Charlotte St. Martin, the President of The Broadway League, is logical as ever when it comes to ensuring that today’s youth are theatre-lovers: “We know that when kids go into theatre when they’re young, they tend to go to theatre throughout their life.” It’s a simple formula, and it works.
Indeed, the League has a slew of tailor-fit programs that get young people into (and onto) the stage as soon as possible. Take Kids’ Night on Broadway, for example. This summer’s inaugural August 29th event provided free admission for seventeen legacy Broadway shows, ranging from “Chicago” to “The Lion King”. Adults had to pay to get the deal for those 18-and-under. However, considering what a theatre family is willing to cough up to witness the mighty “Cell Block Tango” live, it’s certainly a gargantuan steal.
The Kids’ Night came with talkbacks that allowed attending kids to interact with the cast, furthering their bond with the theatre community and possibly sparking inspiration. St. Martin claims that younger audience members are “fascinated” by these dialogues, especially when they learn about what jobs the cast held prior to theatre.
“An awful lot of our parents that go to theatre now, we know, also went to theatre. So they love to take their kids,” St. Martin explained. She noted that they pushed it up to the summer–previous iterations have been held in the winter–after hearing from League members that wanted to give kids an extra treat before their studies resumed.
Certainly, as the fall semester kicks back into gear for budding stagehands, the League has no intention of letting their theatre synapses stop firing. “We have a whole department geared to creating opportunities for kids to learn about theatre, to go to theatre, to know about jobs in theatre. It’s very important to us,” St. Martin emphasized.
As far as workplace development goes, she pointed to high-school shadowing programs that often last around a week, with a dedicated partner website serving to highlight what she says are “the 80 careers that currently exist on Broadway.” St. Martin fondly reminisced about a standout Q/A moment with students at the end of a shadowing day, when a “tall, skinny boy who was smiling from ear to ear” shot his hand up. He stood out as tech-savvy.
”I just have to tell you, I’m a nerd, and I can work on Broadway too!” he exclaimed. It would be nigh impossible to disagree with him.
St. Martin said that her favorite program, which she started eight years ago, would have to be Broadway Bridges®. The project’s goal is “to have every high school student in New York City, in all five boroughs, see a Broadway show before they graduate,” she said. “We’ve done ninety-thousand-plus kids already, and we’re working towards doing seventy-thousand a year,” she added, given appropriate funding and staffing. In other words, The League wants to guarantee that love of theatre is a humanistic requirement for teenagers, rather than a siloed pastime.
Of course, the positive effects of seeing a live show are meted out to those that ultimately pursue other passions, and tends to make the classroom more pleasant for everybody. “We have teachers tell us that their outing to see a Broadway show creates camaraderie and networking within their class, and that’s it’s a great bonding experience,” St. Martin declared.