Each year, the Fredericton Playhouse delivers a series of matinee performances for students as part of the School Field Trips program. This program is designed to expose students to the magic of live, professional performing arts, and to help fill the gaps in the education system.
In recent years, with fewer and fewer resources put into arts education in our schools, we have felt an obligation to increase our School Field Trips offerings, and in return, have seen increased interest from schools. During the 2013-2014 season, 1,200 students attended one of our matinee performances; that number increased to more than 2,000 in the 2014-2015 season, and 2,700 in 2015-2016.
We are thrilled with these high levels of participation, and anticipate those numbers will continue to rise during our current season. Between February and April of 2017, the Playhouse will present four theatre and music performances, each designed to stir the senses and inspire audiences in their own unique ways.
Our School Field Trips series consists of performances suitable for a range of ages. The upcoming lineup includes Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey, a cosmic adventure about celebrating differences that’s targeted at elementary-aged children; “ambassador of the blues” Guy Davis, with a performance for anyone from pre-school to Grade 8; Jake’s Gift, an award-winning Canadian play about a Second World War veteran, offered in both English and French and intended for Grades 5 to 12; and Jabber, a play that challenges prejudices and assumptions, created for middle school and high school audiences.
We are also able to provide study guides for performances, allowing teachers to discuss the shows with their students, and to better incorporate these performances into their regular curriculum.
In addition to the matinee performances, we offer tours of the Playhouse free of charge. Students can get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Playhouse operates, and can visit the fly floor, spotlight booth, and dressing rooms. The tour also includes an onstage lighting and sound demonstration.
We encourage teachers to make a day of it when booking a tour field trip, and to also plan a visit to other downtown locations, such as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, New Brunswick Legislature or Science East.
Our mission at the Playhouse is to make the performing arts accessible to everyone in our community, and last season we realized that a number of schools in the region were unable to participate in our School Field Trips program because of financial barriers.
Thanks to a grant from the Fredericton Community Foundation and the generous support of our donors, the Friends of the Fredericton Playhouse, we introduced a School Field Trip Accessibility Program during the 2015-2016 school year.
Through this program, we were able to provide 600 students with admission to a performance at no charge to the students or their schools. We were also able to offer transportation assistance to certain schools, to help offset the costs of travelling to the Playhouse by bus.
This year, we are delighted to be able to expand the accessibility program; in 2016-2017, we will be able to provide 800 students from local schools with admission to a matinee performance.
We hope to continue to expand this program further, and to make Playhouse shows accessible to as many students as possible in our community. Our Friends of the Fredericton Playhouse campaign is underway now, and the funds we receive will be used to support projects like the School Field Trip Accessibility Program.
We believe that exposure to live performance can have a lasting impact on a young person, but we also realize that many students only get to experience the performing arts through their school life. That’s why we place so much importance on the continued growth of the School Field Trips series and the Accessibility Program.
Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse