Project Discovery

9-ProjectDiscovery

Project Discovery

Dallas Theater Center
2400 Flora Street
Dallas , TX 75201
Phone: 214.526-8210
Fax: 214.521.7666
E-Mail: rachel.hull@dallastheatercenter.org
URL: www.dallastheatercenter.org

Focus: Theater

Annual Number Participating: 930

Ages: High School

Annual Budget: $371,000.00

Partners: Arlington, Athens, Blum, Carrolton-Farmers Branch, Dallas, Eustace, Fort Worth, Garland, Irving, Lancaster, and Wills Point Independent School Districts as well as area Charter Schools.

Funders: ExxonMobil; Harold Simmons Foundation; National Corporate Theatre Fund; Pier 1 Imports; Pioneer Natural Resources; Southwest Securities; Target; t. howard + associates

A typical season at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) comprises a diverse array of offerings on its main stage: classics, contemporary dramas, and a musical. The theater’s subscribers, of course, have the opportunity to see them all. But so, too, do about 900 high school students from the greater Dallas area, through an industry-leading theater-education program called Project Discovery.

Seeing just a single live play might be quite an event for many of the program’s participants, who attend any of the more than 30 Title I schools, located in lower-income neighborhoods. However, Project Discovery provides opportunities for about 30 students from each of the participating schools to see a full season’s worth of DTC productions, at no charge. Along with performances, the program provides transportation and pre-show, participatory theater workshops for students, as well as workshops and study guides for teachers.

DTC designed Project Discovery to provide an “authentic” theater experience. Instead of seeing a carefully vetted play in a theater filled with other students, Project Discovery participants attend regular evening performances, sitting in groups of three or four, alongside patrons. The students, who are always accompanied by at least one teacher, also join other theatergoers in post-show, artist-led discussions. Attending DTC’s full season exposes students to a wide variety of playwrights, genres, and subjects— including contemporary and classic plays and musicals. More recent seasons have included plays ranging from Next Fall, about a gay couple trying to determine the role that religion would play in their lives, to King Lear, Shakespeare’s great tragedy about kingship and the complexities of family.

“We don’t censor material for our high school audience,” explains Rachel Hull, Director of Education and Community Enrichment. “Instead, we are transparent with teachers and students about the potentially violent, offensive, or intimate material and we create a discussion around why those elements are central to the story being told. This line of inquiry creates a connection between the texts, the material on stage, and our students’ experiences,” she continues. Hull also notes that 99 percent of students who participate indicate a desire to return to the theater.

In fact, engaging with the work is what theater is all about, asserts Moriarty. “Sometimes, a work celebrates and embraces values you have, and sometimes, it challenges and confronts them. Art is about experiencing other points of view and owning and sharing your response to that,” he explains. “To have a program that authentically provides that experience to young people is really the greatest success of this program.”

By giving students the opportunity to attend the theater as adult patrons for an entire season, Project Discovery nurtures confident, new young theater patrons who take with them the knowledge that they can walk comfortably into any theater in the world and engage with the art on the stage.

Todd Rosen Managing Director, National Corporate Theatre Fund