Class Notes

Theatre stops fights.

That’s the message at the core of YEAR, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts’ latest education initiative. The program, which wrapped up its inaugural year in April, is the latest step in the Broadway Center’s ever-expanding educational mission. It’s also the most focused effort, using the skills of the stage to settle disputes on the playground.

“The Broadway Center desired to deepen our impact on students, particularly students who might be under threat of violence or prone to act out,” says the Center’s marketing director Lacey Leffler. “The theatre is a great laboratory in which youth can practice their critical thinking and problem solving-skills around empathy, self-esteem, mediation, collaboration and personal accountability. These are tools of good citizenship.”

The Center has already imparted those tools to a number of young performers by helping to establish the Arts Impact teacher training program, the School of the Arts and the Broadway Center Conservatory, which brings theatre classes to a number of area school districts that need them.

It was one of those, the Bethel School District, that Broadway Center officials approached with the idea for a conflict mediation course. Through a Pierce County Community Services Grant, the Center was able to serve six of the district’s schools, sending teaching artists Katie Stricker and Adam Utley. Every week students built skills in acting and other arts, while also teaching them techniques in conflict resolution. The program aims to expose students to professionals and this year brought global percussionist Tony Gomez, storyteller Rose Cano and dancer Franchesska Berry into classrooms to show students that the arts aren’t just good for ending fights, but also for starting careers.

“Students can see the world differently, experience active participation in creative expression, improvise through problem solving, collaboratively create a performance and practice making smart, healthy choices in life,” Leffler says.

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