By Susan Gale
Ten Providence elementary schools will perform Broadway musical numbers at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) thanks to a $120,00 grant from the Disney company.
PPAC announced the Disney Musicals in Schools (DMIS) program on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. It’s a two-year grant with five schools chosen each year. Under this initial grant, as many as 1,000 students and parents could be involved on stage and backstage, said Dana Brazil, PPAC Director of Outreach and Engagement.
“We’re looking for schools that are really ready to take it on and really need it. It’s intended to build school community,” she said. “The goal is to continue after the initial two years and open the program up to schools across the state.”
School requirements for the program
Each school must provide at least three teachers to be directly involved in areas such as music direction, choreography, stage management, and directing. Schools will also have the assistance of PPAC- and Disney-trained “teaching artists” who will start out running the program and gradually train and give it over to the school’s teachers during the 17-weeks of afterschool work.
This program design seeks to make it possible for schools to run the program on their own in years two and three when they will continue to receive professional development assistance from PPAC.
Each school will hold its own auditions for the 30-minute musicals designed for elementary school performers by Disney KIDS in partnership with Music Theater International (MTI). The shortened musicals have been adapted from the classic Disney films 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Frozen, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Winnie the Pooh.
In June, all five schools from year one will perform a number from their musicals on the big stage at PPAC, which has 3,100 seats.
“This is a program that creates firsts for student who never had firsts,” Brazil said. “It reminds you why you do what you do, watching the children walk in the [PPAC] building in awe.”
Application Process for Schools
Under the application process for schools, local PPAC officials will review applications, conduct site visits, and make recommendations to Disney, who ultimately choose the schools to be involved.
The schools will be notified on October 28, 2019 and the program will begin in January 2020. To apply, Providence elementary schools can visit here or contact Brazil at 401-574-3132. Applications are due September 24, 2019.
Providence Mayor Jorge O Elorza pointed out that his only visit to PPAC as a child was through a school program and that he sees Disney Musicals in Schools as part of the current efforts to improve Providence Schools, which are expected to be taken over by the state in October 2019.
“It’s hard to comprehend how much it opens their minds. So many kids wouldn’t have access to these kinds of things,” he said. “I believe there is no medium in the world that brings people together and creates a sense of community better than the arts.”
History of the Program
Disney started the program in 2010 out of concern that public elementary schools were not being afforded equal access to the arts. The Disney Theatrical Group developed and manages the program.
Currently more than 300 schools participate annually in the program which is mostly found in larger cities than Providence such as New York City, Chicago, Dallas, and London.
The program is at no cost to schools who receive free performance rights to the 30-minute musicals and free ShowKit materials, which include a director’s guide, student scripts, cross-curricular activities, accompaniment and rehearsal CDs, and a choreography DVD.
Thus far the program has served more than 43,400 students, with 11,447 of them in NYC. There have been more than 380 schools involved, 1,149 teachers, and 217 Teaching Artists.
Susan Gale is CEO of Gale Force Communications, which publishes Kidoinfo.com.