Dear family and friends of Orlando Family Stage,
It has certainly been an interesting year to serve as the Chair of the Board of Directors! We have faced unprecedented twists and turns, not just as a theatre company, but as an arts community, and as a world. There was no script for this production – it was all improv. Last year, former Chair Kirt Bocox told you about how we underwent an extensive, multi-year strategic planning process to refine our mission and values. As a by-product of that process, we challenged ourselves to develop new and innovative programming. Going into the COVID-19 pandemic with the leadership of Executive Director Chris Brown and Artistic Director Jeff Revels, we saw the fruits of that labor – our first streaming production, virtual camps, and new education opportunities. We are proud to tell you that our organization remained strong through the pandemic due in part to support from the government, but also to savvy planning and production. We kept our entire staff and doubled down on coming out stronger on the other side.
As we begin to see the first steps of a return to semi-normalcy, we at Orlando Family Stage are excited not just to return to live stage productions, but also to introduce a new membership program, host seasonal camps, and re-commit to learning through performance, all in a COVID-friendly manner. We have made investments in our air filtration systems and cleaning procedures to make sure we are providing the safest environment for your family and your children.
As you read below, you will see examples of how our team has impacted our community in the last year. We could not do the work we do without your support.
Thank YOU for all your efforts in supporting our mission and our arts community!
What did we do in 20/21?
We kept going. Soon after the March 2020 shutdown, the entire country and beyond realized that COVID-19 was not going away as quickly as we all hoped. Some places shuttered for months, others completely closed down never to return, but Orlando Family Stage kept going. We realized that now, more than ever, connection between families, young people, educators, and artists was something desperately essential. When the core of our industry – connection – was threatened, we needed to find a way to keep that fire burning for all those we served.
We worked to innovate our business model, which, like most theatres, had gone uninterrupted for decades. Without a roadmap to navigate this new situation, we did what we do best: trust in our team of people. Our team spent time listening, researching, innovating, and developing exciting new programs for 2020-2021, evaluating our work to the times we are living in, and beyond. Some of those developments you will read about here, and so, so many more are still to come. Most proudly, we have been able to retain all of our full time staff and completely avoid layoffs, furloughs, or any reduction in benefits since the March 2020 start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Through it all, we continued to live our mission and serve our community, both within and outside our walls. Here are some of the highlights!
Vote? by Eric Coble
In the Fall of 2020, Orlando Family Stage produced Vote?, a play by Eric Coble that highlights historical figures who fought to bring voting equality to all United States citizens, resulting in landmark amendments to the Constitution. Knowing this production would not appear before a live audience because of the pandemic, we set out to create our first-ever, fully-produced, filmed production to be distributed digitally. We partnered with local film company, Imag(e) in a (na)tion, with the resulting production streaming nationwide on BroadwayOnDemand, reaching 30,000 children in their classrooms, and airing locally on WUCF to over 900 households. By filming this show professionally, we now have an evergreen project that can be shared every election cycle in the future!
Insightful interviews with production team members about the stage-to-film process became part of resource guides for audience members and teachers.
Using the topics of voting process and equality, our Education department created hours of resources and classroom workshops, bringing important discussions alive pre- and post-show. A high-quality digital Resource Guide included:
- Activities for various grade levels based on themes of the play
- Biographies on historical characters seen in the play
- Clear timeline of voters’ rights historical events
- Explanation of the key voting amendments
- Production team interviews
Additionally, students heard from experts like Bill Cowles, Orange County Supervisor of Elections, sharing thoughts on the process of voting and its importance to individual citizens. Check out a behind-the-scenes tour of a polling location and other great interviews: Expert Interviews
In Apopka, the Hope CommUnity Center partnered with ArtReach Orlando, and challenged their students to not only create art, but also how to create change by using their voices. Each student designed and created a postcard to their future self, explaining why they should exercise their right to vote.
For more information please click here: Vote? by Eric Coble
UCF Graduate Student Spotlight
UCF Graduate student Joni Newman supported Orlando REP’s Education department in creating dramaturgy resources surrounding the streaming production of Vote? By Eric Coble.
Last year, our Education department deeply researched and implemented an expansion of our literacy programs in Pre-K and Elementary classrooms. Education department continued development on drama strategies and corresponding story drama lessons used to teach literacy. Read about our Drama Strategy for Tableau.
