Every January Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE) opens The Alvina Krause Theatre’s doors for a week of special performances. Under BTE’s Project Discovery program, high school students and teachers in the surrounding area are allowed to attend one free theatre performance, once a year.
Students in Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit 16, which include Northumberland, Columbia, Snyder, Montour, and Union counties are eligible to participate in the program.
“We will offer one production out of our season as the designated Project Discovery production. We will attach matinees to that production, do a study guide, and let these schools know that any of their 10th, 11th, and 12th graders could see the show at one of the matinees for free. Our original thinking is that by the time a student would graduate high school they would have seen three theatre productions. Over the years it has evolved, and now we have expanded it to 9th graders,” said Project Discovery director Paula Henry.
Since 1994 Project Discovery has provided over 40,000 students the opportunity to experience theatre. To date the program has presented a total of 23 productions, which include nine out of the 12 Shakespeare plays, two original BTE productions, and many more. The program is considered a non- profit, funded by local businesses, community individuals, and local corporations. Donations of $9.00 is needed to provide one student with a ticket to a show.
Many have already been in contact with BTE and its Theatre in the Classroom program (TIC). TIC consists of a group of actors from BTE traveling to elementary and middle schools in the area. The goal is to get students comfortable with the concept of theatre in their own classrooms and introduce them to all performing arts has to offer. As students moved into high school, Project Discovery allowed them to continue learning about theatre, but in the BTE environment with full live productions.
With the arts taking a backburner position in many school districts, and high schools in particular, Project Discovery shows the community that BTE encourages, supports, and recognizes the importance, enjoyment, and life lessons the arts and theatre productions can offer its viewers.
“Because it’s life. Playwrights write about life, and the good and the bad parts of life. And we think that it is so beneficial for a group of people to sit in the same room, and experience what a play write has to say about life, and to experience that together. Rather than seeing it on television or watching a movie, but to see the spontaneity and look at something that is done live right in front of you. Yeah, there is nothing quite like it and we just think it’s an important part of the joy of living. So that is why we do it,” said Henry.
High schools (public or private) in the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unite 16 and its five counties that want to participate in this program are welcomed. The next Project Discovery production will take place in January 2017. This show will be an original production BTE has commissioned from play writer Anthony Clarvoe, called “Gun Powder Joe.” This production is about Joseph Priestley and his interaction with the founding fathers upon his arrival in the newly formed United States.