No live performance would be possible without the crew backstage, out of the spotlight, ensuring the production goes smoothly. With this in mind, the AT&T Performing Arts Center launched a program called Backstage Spotlight to train students for fulfilling, technical careers in the arts. The program was made possible through support from Bank of America.
Backstage Spotlight makes interaction with professionals a priority. The 30 students selected for the program learn functions like lighting, rigging and flying, and sound production. They bring those skills back to their schools, where teachers report that participants are more engaged. “They take what they’ve learned, take what they’ve seen, take what they’ve had their hands on and make it happen in their own world,” said Ann Carolyn Williams, the Center’s Education and Community Connections Manager.
Backstage Spotlight is one of a number of educational programs run under the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Open Stages initiative. These programs provide exclusive access to the venues within the Center – Winspear Opera House, Wyly Theatre, Strauss Square and Sammons Park – for students from the Dallas Independent School District with an interest in the arts.
Bank of America has partnered with the Center since 2009, and has provided $50,000 annually to support Backstage Spotlight. The grant covers food tickets and transportation for student participants, as well as equipment and staff resources. Students may have the opportunity to attend a performance, where they witness the final execution of work in which they have been involved. Last year, students were invited backstage during a production of “War Horse” to see how technicians controlled the show’s large puppet horses.
“Education’s a big part of the vision for this complex; I see the Backstage Spotlight program as just the beginning,” said Richard Holt, Dallas market president for Bank of America. “The arts have always been an important part of a full, rich community. This is filling in an absolutely critical gap in our education system nationwide.”
With continued support from Bank of America, the Center hopes to expand the program next year to include community college students. They also see tremendous potential to replicate Backstage Spotlight in other communities. “The real focus here is the children,” said Holt. “It’s where public and private come together to craft a vision and an opportunity for our kids.”