Here are more highlights:
- Thanks to Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation, Orlando Family Stage reached 135 students in six dual-language (Spanish/English) Pre-K classes in OCPS. These classes were a follow-up from Orlando REP’s recent work in the dual-language space through a research study: Dual Language Immersion for Young Learners
- Orlando Family Stage spent the entire year in six kindergarten classes at Lake Highland Preparatory School as part of their enrichment program.
- The City of Orlando Mayor’s Matching Grant in Spring 2021 provided resources to facilitate Story Drama lessons in five different community centers and provided free books and literacy kits to over 100 participants.
- Orlando Family Stage presented over 30 Story Drama residencies, both in-person and virtual, throughout Orange County with support from the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.
- At United Cerebral Palsy, Orlando Family Stage used drama strategies to enrich the lives of children with special needs and varied abilities in over nine classrooms in a virtual setting.
Our Education Department worked with several community partners to bring empathy, confidence, literacy, and creativity to marginalized children across Central Florida.
Creative U is a partnership between Orlando Family Stage and ArtReach Orlando. Beginning in 2013 as an effort to combat bullying, the program has evolved from an intervention approach to a program that uses drama, visual arts, and creative writing to build community and explore the ways in which we treat one another and ourselves. Middle School students explore identity, empowerment, social issues, and community through the creative process. During 2020, we were thrilled to continue this program, bringing such important work to students in the virtual setting.
ELTA (Engaged Learning Through the Arts)
Throughout the pandemic, ELTA refocused its efforts to provide teachers tools to help students in a virtual setting find methods of connection in tangible ways. In a time of so much isolation, the arts continued to be an important tool for educators to help the social emotional growth of their students. This program offered four virtual workshops to over 64 teachers in 55 schools, including nine Title 1 schools.
ELTA is proud to be a Partner in Education with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Orange County Public Schools for the last 10 years. Learn more about arts integration here.
We continued to inspire creativity and imagination for children
Virtual Camps & Classes
Orlando Family Stage taught life skills through theatre in camps, classes, and workshops – for newborns through high school graduates! When we closed in March, we immediately shifted to virtual programming throughout our Youth Academy. Orlando Family Stage provided virtual makeup classes, camps, and even plays throughout the year. Virtual camps included engaging in fun online instruction, activities to ignite imagination off the screen, opportunities for individualized interests, the ability to collaborate and see the creativity of fellow students, and the same high-quality instruction and care from Orlando REP’s Youth Academy!
“He continued to reference the stories from the online drama time and use/play/create with the activity pack creations for the whole day and even several days later. Specifically, pretending “Romeo” was causing other kinds of mischief at our house, wearing his Superhero mask (even for his nap), adding more details to his Superhero sidekick and keeping it with him constantly, and making new obstacle courses in our yard for days after that lesson. Quarantine has been lonely so watching the videos the other kids made and the video feedback from the instructor was something my child wanted to go back and watch over and over.”
– Camp Parent
“Hi! Thanks for hosting an engaging session today with the children–definitely needed after a long year with the pandemic. I heard lots of laughter which was awesome!”
– Spring Break Camp Parent
After the COVID-19 closure in early 2020, Orlando Family Stage worked with Orlando Health to welcome back in-person audiences for the show Sleigh What?!?! – A Holiday Family Improv Show & Photos with Santa. Based on suggestions from the audience, the jolly elves played reindeer games, interacted with families, and were able to save Christmas! The show concluded with elves inviting the audience into Santa’s workshop to take their picture with Santa. Safety was our foremost priority while creating this holiday hometown event. Sleigh What?!?! adhered to the proper precautions to ensure a safe visit to the North Pole, thanks to our partners at Orlando Health.
#ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence
Orlando Family Stage was proud to participate in #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence, a national short play competition for middle and high school students, alongside fellow partner theatres including Alliance Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Goodman Theatre, and South Coast Repertory. Teen students had the opportunity to write plays voicing their concerns regarding gun violence and received feedback from professional playwrights.
Orlando Family Stage proudly produced two of the winning plays for the digital premiere: Ms. Martin’s Malaise by Adelaide Fisher and Guns in Dragonland by Eislinn Gracen. What made this very exciting for us is that those two out of eight total winning playwrights are Orlando Family Stage Youth Academy students!
