EXCLUSIVE: A nonprofit coalition of Broadway producers and theater owners will funnel free tickets and offstage programming to shows — including fall newcomers School Of Rock, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of the Jack Black movie, and On Your Feet!, the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan — to Gotham teens in a program aimed at inspiring young artists and future theatergoers. The plan, called The Situation Project, has pledged funds to pay for five years’ worth of arts programming through commitments from Jujamcyn Theatres and the Nederlander Organization along with other producers, creatives, entrepreneurs, community activists and Situation Interactive, an online marketing specialist whose founder and president, Damian Bazadona, spearheaded the effort. Access to the program is targeted to students in arts-deficient New York City public middle schools that have demonstrated a commitment to academic performance despite limited access to the city’s vast cultural resources.
This fall, Bazadona said in an interview with Deadline, students will visit the musicals On Your Feet, Finding Neverland, School Of Rock and The Phantom Of The Opera. The project also will provide supplemental resources about the shows and the experience of theatergoing.
“Our public schools are the incubators of tomorrow’s leaders,” Bazadona said, “so we simply see this as an investment in our own community. Living in the cultural capital of the world, access to cultural experiences should be a given for all New York City public school students,” he added. “Unfortunately, this is not the case. With the help of some very passionate supporters, we are at the beginning of an exciting groundswell of support in using the power of live, cultural experiences to enrich our communities, particularly those not currently served with the access and resources they deserve.”
Convincing Broadway producers and theater owners to donate tickets during historically slow sales periods such as the post-holiday months of January and February, Bazadona said, has been key to the successful launch of the program. It’s been in development since 2011. Some of the supporters see it not only as a write-off, but as a way to invest some of their profits from sky-high ticket prices. Some 5,000 city students already have attended shows including Phantom, Les Misérables, Wicked, Honeymoon In Vegas, and War Horse, among many others. The new initiative, Bazadona said, will greatly expand the reach of the program.
“Broadway is home to amazing stories and remarkable talent,” said Micah Hollingworth, VP of Operations at Jujamcyn, a founding supporter of the Situation Project. “Creating an environment where the students can see themselves in the talent both onstage and backstage is enriching on so many levels for the students and the faculty.”
“Our mission is to invest in those schools that are doing the most with the least,” Bazadona said. “As an investment, it’s financially prudent, morally right and within our means collectively to see true results of this effort.” See situationproject.org for more info.