The program will kick off March 12 at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, CT, in conjunction with touring Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors, and later include Peter Pan in April, and one additional show to be announced in the fall.
On March 12, the first phase of the program will be launched at the matinee performance of Little Shop of Horrors, "where more than 30 underserved families will be introduced to live theatre." After the performance, the families will attend a reception and discussion with staff from the League and the Bushnell, who will gather feedback from the families about their theatrical experience. According to the League, 100 families in total will participate in the program throughout the year.
The goal is to promote the habit of attending theatre together on a regular basis.
The Bushnell has collaborated with cultural and community-based organizations including the Capital Region Conference of Churches, Guakia, Artists Collective, First Cathedral and the Boys and Girls Club to identify the families.
"Family First Nights" provide discounted theatre tickets for families who may not otherwise be able to attend or afford live theatre. Families attend the theatre together three times per year, and participate in programs, such as post performance discussions. In addition, all participating families receive family theatre packets including study guides, backstage information and a CD, when available. "62 percent of Broadway theatergoers surveyed said that their parents or other adult family members took them to the theatre as a child or teenager," stated Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc. "By engaging the entire family and offering repeated exposure through multiple visits, this project may begin to fill in a gap where no programming currently exists."
"Since The Bushnell first opened its doors in January 1930 as a center for the benefit of the public, the organization has been committed to bringing in new and diverse audiences," said Bushnell executive director David Fay. "Being involved with the 'Family First Nights' program provides us with an incredible opportunity to introduce underserved parts of our community to the joy and wonder that can only be found in live theatre."
The program, modeled after a similar program created a number of years ago by the Mousetrap Foundation in London, is "intended to create life-long experiences and memories, encourage familial theatre-going as a cultural and social experience, and introduce new audiences to the magic of live theatre."
Funding for this pilot program comes from the producers of the participating shows, The League of American Theatres and Producers, The Bushnell, and the Hartford Insurance Group Arts for All Initiative.
The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc., founded in 1930 and now operating under the trademark "Live Broadway," is the national trade association for the Broadway industry. The League's 500-plus members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in over 140 North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the theatre industry.
Broadway industry programs initiated by the League include Kids' Night on Broadway, Broadway On Broadway, an annual outdoor concert in Times Square; generationbroadway.com (a website devoted exclusively to kids interested in Broadway); The Broadway Line, a national toll-free Broadway information hotline (888-BROADWAY); Broadway Ticket Center, and LiveBroadway.com.
Each year, League members bring Broadway to nearly 30 million people in New York and on tour across the U.S. and Canada.
The Bushnell is "Connecticut's premiere performing arts center," hosting more than 450 events yearly, including major Broadway tours, symphony orchestras, family presentations, local arts and community events. In November 2001, The Bushnell completed a $45 million expansion project that added a second, 907-seat theatre to the existing historic structure. The new, state-of-the-art performance hall allows for expanded arts, entertainment and community offerings.