When the new ten-episode drama Rise premieres on NBC March 13, television audiences across the country will watch as two teachers battle to sustain Stanton High’s theatre program—believing fully in the power of the arts to help students discover and express themselves and lift up the community around them. Amidst budget cuts and parental backlash, Lou Mazzuchelli and Tracey Wolfe (played by Josh Radnor and Rosie Perez) make their case.
Now, NBC has partnered with the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) to revitalize high school arts programs—like the one depcited in the show—across the nation with R.I.S.E. America. The network has pledged $500,000 to provide $10,000 grants to 50 U.S. high schools. The winning schools can use the grant money to cover the costs of master classes and production expenses for their theatre department. The application period is now open for eligible high schools and will close February 6. To apply, create a video that demonstrates what makes your drama program special paired with a short essay about why your school deserves a grant and how it will use the funds. Visit nbc.com/rise for full details.
“This program is incredibly personal to me as someone whose own life was changed by a high school theatre program,” said Chairman of NBC Entertainment Robert Greenblatt in a statement. “I wholeheartedly support the work of the ETF and have seen the effect of their initiative on thousands of students. I’m proud that Rise will be more than just an uplifting show about a high school drama program, but, through this initiative, will also have an impact on the lives of real students in 50 high schools.”
That mission was also a goal of Rise creator, executive producer, and showrunner Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights). “From the start, I wanted to find a way to support the types of schools and students whose stories we were telling,” he said in a statement.
“Only 33 percent of school districts provide financial support to high school theatre programs beyond classroom instruction. The R.I.S.E. American grants can be a life-saver for school and underserved communities,” said ETF president Julie Cohen Theobald.
Rise also stars Damon J. Gillespie, Ted Sutherland, Amy Forsyth, Rarmian Newton, Shannon Purser, Casey Johnson, Shirley Rumierk, Marley Shelton, and more. Based on the book Drama High by Michael Sokolove—based on the real-life teacher Lou Volpe—and produced by Hamilton’s Jeffrey Seller, the show follows the lives of the students in the drama program and their struggles with identity.