Why Youth Need the Arts

March 19, 2023—I am passionate about providing youth with exposure and access to the arts, as well as opportunities to perform, because it helps them cultivate authenticity, self-awareness, confidence, empathy, and courage. The arts also provide opportunities for them to develop the skills of collaboration, discipline, focus and critical thinking.

The arts are, by far, one of the most important nutrients we can provide youth to help them become fiercely aware, bold, and empowered adults. That’s why I am excited to share information with you about the 9th Annual Schubert High School Theatre Festival, which will be in the Broadway spotlight tomorrow night, March 20, 2023, at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Sponsored by the Shubert Foundation and the New York City Department of Education Arts Office, the festival is celebrating five outstanding high school student productions from the 2022-23 school year. The productions were selected by professional theater artists and theater educators, who looked at more than 20 submitted high school productions from throughout the five boroughs.

I have known Peter Avery, the festival’s Artistic Producer and the Director of Theatre for New York City Schools, for quite some time. In addition to being a treasured colleague, Peter is one of the most dedicated arts educators and theater artists I know. He has an unwavering commitment to fostering and creating opportunities for future generations of theater artists, as well as supporting theater arts educators.

“When students create theater together, they demonstrate the highest levels of education—applying technique, understanding the context of the play and communicating with others towards a common goal, Peter says. “The festival serves as a powerful reminder how theatre provides a welcoming place for artists and audiences of all ages to connect, to invest, to empathize…to heal. (We) honor these amazing student artists reminding us of the profound beauty that can happen when we work together.”

This year’s featured performances are:

RENT with a cast from the Professional Performing Arts High School (Manhattan)

The Band’s Visit with a cast from William Cullen Bryant High School (Queens)

The Crucible with a cast from Fordham High School for the Arts (Bronx)

School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play with a cast from The Beacon School (Manhattan)

Carrie, The Musical with a cast from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (Queens)

Broadway artists Adrianna Hicks (Some Like It Hot) and J. Harrison Ghee (Some Like It Hot) will host this year’s event. Additional guest presenters include: Danny Burstein (Pictures From Home), Justin Cooley (Kimberly Akimbo), Latoya Edwards (White Girl in Danger), Amelia Fei (How To Dance in Ohio), Bill Irwin (Endgame), Michael Iskander (Kimberly Akimbo), Katrina Lenk (Company), Apollo Levine (MJ the Musical), Tony Shalhoub (The Band’s Visit) and Ben Jackson Walker (& Juliet).

I was pleased to learn that young women are directing two of the five productions and several of the plays have strong, female lead characters. I can only imagine what a phenomenal opportunity it is for these high school students to direct and perform on a Broadway stage, let alone the pride their parents and loved ones will experience by being there to support them at the free event (pre-registration required at this link).

The promotion video, which includes excerpts from previous festivals, is both moving and inspiring. You can check it out at this link. The NYC Department of Education/Theater also provides workshops for theater teachers. Take look at the 5-minute video created from a recent workshop at this link.

Mentoring and supporting youth is the gift we pay forward in appreciation of the care we received from our extended families, teachers, community encouragers, or other people who helped steer the course of our lives. And if we didn’t have the support we wanted, this is our opportunity to be present for youth in the ways we missed the presence of adults when we were their ages.

As always, I would like to know what you think. I invite you to share your comments below.


PS: This year’s festival has a special feature that I believe serves as a reminder of the importance of the arts to our senior citizen communities: 74 year-old Howard Shapiro is a recipient of the AARP’s Wish of a Lifetime program. The AARP program grants life-changing wishes to older adults and inspires people to redefine aging in America. Mr. Shapiro will fulfill his dream of performing on a Broadway stage when he sings “To Life,” from the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. He will be backed by 26 of the festival’s teen participants. Mr. Shapiro also will share his story of perseverance in the face of obstacles as an older adult and member of the LGBTQ+ community.

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