The Aspen School District and Aspen Theater have launched an extensive partnership to develop a strong theater program for middle and high school ASD students. Announced last week via a press release, the partnership has already begun to take shape.
With the ASD school year underway, the education team at Theater Aspen has implemented a performing arts program, bringing core theater course instruction into the classroom for students in the 5th to 12th grade.
While the school district has had a theater education in years past — primarily aimed at high school students — the timely push for the new arrangement with Theater Aspen follows the district’s longtime drama teacher, Logan Carter, taking a leave this year, explained ASD Superintendent David Baugh.
“Finding someone of Logan’s caliber was going to be a huge challenge for us,” Baugh said. “So, in conversations with the Aspen Theater, we decided this was the year we should launch.”
The partnership between the Aspen Professional Theater Company and the school district lasted two years. Since Baugh stepped into his role as superintendent in 2020, he and Aspen Theater production manager Jed Bernstein had been brainstorming ideas about how they could incorporate regional theater and its resources into regular school programming.
“Dave always wants to perform better when it comes to the level of quality for his students,” Bernstein said. “And from our perspective, I think the measure of any successful regional theater is its arts education efforts and its ongoing contribution to the community.”
Among the increased range of acting course offerings developed by the Aspen Theater team is a two-semester course technical theater course. The new Technical Class includes a rotating roster of visiting Broadway artists who will lead seminars and teach students in all technical disciplines – from set and lighting design to costumes, stage makeup and more.
The Aspen Theater will also oversee production of the high school’s annual springtime musical, as well as the notable debut of a fall show at Aspen Middle School — which Bernstein says is in the works to be structured into a festival of one-act plays.
The inclusion of high-caliber instruction and theater experience for ASD high school students, in particular, is an important factor in the new partnership, Baugh said. The superintendent explained how the start of the middle school drama program will now create room for a more intentional education stream as students will be able to progress through the program and learn something different each year, he said. he declares.
Another opportunity born from the arrangement with Theater Aspen includes the addition of a paid internship program for students, in which they can work side-by-side with theater professionals during Theater Aspen’s busy summer season. The new internship program is due to start in the summer of 2023 and will likely run beyond the summer season for years to come.
Taken as a whole, the new performing arts partnership marks an important milestone. With Aspen Theater’s professional reputation and pipeline to the world of Broadway, it opens the door for students to “really foster those real-world connections,” Baugh said, explaining that expanding these kinds of opportunities is something he advocates on all levels in public. schools.
“I look at education as a way to open doors for kids, and from a theater perspective, I saw this partnership as an opportunity to create something over several years,” Baugh said. “One day I hope to see more children on stage and backstage, working side by side and side by side with professional performers, artists and musicians.”
Baugh’s hopes of improving his students’ exposure and access to the world of the performing arts are not overstated in a culturally rich community like Aspen, Bernstein pointed out. And the production manager is more than willing to be a contributor.
“Aspen, as a community, is blessed with enormous resources – people tend to think of financial resources, but it’s also expertise in many areas that can be harnessed to help create teaching and experiences of world class for students,” said Bernstein. “This is an example. You have a professional theater in town, why not open this world up to students? »