The Waldo brings theater arts education to local schools
WALDOBORO – The Waldo Theater (916 Main St.) currently operates a school program, InterAct, for local elementary schools with plans to expand through the fall of 2022. The goal is to provide theater arts education from quality that reinforces academic learning goals such as reading comprehension and oral language skills while also addressing vital social-emotional skills such as confidence, communication and community connection.
The program was designed by Mia Branco, who has worked as a teaching artist for over 12 years, specializing in the development of theater programs for autistic and emotionally traumatized students in independent settings as well as within schools. In the fall of 2021, along with Kate Fletcher, executive director of The Waldo, Branco began running the program in two local third-grade classrooms, at Warren Community School and Miller School in Waldoboro.
The 2021 education program was made possible by an initial grant of $3,500 from the Onion Foundation. The Waldo has since won two competitive grants to be able to offer the program to several other schools in the RSU40 district that have expressed interest. A grant of $9,650 from the Nellie Leaman Taft Foundation and $10,000 from the Maine Community Foundation Maine Expansion Arts Program will fund school programming through fall 2022.
Branco and Fletcher hope to build a sustainable program to reach more students.
“This is such an important opportunity to focus on critical thinking, communication, and connecting with the community,” Branco says, in a Waldo Theater press release. “The Waldo already has such incredible ripple, after just seven months of opening, and these kids have a place in this theater as part of a family.”
A climactic presentation by third graders from Miller and Warren School at The Waldo was scheduled for February, but due to current COVID conditions, a film version of their stories is now taking shape. The final film will be shared with students’ families and teachers.
“We hope we will be able to come together safely this spring for a community screening of student work,” says Fletcher. “They put a lot of creativity and imagination into their stories and we want to share them and celebrate them.”
The program Branco designed for the once-a-week school curriculum emphasizes storytelling and allows young actors to tell their own story as an ensemble using the “four tools you have with you at all times. – body, voice, mind and imagination”. .”
Waldo board member Christa Thorpe said the board’s commitment to inclusivity and youth programming was what drew her to the theater’s mission, which had been closed for more than five years. years when she joined the board.
“I want people to know that when you support The Waldo, you’re doing so much more than keeping the lights on in a historic building,” she said. “It’s about supporting incredibly talented people like Mia who are helping Kate rebuild the community around The Waldo. It’s about the kids and also the rest of us, lifelong learners. is what excites me about this education program and the possibility of more things like this in the future.
For more information on The Waldo’s programs, including live theatre, live music, films and education, and to make a contribution, visit www.waldotheatre.org.
ABOUT THE WALDO THEATER:
The Waldo Theater is a non-profit, community-driven performing arts center in Waldoboro, Maine. Once a popular and thriving venue for live community theater, concerts, and other forms of entertainment that contributed to the cultural and economic vitality of downtown Waldoboro, the theater closed in 2014. The building is fallen into disrepair and, in 2017, was placed on the list of Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Places. Area residents have come together to create a new council and chart a new course forward. After several years of fundraising and renovations, The Waldo reopened virtually in November 2020 with live music played in the community and to the public in person in June 2021 with a community theater production of “Almost, Maine”. More music, drama, films and educational programs are planned for the theater in this first fully operational year.