, 19 of whom came to February’s workshop to participate in improvisation activities and practice choreography.
For Steven McKnight, a 2016 CCA graduate, the chance to get involved in programs such as the Scranton Cultural Center left an indelible mark on his school experience — and his future. Steven’s participation in local theater led him to declare a theater and creative writing double major when he reached Susquehanna University, and he plans to return to the performing arts in his career.
CCA has established relationships with the Gamut Theatre Group in Harrisburg, the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia and the Gemini Theater Company in Pittsburgh.
In February, these theaters came together to bring the Arts and Humanities Conservatory musical theater workshop to life. More than 110 students statewide attended, gaining dynamic hands-on experience at the company in their area.
The internship opportunities that arise from these partnerships are invaluable to students looking to pave a future in the industry. Joselyn Terry, a sophomore at CCA, seized an internship opportunity with the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, where she finished working on a junior production of “The Lion King.” The internship had Joselyn jumping into a variety of tasks: choreography, blocking, teaching music, taking attendance and interacting with the audience through some “Lion King”-themed trivia.
“I was shocked to find that helping another actor have a breakthrough makes you just as proud as having a breakthrough of your own," Joselyn said. "I also learned that stage managing and/or directing is something I would like to further explore on my own."
The opportunity to get practical experience during high school was made possible thanks to CCA’s flexible scheduling, which has allowed Joselyn to participate in local shows frequently.
For Arts and Humanities Conservatory Manager Stephanie Goforth, keeping the arts alive is an essential part of establishing a deeply enriching space for students.
“Cyber school students really need the three-dimensional, collaborative experience that they get through exposure to the arts, whether visual or performing arts,” Goforth said.
Learning to do improvisation or memorize choreography offers a mental and creative challenge, and the team environment is a natural socialization opportunity.
“Our learners always seem to make new friends and build new contacts through these experiences. … You can really see the transformation happen throughout the day, from nervous and shy in the morning to being comfortable and friendly by the end of the day,” Goforth said.
Moreover, these creative outlets extend beyond a career in the arts. “Any type of creative workshop lends itself to future careers, because creative thinking and problem solving is cross-curricular,” Goforth said.
These statewide theater opportunities are truly a space for all, creating a welcoming atmosphere that Goforth has seen make a difference many times. She recalls several times having parents of special needs students tell her that these theater workshops had been a milestone for their families.
“These programs aren’t just for one type of student. Whoever you are, you’re able to join in and be successful at these events," Goforth said. "Getting emails from parents who say ‘It was one of the most important things my son has done, seeing him collaborate and have fun’ is just priceless as an educator. These events aren’t just for those with theatrical talent. They’re for any learner who just wants some interaction and wants to challenge themselves.”