HAWAII THEATRE MISSION
The Hawaii Theatre, listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, has played a significant role in Hawaii’s cultural landscape for 98 years. Hawaii Theatre Center was established in 1984 as a nonprofit organization to restore and operate the historic 1922 theatre as a leading performance venue and centerpiece of economic revitalization in Honolulu’s Downtown and Chinatown districts. Today the organization delivers unique and important services to the community as both a producer of shows and as a performing arts venue for a broad range of entertainment, cultural, and educational opportunities. Each year Hawaii Theatre Center serves an average of 100,000 patrons of all ages, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and who are mainly Oahu residents.
ARTS EDUCATION PROGRAM BACKGROUND
For 12 years, the Hawaii Theatre Center’s Educational Programming has provided affordably priced, live theatre productions for audiences of all ages. There are generally three elements to this program: Summer Intensive Theatre Camp, Theatre for Young Audiences Series, and the Annual Punchbowl Music Festival. The program places particular focus on promoting literacy by taking stories from the printed page to the stage in a way that enlightens the imagination. Another benefit is the program stimulates curiosity for learning and encourages both bookworms and reluctant readers alike.
The Educational Programming series has produced live high-quality on-stage productions including Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mulan, The Whiz, Math Magic, Beauty and The Beast, Seussical: The Musical, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, Shakespeare: The Tempest, James and The Giant Peach, and many more. Cast members from these productions have gone onward to pursue higher education and follow their passions for the arts. Some cast members have returned as instructors to the program. For the 2020 – 2021 productions, the Hawaii Theatre Center is proud to present the Hawaii premiere of Disney’s iconic Moana Jr. and Tarzan: The Stage Musical.
Incorporating music and science are unique to Hawaii Theatre’s educational programming – the staff collaborates with Hawaii Opera Theatre on a kid-friendly adaptation of an opera that engages the students listening skills. Teachers are provided the lyrics and the soundtrack to the opera, which is played prior to attending the performance.
COMMUNITY NEED FOR PROGRAM
Multiple studies indicate participation in arts and arts education is associated with improved school readiness among young children at risk. Benefits include positive academic and behavioral outcomes in youth and a host of beneficial health, cognitive, and social outcomes for adults. This includes increased mental and physical stimulation, social engagement, and stress reduction among older adults.
Hawaii public schools reflect the nation’s downward trend in offering art education. Despite a 2001 mandate requiring the State to guarantee K-12 students’ access to high-quality arts education, policy limitations and shrinking budgets negatively impact the ability of teachers to integrate the arts into their core curriculum. A 2012 report by the National Center for Education Statistics ranked Hawaii 40th out of 50 states when it comes to art education policies in public schools.
In 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that Hawaii’s public schools are still lacking in 5 of 11 key policy areas. Among them: the arts not defined as a core academic subject. K-12 schools are not required to offer art instruction, and credits in the arts are not necessary for high school graduation. Individual school administrators typically decide how much of their funding goes to various programs, and the availability and quality of arts classes can vary from school to school.
Hawaii students have an additional disadvantage not shared by students on the mainland, as the geographically isolated islands pose a unique challenge for arts presenters and educators. Hawaii’s access to the larger art world is limited by the tremendous costs incurred in airfare and freight. Furthermore, Hawaii’s high cost of living and low wages render it impossible for many families to attend performing arts events.
Hawaii’s Department of Education reports that for the current school year, 50.5% of public school students statewide are considered economically disadvantaged. This includes 102 of Oahu’s public schools, which are Title I schools, and at least 47.2% of the student population who qualify for the free and reduced-price meals program.
As national data has shown, the decline in arts education is most critical among schools serving the economically disadvantaged. Absent access to arts education in the classroom, access to high quality, affordably priced arts experiences from community providers can help Oahu public schools fill this void.