Federal funds give the Hartford Stage Company the ability to redevelop its summer arts education programs

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The Hartford Stage has received $100,000 from the federal government to support summer arts education programs. While the funding won’t change existing programs, it will help with regrowth, according to Jennifer Roberts, the theater’s director of education for the past 15 years.

We were on a growth trajectory before the pandemic hit. “Federal funding gives us the ability to rebuild the program,” said Roberts. “In 2020 we were about to move into a new space, but instead we went virtual that year because of COVID. We had to ramp up a lot. We were slow to grow.”

$100,000 will go to two major programs at the Hartford Summer Youth Theater: Breakdancing Shakespeare, which updates Shakespeare’s classics with modern performance styles and themes, and summer camp classes for students ages 3-18 held at the Hartford Academy of the Arts, which includes performances field trips and social activities.

The programs are taken by hundreds of students, and the Hartford Stage estimates that more than 1,000 people will attend performances this summer.

Roberts said Breakdancing Shakespeare, which began in 2006 and has always been fully funded, gives participating students a stipend as if they were professional performers. They had to perform virtually in 2021 due to the pandemic and didn’t perform at all in 2020, so the program just came back right this past summer.

This year’s production of Shakespeare’s Breakdancing will be based on “The Tempest.” The teen musical production will be “The SpongeBob Musical.”

Students Cast In The Hartford Summer Youth Program This Past Summer &Quot;Legally Blonde.&Quot;
The Cast Of Last Year’S Hartford Stage Summer Youth Musical Program, “Legally Blonde.”

Theater cites studies indicating that students from low-income families who receive an arts education are more likely to graduate from college and less likely to drop out of high school.

The funding request, classified as Congressional-directed spending, was submitted by Connecticut’s Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal to the Senate Appropriations Committee in the fall.

“Hartford is a true cultural destination because of the Hartford Theater and other important sources of drama, culture, and all kinds of artistic endeavor,” Blumenthal said during a funding announcement at the Hartford Stage Thursday.

“We are very grateful to Senator Blumenthal as well as Senator Murphy and the Appropriations Committee who made the application on behalf of all the young Hartford youths to participate with us this summer,” said Cynthia Rider, managing director of the theatre. Senator Blumenthal has been a staunch supporter of the arts. This is not the first time. Whether it’s the Paycheck Protection Program, the Indoor Operators Grant, or the American Rescue Plan legislation…we’re reopening educational activities for young people because of the support we’ve received that Senator Blumenthal has been an advocate for.”

Blumenthal added that the shows “give kids a new look and perspective on what drama and performance can mean. They can obviously see things on their screens, but in real life, that screen has unparalleled power on any screen of any size, especially when they’re doing it themselves.” .

Registration is open for the summer camps, which start in July, and tuition assistance is available. For more information, go to the Hartford Stage website at the address hartfordstage.org.