By O’Neil Arnold, Commonwealth Theatre Center

The mission of Commonwealth Theatre Center (CTC) is to develop youth and our community through excellence in comprehensive theatre education and performance. Formerly Walden Theatre and Blue Apple Players (both founded in 1976), the organizations merged on January 1, 2015. Under the umbrella of CTC, the subsets of Walden Theatre Conservatory and Blue Apple Outreach work together to annually provide theatre education opportunities to approximately 44,100 youth (PreK-12) from 252 area schools, including most Title 1 Jefferson County Public Schools, and 7,400 adults in 74 zip codes regionally. To ensure arts access for youth from all socioeconomic backgrounds, CTC annually budgets $30,000+ in its operating budget to help meet every request for need-based Walden Theatre Conservatory financial aid with some level of support. CTC’s goal in partnering with the Fund for the Arts NeXt program was to create a new signature and sustainable fundraising event that strengthens awareness of CTC’s brand.

“A Night of ACTING UP” on Thursday, April 26, 2018 raised a net $16,000 for the Walden Theatre Conservatory financial aid program, benefiting students who cannot afford arts education programming on their own. CTC is grateful to the Fund for the Arts NeXt program ambassadors who helped to develop and execute this fundraiser, which hosted 150 people and reengaged Conservatory alumni through an intimate performance tour that highlighted five decades of CTC’s programming. The performance tour – inspired by a NeXt program ambassador’s experience attending Sleep No More (an immersive theater performance) in New York City – was highly praised by attendees as both entertaining and a creative use of CTC’s building on Payne street. Attendees also enjoyed music from Conservatory alumna Carly Johnson, Craig Wagner, and Wax Factory, and participated in a balloon pop – every balloon sold! – and decade-themed costume contest. CTC is looking forward to building on this event next year, and thanks its NeXt team for their ideas, enthusiasm and support.

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