A Closer Look at Premiere Stages' Common Core-Focused Playwrighting Residency For Kids

Just last week, I wrote a post looking at how the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is working to integrate arts education with the controversial Common Core standards.

The gist of the post is that Common Core isn't going anywhere, so we may as well make the best of it. Shrewd nonprofit arts organizations acknowledge that schools may lack the resources to teach to the standard, or they must cut arts education to teach to the standard. Rolling out a Common Core-infused arts education framework makes everyone happy. In fact, I went so far as to blithely note, "Perhps we'll soon set up our own vertical on IP devoted exclusively to Common Core Arts Philanthropy."

Well, behold entry number two into this burgeoning sub-segment.

Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean University, is partnering with the Provident Bank Foundation to offer an innovative seven-week, in-school playwriting residency this spring at the Terence C. Reilly School No. 7 located in Elizabeth, New Jersey. 

The residencies, which afford 21 seventh grade students access to professional actors and teaching artists, are specifically designed to support classroom learning objectives and are designed to support the—wait for it...wait for it—Common Core standards, "reinforcing literacy skills, encouraging creativity and collaboration, and bolstering student self-esteem."

Now, I must say, exclusive of the Common Core element, the residency looks great. It isn't very often that seventh grade students get to immerse themselves in a playwriting residency. Beyond the obvious benefit, the program also instills a love of the theatre in students at a young age, a great audience-building technique. What's more, I'd venture to guess that by being directly involved in the creative process, rather than sitting by as a passive theatre goer, the typical participant will find the experience doubly enriching.

But the Premiere Stages residencies are just one facet of Premiere's larger educational initiative, known as the Premiere Play Factory. Play Factory programming also includes Camp Premiere, a summer theater camp for middle and high school students, and the Play Factory Performance Series, an annual summer performance series featuring dynamic, professional theater presentations designed specifically for young audiences.

And as for all you New Jersey-based nonprofits out there, I suggest you acquaint yourselves with the Provident Bank Foundation. Since its founding in 2003, the foundation has provided more than $19 million in grants for programs focusing on education, health, wellness, recreation, the arts and social and civic services.