120 5TH graders at Marquez Elementary School in the Palisades study American history by performing original musicals about the pilgrims, the writing of the constitution, the Louisiana Purchase, the birth of the industrial revolution and the civil rights movement. The Festival takes these remarkable shows public each year. In 2010 we sent Marquez to New York where the kids performed their musical about the birth of the Industrial Revolution, WATER & POWER, in the New York Musical Theater Festival.
This may be the only program of its type in America. UCLA recently did a research study which concludes that these kids retain twice as much knowledge of the history they've studied as the average 5th grade history class. And wait till you see sixty ten-year-olds on stage together singing and dancing. It's a great story and a remarkable new way of learning. All credit due to Jeff Lantos, 5th grade teacher, book writer, lyricist, his composer Bill Augustine and the faculty and staff of the school.
In 2012/13 the Marquez American History Musicals program was expanded to five more schools in the LAUSD. Here is teacher-book writer-lyricist Jeff Lantos rehearsing MIRACLE IN PHILADELPHIA with the cast at Quincy Jones Elementary School.
PUC, charter schools in the north Valley, are 90% Hispanic, 5% black and 5% white. They have a brilliant department headed by Sarah Rosenberg and Luis Cardenas that introduces theater to most students for the first time. Each year they take a Shakespeare play and transform it onto a contemporary musical. The Festival has presented two of these inspired musical romps in public performance, FOOLS IN LOVE and TEMPEST TOSS'D. The Festival sent TEMPTEST TOSS'D to the New York Musical Theatre Festival last Fall. Sarah and Luis are now replicating the program in the Bronx.
This may be the first college course ever offered in SoCal in how to create a new musical. The school is College of the Canyons. The course is TH 193. And for the past four years the course has been offered as part of the Festival. Shows developed include THE GIVER, based on Lois Lowry's phenomenally successful adult novel; GO-GO BEACH, a satire on beach blanket movies and SING ME A HAPPY SONG, Georgiea Stitt's song cycle about contemporary life and love. Forty students will have the opportunity to work in all aspects of originating a musical, from creation to production to performance. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
With our schools facing drastic cuts in arts programs at the same time musical theater is flourishing, the FESTIVAL has a major opportunity to make a difference for our children. Right now.
Our educational programs reach out to elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges to educate, inspire and showcase new generations of creators, performers and audiences. We do this through year-round educational outreach activities, and through our annual Festival of New American Musicals.
When we first conceived the Festival, we were convinced that there was a major revival of musical theater beginning to happen in this country. We were right. We also believed that Southern California was a hotbed of creative and performing talents, just waiting to be discovered. We were right there as well. We have the talent and we have the interest on the part of the theaters, the schools and from the community to become a major source for new composers, lyricists, book writers, directors, producers, choreographers, dancers and performers. We involved more than 5,000 of them in the first five festivals with more scheduled for '13.
Our priority is to continue to expand that foundation in order to inspire and engage our communities to help keep the arts alive in our schools, and to advance the performing talents of the youth of Southern California as we develop Southern California as the new American musical theater center as well as the new audience for the future of our musical theater community.
In 2009, we created the Festival's Academy for Young Professionals, offering ongoing in-person training for high school and college age youth with top performers, composers, choreographers and casting directors. At the first session, a master class in vocal performance was taught by Stephen Schwartz. Faculty also included Amanda McBroom and Karen Morrow. That was followed by Academy II, "How To Write A Musical," in which three of today's top musical theater writers, Jeff Marx, Georgia Stitt and the team of Michael Weiner and Alan Zachary worked with budding young composing and writing talent on the basics of creating a show. Academy III, another performer's session featured a faculty of Megan Hilty, director Richard Israel, casting director Michael Donovan and choreographer Daniel Mojica. Academy IV brought six of the brightest young high school composers and lyricists together with William Finn (Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos, A New Brain, Little Miss Sunshine) for a weekend workshop in writing songs for musicals.
Through the Academy the Festival is inspiring young high school and college students to work on original musical theater projects. In 2011 the Festival mentored two Hamilton High School Academy seniors, Sean Eads and Anthony Lucca, to workshop their first musical, LEMONADE at the Skylight Theatre in Hollywood as part of its Inkubator program. In 2012 we mentored college freshmen, Cristian Gurerro and Steven Schmidt in the development of their musical, MAD WORLD, which was also staged as part of the Inkubator program at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, with great thanks to its Artisitic Director, Gary Grossman.
In 2012 and 2013 the Festival also showcased the work of the Possibility Project, whcih each year brings together at risk young people who transform their problems into an original musical. Their current project is entitled STOP REQUESTED.