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Dramatic Arts Academy concludes first year of Paper Mill Playhouse partnership

Year 1 Observation Phase provides exposure to range of performances

The Cumberland Regional High School (CRHS) Dramatic Arts Academy recently concluded its first year of partnership in the Paper Mill Playhouse “Adopt a School” program. The program, founded in 1989, was designed to introduce New Jersey high school students to the performing arts, to stimulate partnerships between educators, artists, and businesses, and to encourage the permanent inclusion of arts programming as an integral part of New Jersey’s educational system.

During the Year One “OurStage” Observation Phase, CRHS dramatic arts students and staff had the opportunity to enjoy live theater from an audience perspective as Paper Mill “subscribers” for one full season. The CRHS Dramatic Arts Academy group attended matinee performances of The BandstandA Christmas StoryA Bronx Tale: The Musical, and Pump Boys and Dinettes to experience an array of productions in varying theatrical styles.

The students and staff also participated in pre-show workshops that allowed them to learn about the background, history, and operations of the Paper Mill Playhouse, officially designated as the “State Theater of New Jersey,” in addition to meeting actors from the shows and the Director of Press and Public Relations for the theater, and learning about business-related job opportunities in the field of dramatic arts.

“It’s truly rewarding to be able to expose our students – some of whom have never seen a professional theater production in New York City or Philadelphia – to some unique and professional experiences with the Paper Mill Playhouse,” said John Stephan, a CRHS Dramatic Arts Academy teacher and the 2015 CRHS Teacher of the Year. “The program has introduced students to Broadway-quality entertainment both on stage and behind the scenes, allowing students to truly grasp the network of individuals required to pull off large-scale productions and to sustain a professional theater company.”

The Adopt-a-School program, selected by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a model arts-in-education program, provides the opportunity for students at each “adopted” school to work through a four-year program that includes on-site participation and in-school residencies with extraordinary industry professionals, Stephan explained.

“I am so grateful to Paper Mill for selecting our school as part of this program, and I look forward to what the future has in store for this partnership,” he said.

During the 2016-17 school year, the Year Two “SkillStage” Participation Phase of the program will provide a sequential experience in the arts and give students at CRHS the opportunity to put what they have observed in year one into practice. These opportunities will include participation in the Fall ArtsFest, a full day of workshops led at Paper Mill by leading teaching artists in the performing arts, as well as the Spring ArtsFest, featuring three master class-level workshops led by prominent performing artists.

In addition to the partnership with Paper Mill Playhouse, this year’s CRHS dramatic arts students were immersed in the performing arts through the school’s production of fall play Makin’ It and spring musical Damn Yankees, cross-curricular experiences such as devised theater performances raising awareness regarding mental health issues, Black Box Theatre performances including The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water, a trip to New York City to see Allegiance on Broadway and participate in a workshop with members of the cast and crew, and a field trip to see the production of Our Town at Cumberland County College, which featured CRHS Dramatic Arts Academy teacher Elisabeth Campbell as Mrs. Gibbs and presented a play studied by all Dramatic Arts Academy students in the Dramatic Arts 1 class. Offered in conjunction with a progressively challenging classroom curriculum, these advanced experiences in the arts support articulation agreements extending dual credit opportunities with Cumberland County College and Rowan University to CRHS students who wish to get a jump-start on their college careers while still in high school.

“The academy model is all about providing extraordinary educational opportunities that cultivate a love of learning while supporting students’ progress toward successful futures,” said Superintendent Steven Price. “Cumberland Regional is proud to promote excellence in the arts, and our Dramatic Arts Academy gives our students the chance to experience the best this region has to offer in terms of artistic exposure and experience.”

Dramatic Arts Paper Mill Playhouse visit