Walnut Street Theatre is steeped in an extraordinary history and is proud of its place in the annuls of American theatre. But the Walnut is casting an eye toward the future too, fostering artists to keep theatre vibrant and exciting. With that goal in mind, the Walnut offers several impressive programs, best described by the new slogan, “Artists and Audiences of Tomorrow.”
In 1984, Walnut Executive Director Bernard Havard founded the Walnut Street Theatre School, the cornerstone of “Artists and Audiences of Tomorrow.” Now in its second decade, the Theatre School has become the Delaware Valley’s most popular theatre training ground. More than 1,000 students will attend classes here this year.
Theatre School Director William Roudebush reorganized the School into three divisions — Discovery, Development and Master’s. Regardless of a student’s level of interest or training, there’s a class at the Walnut to meet an individual’s goal. All classes are taught by working theatre professionals.
The Walnut is also the home of Philadelphia’s most popular summer theatre program, Camp Walnut. Here, many young people discover hidden talents ... youngsters like Lindsay Cummings. In the summer of 1995, Lindsay attended her first Camp Walnut, never having performed on stage. A few months later, she was a Munchkin in the Walnut’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and a few months later, landed the lead role in the new musical Paper Moon.
Young people are encouraged to sample the unique experience of live theatre through the Walnut’s “Audiences of Tomorrow” ticket programs, which include day-of-performance Youth Tix, Youth Subscriptions and discounted school group sales programs. The Walnut’s Professional Apprentice Program provides hands-on experience in all facets of theatre for over a dozen aspiring theatre artists each season. Apprenticeships are available in production, acting, development, marketing, subscriptions, literary management and administration.
Walnut apprenticeships are valuable stepping stones to professional theatre careers. An excellent example can be seen in our current production, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. The cast features two former Walnut acting apprentices, Scott Greer and Ben Lipitz, who now earn a living as professional actors. And our upcoming production of The Rivals features Grace Gonglewski, the Walnut’s first Dorothy Haas Acting Fellow.
The Walnut’s Outreach Program is a professional company which tours area schools with an impressive repertory of live, interactive programs. This troupe has a major impact on Delaware Valley youth, bringing live theatre right into the classroom. During the 1995-96 season, the five-member inter-racial troupe performed before 12,000 students in 41 schools.
The Theatre School has just initiated an exciting new program titled “Adopt a School” to nurture a direct link between the Walnut and a Philadelphia area secondary school. Many schools applied for this coveted opportunity, awarded this year to the Samuel S. Fels High School.
Being “adopted” by the Walnut entitles Fels High to exclusive benefits. Throughout the year, the Walnut will provide free teacher workshops to demonstrate how theatrical techniques can be used in the classroom. The Walnut will also help Fels High with its productions, and students and their parents will attend final dress rehearsals of Walnut Mainstage productions, with cast members following up with school visits.
Considering the breadth and depth of these offerings, it is clear the Walnut is a special place for “Artists and Audiences of Tomorrow.” Local youth can find all the inspiration, innovation and attention they need to grow and develop here in the Delaware Valley at Walnut Street Theatre.
-- By Maria E. Sticco