Hartford Children's Theatre (HCT) announced today they will close and end all programming, including their children's theatre educational programs, at the end of December 2012. Hartford Stage simultaneously announced that it will expand its children's theatre drama education and outreach programs starting in January 2013.
Hartford Stage and HCT have been working for months to ensure that the Hartford area continues to have the highest quality drama education and in-school classes for children ranging in age from five to 18. Although The Children's Theatre has run very successful education programs over its 22-year history, the institution, like many area non-profits, has struggled to raise the funding necessary to maintain its high level of educational programs and performances. Facing the reality of closing its doors for good, the HCT Board of Directors looked for options to ensure their constituents will continue to receive the highest level of drama education. The HCT Board reached out to Hartford Stage as a financially stronger theatre that had its own excellent education programs. In response, Hartford Stage has decided to expand its own educational offerings in order to fill the gap created by the closing of the Hartford Children's Theatre.
"Hartford Stage and Hartford Children's Theatre both strongly believe in the importance of drama education for the children and families of Hartford," said Robin Zaleski, HCT's Board President. "This is a wonderful opportunity for our current and future students and the best possible outcome for the educational programs HCT is known for."
Hartford Stage's Managing Director Mike Stotts said, "The Board of Directors and management of Hartford Stage believe that the loss of HCT's children's educational programming would deal a severe blow to the youth of our community - we want to make sure that does not happen."
Offering The Children's Theatre program as part of the 49-year-old, Tony Award-winning theatre's education department, strengthens Hartford Stage's position as the leading provider of theatre programming for children and youth in Connecticut. The newly-expanded program will become part of the already-existing Studio Series and will be known as The Children's Theatre of Hartford Stage. Hartford Stage will also continue to offer its Studio Classes for adults.
Hartford Stage currently serves more than 21,000 students through its education program, more than any other theatre in Connecticut. The expanded children's theatre programs will bring another 7,000 into the fold. Both organizations share the belief that education in the arts is rooted in collaboration, creativity and communication, and in these financially difficult times, many public schools lack adequate funding for arts education.
Jennifer Roberts, Director of Education at Hartford Stage, said Hartford Stage aims to provide students of all ages statewide with innovative, quality theatrical opportunities and education programs that use theatre techniques to build community and citizenship, to promote a passion for literacy and creative expression, and to encourage lifelong learning.
She said, "This new expansion will strengthen Hartford Stage's education programs by growing our capacity to offer theatre classes for children. It builds on what we're already doing, but allows us to serve more families throughout Greater Hartford using HCT's unique style of classes."
Two employees from HCT will be hired by Hartford Stage: Lisa Foss, current Director of Education at HCT, will become Children's Theatre Implementation Manager at Hartford Stage; Emely Larson, current Program Manager at HCT, will become Training Programs Manager at Hartford Stage. Foss and Larson will join a strong department of seven highly trained teaching artists and arts education administrators. "We are delighted to welcome Lisa and Emely to the Hartford Stage team, where they can build on the terrific work they have done for HCT over the past several years," said Stotts.
"Hartford has seen the demise of several non-profit arts organizations over the last decade. A combination of market forces and economic uncertainty caused the shuttering of the Hartford-area ballet and opera," said Stotts. "Our plan to offer new children's programs modeled on the impactful and respected programs of the Hartford Children's Theatre ensures that the spirit of HCT will live on into the future."
Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak said, "Anything that improves the artistic and the educational growth of the children and the families of Connecticut matters. I am glad that Hartford Stage and, more specifically, our education department will be able to provide quality arts and theater education to more of the children in our community."