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The League of American Theatres and Producers Awards New York Education Grants to <i>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee</i> and <i>Spring Awakening</i>

The League of American Theatres and Producers has awarded its coveted New York Education Grants to education programs for hit musicals The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Spring Awakening. Each production receives a $5,000 grant towards its 2007 educational initiatives. The grants are important to the growth and development of theatre education in the city as they encourage theatre organizations to create more opportunities for young people and to exchange ideas on education.

The New York Education Grants were established by the League in 2002 in recognition of education initiatives and to support further programs for Broadway shows. As the national trade organization for the commercial theatre industry, the League also sponsors a grant program to support education programs for touring Broadway productions. The two programs combined have to date awarded over $600,000 to theatres in New York and across the country. Both awards were established by the League’s Education Committee and are also generously supported by Theatre Development Fund.

The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc., founded in 1930 and operating under the trademark “Live Broadway,” is the national trade association for the Broadway industry. The League’s 600-plus members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in over 240 North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the theatre industry. Each year, League members bring Broadway to nearly 30 million people in New York and on tour across the U.S. and Canada.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Now in its second year on Broadway, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, currently playing at Circle in the Square Theatre on 235 W 50th Street, will present a comprehensive student education program that imparts the vital educational skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In the past, the show has worked with literacy groups and even designed a study guide to help teachers integrate lessons from the show into school curriculum.

This new education program, named the “Broadway Bee,” will introduce students to in-class exercises inspired by the format of this unique Broadway musical. The program will utilize teaching artists in the classroom who will work with teachers and students on creating their own spelling bee, using their current curriculum and basic theater terms. In the style of the musical, teaching artists will use improvisation and theater exercises throughout their time in the classroom while helping students to create the sentences that will be used in their spelling bee. The teacher and teaching artist will then also work with their students to showcase their work to other classes.

The program will culminate in an in-class spelling bee, with a total of twenty students receiving free tickets to Spelling
Bee. The class will attend the June 6 matinee and will have a post-performance talkback with the cast.

Spring Awakening

The new musical Spring Awakening, playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on 230 West 49th Street, has created an interactive and educational experience by undertaking an ambitious educational program that targets groups as diverse as high school students, the continuing education population, and education leaders. The program takes advantage of the content of the show by addressing issues important to adolescents, such as finding your place in the world, sexual identity and health, and peer pressure.

Teaching artists will lead students in exercises that address these issues while also cultivating an understanding of the theatrical arts through vocal and acting master classes, writing song lyrics, and brainstorming creative ways to discuss contemporary problems. The program also offers possibilities for complimentary and discounted tickets, and the opportunity to meet the creative staff behind the show. In order to accomplish their goal, the producers of Spring Awakening have teamed up with StudentsLive – an educational and artistic organization that exists to enhance students’ education through the arts and introduce the future audiences of Broadway to theatre.