The nonprofit Tower Theatre Foundation’s award-winning educational programs connected with a record number of students, teachers and parents across Central Oregon during the just-completed 2014-15 season. Known as LessonPLAN (Performing Live Arts Now), and under the leadership of Education Coordinator Mollie Tennant, eight events in 21 schools reached 3,310 students. Topics included:
- a musical based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder
- the life of General Robert E. Lee
- circus performer Garry Krinsky “Toying with Science”
- recycling with “eco hero” Steve Trash
The Tower hosted one educational matinee
at the theatre, and presented seven school assemblies in the Bend
La-Pine School, Jefferson County, and Culver School Districts.
In addition, Tower staff members mentored
13 students from Summit High School’s stagecraft class through the
production of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” at the Tower. The
theatre’s technical director and production manager took turns as
artists-in-residence teaching backstage skills to Summit students.
Another 361 elementary and middle school students attended Tennant’s
“Theatre Etiquette Talks.”
“This was the year we deepened our
connections with teachers and principals all across the region,” said
Tennant. “From Mexican Mariachis to African Acrobats, the Tower brought
the wide world of performing arts into classrooms, and enabled teachers
and homeschoolers to use nationally renowned artists to enrich their own
The impact on students was equally impressive. “My students were energized and excited about theatre at a level I hadn’t seen before,” said Lara Okamoto, theatre teacher at Summit High School. “I can’t wait for the next project!”
Kathy Grant, 3rd grade teacher at M.A. Lynch Elementary in Redmond, taught in Phoenix, taking her classes on annual field trips to the symphony, dramas, and musical presentations. “When I started teaching in Redmond I asked around about cultural field trip opportunities. Nobody seemed to know of any,” explained Grant. “When I heard about the LessonPLAN programs, I immediately signed up. My students were so impressed; not only with the shows, but also by the beauty and history of the Tower. None of my students had been there before and very few had attended a live performance of any type. Many are from low-income households and, without the Tower’s efforts, would never get opportunities like this,” Grant concluded.
The Tower’s LessonPLAN initiative is underwritten by Bank of the Cascades, BendBroadband, and the theatre’s Stover Fund. Grantors in 2014-15 included the Oregon Community Foundation, Children’s Edu-Investors Fund, WHH Foundation, NEA, WESTAF, The Clabough Foundation, and the Deschutes Cultural Coalition.
The nonprofit Tower Theatre Foundation owns and operates the historic stage in downtown Bend. The Foundation’s mission is to be the leading performing arts organization, providing cultural and education programs that make an essential contribution to Central Oregon’s lifestyle and strengthen the community.
The 2015-16 LessonPLAN lineup will be announced this summer.