The Community’s Starring Role: Supporting the Performing Arts Starts in Our Own Backyard

March 28, 2014

In the ongoing wake of funding cuts by state governments struggling to balance budgets, schools across the country continue to slash arts programs.

More than 95 percent of school-aged children are attending schools that have cut funding since the last recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While school districts in wealthier neighborhoods have been able to make up for losses through private donors, schools in poorer areas have seen arts programs wiped off the class programming list.

These programs tend to be the first casualties of budget cuts in school districts already struggling to meet their other demands of the academic curriculum. These programs are rarely restored.

Some school districts don’t have much meat left to cut from arts programs - already reduced to bare bones after repeated funding shortfalls over the years.

Although arts and music programs tend to be viewed as less important than reading, math or science, research shows that arts education is academically beneficial.

The arts have proven to be a form of inspiration and expression for many students. Students struggling to find a place to belong in what can often be a challenging high school social climate have been known to find their home in their high school theatre or arts programs.

Wauwatosa schools believes in the arts
It is with great pride I know that the Wauwatosa School District supports and encourages its thriving arts programs.

My youngest is finishing up her sixth year of theatre involvement at Wauwatosa West High School (she was cast in two productions while in middle school) and will graduate in June. Through the power of the theatre program at the school, I have had a front row seat to watch she and her classmates grow in so many ways. Their confidence and speaking skills, team work, and the camaraderie that comes from supporting one another under the skillful guidance of their director, and understanding their need to deliver as an individual so as not to let anyone else in the cast down has been magnificent.

Nothing like 50 to 70 kids focused on putting on one amazing production to bring a group together to really understand teamwork, a valuable skill no matter what career choice is made.

But over the years, I have seen more empty seats at shows than I can fathom. It makes me wonder if the community at large realizes the gift we have in having not just one but TWO outstanding high school theatre programs in our community which have played a role in not only launching numerous talented students into professional acting, stage and tech positions but also over the years has helped thousands find a new way to express themselves and feel like they belong during often tumultuous high school years.

Each show I have had the pleasure of seeing at Wauwatosa East and West has been outstanding. I also attend the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Skylight Music Theatre and have seen the touring shows downtown and in Chicago. In my mind the cost of admission to the high school shows is well worth the value, with the added benefit that your ticket purchase helps support the student’s ability to put on such magnificent productions as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Footloose, Chorus Line, Godspell and this weekend, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. There is significant cost to put on such grand productions from the licensing fees, to lighting, tech, sound, costuming, props, playbills and more.

My plea to you this weekend is this. Don’t just say you support the arts. Really support the arts. Go see a fantastic show at Wauwatosa West. Support for arts programming starts right here in our own backyard. Supporting UPAF and buying season tickets to the downtown theatres is grand and enjoyable and I do the same but realize that the budding performers of tomorrow may be getting their start right here under our noses at our local high schools.

Though my youngest graduates in June, I plan to continue to attend and support the Wauwatosa high school theatre productions for years to come because I believe in the value of this program to provide our children with a well-rounded education beyond the core classes and arm them with skills they will use as they step into adulthood.

See you at the show!

For more information and to purchase online tickets, visit

Show starts at 7 p.m. tonight (Friday) and closing night is tomorrow, Saturday, March 29, at Wauwatosa West High School, 11400 W. Center St. Ticket box office opens at 6:30 for onsite sales.

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