“It’s a time of year when people come together and create family—sometimes with blood relatives and often with people who share a common bond.” -Arena Stage Executive Director Edgar Dobie

We are pleased to share a blog post from Natalie Ault, Communications and Events Manager at Theatre Forward, on the incredible work our theatres are doing this holiday season.

Working with 19 regional theatres all across the country continues to impress the importance of the arts in the United States. Not just because of the incredible artistic contributions these institutions provide, but because of the impact they have on their communities.

During the holiday season there is a spirit of giving in the air and hope in people’s hearts, which often leads to an outpouring of generosity in both monetary contributions and expanded volunteerism. This is also true in the case of our member theatres.

All year long our member theatres are important parts of the community and strive to make an impact on those around them. From running coat drives and toy drives to hosting holiday open houses, regional theatres work hard to make the holidays special as many family traditions revolve around attending productions like A Christmas Carol or A Christmas Story.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time at our member theatre Arena Stage in Washington, DC. At the core of their development, like all of our member theatres, is the desire to extend the reach of the arts past the stage and into the community. I was able to experience this initiative by attending one of their donor events surrounding Nina Simone: Four Women and seeing their production of The Pajama Game.

Theatres also do what is possible to help out those who need an extra push during the holidays. Arena Stage hosts a Military Thanksgiving every year to help the hundreds of D.C.-area military families who must spend the Thanksgiving holiday away from loved ones. This year, in gratitude for their service, Arena Stage invited wounded warriors, service men and women and their families to a complimentary dinner and performance of The Pajama Game at the Mead Center for American Theater. Since the first Military Thanksgiving in 2011, Arena Stage has served more than 1,000 military members and their families with the annual event.

“It’s a time of year when people come together and create family—sometimes with blood relatives and often with people who share a common bond,” shares Executive Director Edgar Dobie. “We hope that Arena has created a family with members of the military and that they will find some joy gathering for a meal and a good show at our house.”

Our theatres try to make an impact 365 days a year, but during the holidays it’s nice to have a reminder of the difference that everyone can make with a little extra effort. The staff members at Arena Stage donate their time and resources to put on the annual Military Thanksgiving so people who don’t have access to a Thanksgiving dinner can still participate in festivities.

Most of these organizations were founded to be pillars of the communities they exist in. Yes, they are theatres and they put on many performances a year, but they also run invaluable education programs and outreach that has become indispensable for many. From in school programs to engagement inside the community regional theatres are constantly working to connect with those around them.

As part of its ongoing efforts to forge deeper connections with The Rhode Island community, Trinity Rep has invited 18 different community groups to perform in every public performance of this year’s production of A Christmas Carol. Celebrating the community-driven spirit of Southern New England’s favorite holiday tradition, co-directors Angela Brazil and Stephen Thorne are excited to invite these groups on stage to share in the spotlight. Each community group will perform in three consecutive performances throughout the course of the run of the show.

For 40 years the show has been an integral part to Rhode Island holiday celebrations and now Trinity is adding another layer by having people from the Providence community join the actors onstage.

This time of year is already magical, but adding an extra layer can really make the holidays that much more special. The Goodman Theatre in Chicago have also added an extra something to let more people experience their production of A Christmas Carol.

More Chicagoland families will have the opportunity to experience A Christmas Carol as Goodman Theatre offers its first-ever sensory-friendly/relaxed performance this season. Presented in partnership with Autism Speaks-Chicago, the Goodman welcomes families with members who have autism or other social, cognitive and physical challenges that create sensory sensitivities. The performance will take place on December 30 at 2:00pm and all patrons are welcome. For over four decades, 1.5 million people have delighted in the spectacular storytelling, glorious music and Scrooge’s unforgettable discovery of kindness, generosity and love and this year even more people will be able to access the tale. The Goodman is also hosting a Tiny Time Drive for the rest of the show’s run in support of Candlelighters NYC. The “Tiny Tim Drive” is part of the Arts in Action series, which provides Goodman Theatre audiences with ideas for simple non-partisan actions on the issues explored onstage. Candlelighters NYC supports families who travel to NYC for pediatric cancer treatments. You can learn how to help by clicking here.

Outside of Chicago, many of our member theatres are now offering sensory friendly performances throughout the season. The Old Globe’s production of The Grinch hosted a performance on December 9 and Actor’s Theatre of Louisville created a special workshop called Scrooge’s Christmas Journey to provide a relaxed introduction to theatre for children. Many theatres are working to expand their offerings so everyone can enjoy theatre.

It is said that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, and for many people that is the truth, but it is also the time to remember those less fortunate and to do what is possible to serve those around us. These are just a few examples of the incredible service our theatres provide during the holidays. All 19 of our member theatres strive to make a difference all year long and we at Theatre Forward work to do what we can to support our member theatres in that mission. [As you think of how to celebrate the holiday season, perhaps consider starting a different tradition that involves the arts. Every little bit counts, whether it is financial support or donating a toy at Cleveland Play House or pajamas at Alliance Theatre or volunteering at a food bank, the spirit of the season can be served in many ways. Theatre makes a difference in so many people’s lives and we can all do a little something to continue that.

Please use the links below to find out more information about the various programs at our theatres.

From all of us at Theatre Forward we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful new year.