Theatre for the Very Young (TVY) Classes
During 2020, Orlando Family Stage designed a new Baby and Me program, Story Stroll, for our youngest patrons. Each class allows guardians and babies to experience the outdoors together and engage in a creative experience! This new concept grew out of a desire to create a safe learning space where guardians could move around freely with their pre-walking aged children that are either held in a carrier or pushed in a stroller. Each week is a new original story told through movement, props, puppets, and song. This new program is an extension of Orlando REP’s traditional Baby and Me classes that have been a hit among many parents throughout Central Florida.
We have recommitted to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Orlando Family Stage has taken a number of actions and created ongoing measures to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our work. We have invested over 60 hours in all-staff EDI training from a number of sources, including Florida Professional Theatre Association, TYA/USA, the Early Childhood BLM at School Symposium, and Central Florida Entertainment Advocacy. Members of our staff read Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist” together and facilitated group discussions around the topics raised. Continuous strides in our journey of anti-racism/anti-oppression education have been made; however, we know this is a life-long journey rather than a destination.
- We worked through the We See You White American Theatre publication, line by line, with our entire staff, questioning where we thought we were with each point.
- We established a new partnership with Boys 2 Men, a mentoring program specifically designed to support young Black men in the community.
- Working with our Board of Directors, we examined our bylaws to ensure they are anti-racist and to create an even more accessible Board moving forward, including removing the mandatory financial support that was linked to a board seat.
- Staff attended the Ocoee Massacre Exhibit at the Orange County History Center and held a reflection session afterwards on voter suppression and systemic racism.
- Began a commission of a play about the Ocoee Massacre that will play to all eighth-graders in OCPS.
- In June 2021, Orlando Family Stage supported local organization, Black Theatre Girl Magic, by utilizing our facility and co-promotion for a lunch-and-learn event in honor of Juneteenth. We highlighted black authors of children’s books about Juneteenth specifically and other topics throughout the year on our social media platforms and in our educational programming.
- Started active discussions to establish a Black-operated and focused theatre company in our facility by developing an incubator-style program.
- Orlando Family Stage signed the Orlando Economic Development Anti-Racism Pledge
- To view a complete timeline regarding Orlando REP’s commitment to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion, see here.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges and restrictions never before seen. Our entire local arts industry was uniquely impacted by closures of theme parks, tourist attractions, and entertainment venues. In an effort to support affected artists in Central Florida, Orlando Family Stage partnered with a brand new organization known as Greater Orlando Performing Arts Relief (GOPAR). Their mission is to provide accessible assistance to local artists during these challenging times. GOPAR’s goal is to remain sensitive to each individual’s unique circumstances and to offer a holistic approach toward achieving long-term solutions for financial, physical, and emotional well-being. Orlando Family Stage supported fundraising efforts through email campaigns, social media posts, and allotment of free advertising space. Artists are the backbone of our industry, and we are committed to continuing our support of this much-needed effort. Learn more about GOPAR.
Keeping Students Safe
Orlando Family Stage originated modern and innovative ways to continue educating and entertaining children and families through theatre arts. Thanks to our partners at Orlando Health, who helped us create health and safety guidelines, we were able to bring back our Summer Youth Academy production.
The Keeping Classes Safe – Health & Safety Plan was designed to keep all of our loved ones as safe as possible while indoors at our facility.
A typical pre-Covid summer at the REP includes welcoming over 2,000 children to 80+ camps and classes, often across multiple campuses throughout Central Florida. June and July of 2020, instead, saw us filming and streaming virtual camps and classes for students to experience at home.
The Big One-Oh
During the last half of summer 2020, we reformatted the annual Youth Academy summer show to allow for our first-ever Youth Academy virtual full production, The Big One-Oh.
Individual students were cast in roles which they studied during virtual rehearsals, before then coming to the REP individually to film their scenes in front of a green screen.
Extensive post-production editing work by Imag(e) in a (na)tion “added in” students to a dynamic virtual background, illustrated by our wonderful scenic designer, Cindy White. This new partnership with the production company helped create a unique blend of theatre and film for young people. This project led to a larger partnership between the film company and the theatre.
In June of 2021, we were eager to return to our in-person Youth Academy summer show, with the production of Camp Omigosh. Our students were over-the-moon to be performing together again with this intergalactic comedy!