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The mission of BridgeUP: Theater in the Schools is to increase theater access and learning resources for 4th – 6th grade students throughout Vermont and New Hampshire through programs that bring artists into the classroom, support the curricular needs of underserved schools, and introduce young people to theater through low‐cost access to professional productions.

Northern Stage partners with area elementary and middle schools to offer a five-week residency program  of performative experiential learning that supports the curriculum of the classroom. We offer two programs — one focused on Shakespeare and one on Musical Theater (emphasis on literature-based musicals such as Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach). Teaching artists with extensive experience engage in a five-week residency with a whole grade of students, involving everyone, not just the theater-lovers. Residencies explore text, acting techniques, history, and team-building, and culminate in a final presentation of a scenes from a Shakespearean play or a musical. Students read the play, analyze the relationships, audition, learn text analysis, practice blocking, memorize lines, and master props and costume pieces. Students perform for their entire school and then a performance for friends and families in the Byrne Theater of Northern Stage’s Barrette Center for the Arts with professional support of lights, sound, and basic sets and costume pieces. This program is free to partner schools and has proven to have lasting positive impact on the students, teaching artists, and classroom teachers involved.

Classroom teachers are guided to incorporate the program into their curriculum. We strive to work with classroom teachers not simply to support the curricular needs of partner schools, but also to provide professional development and other resources to encourage theatrical, experiential learning practices beyond the residency. We hope to help shape how our partner teachers and students engage with learning, with each other, and with their community.

BridgeUP Partner Schools are selected by invitation only and after a formal application process. Please click here for a PDF of our 2018-19 Information packet. Contact Amanda Rafuse, Director of Artistic Outreach if you would like to be considered as a BridgeUP Partner School.

Hear from our 2018 BridgeUP students and teachers by clicking here or visit our Press Page for articles about the program.

In just a few weeks’ time, you taught our students the elements of drama, the difference between prose and poetry, and introduced them to iambic pentameter. But that is really only the surface of what you gave to these kids, and to us. You also taught them poise, how to speak in public, and how to take risks when things seem challenging.  You gave them a space where they were comfortable to try new things, to make suggestions, and to be creative.  But above all else, you gave each and every one of them confidence: confidence to be risk takers, confidence to try something difficult, and confidence in themselves. These are gifts they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
~ 4th Grade teacher, Hartford, VT