Theatre in Our Schools is a program that equips students, teachers, parents, and other advocates with tools to help decision makers understand the power of theatre education. The month of March is designated as a 30-day stretch of concentrated activities in schools, surrounding communities, with the media, and even with legislators focused on shining a light on the value of theatre education. In 2022, this special event at Aiken New Tech High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, during Theatre in Our Schools month was a huge reward for teachers and students involved in the production of Disney’s Aladdin JR. (The production was made possible by a grant from the Pathway program.)

Theatre in Our Schools All Year Long

When someone with the star power of Michael James Scott (perhaps best known as Genie in Aladdin on Broadway) spends his one day off work to hop a flight from NYC to Cincinnati, you know that something meaningful is happening. His visit included time with the cast of Aladdin JR. at Aiken High School. The cast performed a part of one of the musical’s songs, and Michael coached them to a higher level of energy and authenticity. As an observer, I admit I wanted to jump up there on the stage and participate in the warm-up exercises and belt out “Friend Like Me,” too.

Michael’s visit to Aiken New Tech High School was made possible as part of the Pathway program grant. (If you’re interested in learning more or applying for a Pathway grant here’s a link. Note that as of this writing the current grant period’s deadline is April 15, 2022.) Michael visited with teachers, administration, and staff, and toured the school grounds. 

His visit coincided with Theatre in Our Schools Month (celebrated every March), and put the spotlight on the power of theatre education. Michael told the students that he’s been pursuing his dream of working in theatre since he was younger than they are, That even though his parents and other adults around him helped him gain access to training, workshops, and theatre programs, he didn’t have quite the same access to training as they were enjoying. He encouraged them to make the most of this time and opportunity!

Theatre in Our Schools Terri McCoy, Michael James Scott, Piper Davis

Left to right: Terri McCoy, teacher at Aiken New Tech High School; Michael James Scott, Broadway actor; Piper Davis, actor and cultural director

What Theatre in Our Schools Looks Like

For students to enjoy the benefits of learning theatre skills, there must be teachers. At Aiken New Tech High School it’s Terri McCoy who is the drama director. Her tireless efforts to help shape her students’ lives through theatre education were on full display. At one point in the tour of the school, a young woman in tears threw herself into Terri’s arms. Afterward Terri said, “I just have to listen when any of my students are struggling.” Terri’s passion for theatre was evident as she led the students through warm-ups. 

In addition, Piper Davis was on site for rehearsal. Piper serves as cultural director and provides guidance to the students in the show who need/want adult supervision with any number of issues. Piper explained she’s keenly aware of BIPOC students’ needs and works to provide them a safe space in which to grow and find guidance. She said, “I didn’t get to see people who looked like me when I was aspiring to be an actor. I tried going a different route in my work life but the theatre is where my passion lies.” Today Piper works with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where she’s currently involved in the production of School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play.

The Aiken theatre students benefit from the care, time, and attention of so many. It truly takes a village to raise a theatre student.  ♦ 

Patty Craft is content manager for 

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