CATCO in the Classroom

We all know and love CATCO for what we see on stage, but an initiative that has always been near and dear to our company's heart is what we do for the community in the way of outreach, especially in our local schools.

Our theatre school residencies began in fourth grade classrooms with current CATCO Producing Director, Steven C. Anderson when he was with the Phoenix Theatre for Children. Students in Columbus City Schools were having trouble passing their fourth grade proficiency tests, so the program involved artist educators going into schools and working with students who were considered "at risk of failure in the classroom" to write plays that provided a creative way for them to learn the necessary academic subjects they needed to succeed.

Thanks to generous support from organizations, American Electric Power, the Barbasol Foundation, Honda of America Foundation, the Harry C. Moores Foundation, and the Riley Family Foundation, CATCO has been able to both continue, and expand upon the "at-risk" residency model.

The support from these organizations helps increase our capacity to reach as many classrooms as possible, and enables us to try new approaches to the pre-existing program.

CATCO Associate Producing Director, Joe Bishara is currently piloting a program, which features a new twist on "at-risk" residencies, at Starling STEM/STEAM PK-8 School in Franklinton. Joe calls this program a "multi-grade level residency." The residency involves approximately 250 students in grades 3 through 7 participating in both playwriting and acting.

"This approach fosters a subconscious mentorship program by encouraging students in many different grades to all collaborate with one another," says Joe.

At Starling, Joe has facilitated the writing of two plays called "The Great Flood and the Time Travel Clock" and "Dear Mr. Sullivant." Both of these plays have historical themes, specifically focusing on the unique history of Franklinton.

"I want them to discover as much as they can about the special history of their area so they can develop some pride in their neighborhood," says Joe. Joe thinks that it is especially important that this school has a program and that it is a good choice for the pilot of the multi-grade level residency. "Starling is a new school in an area of the city whose population has historically struggled to master core curriculum; however this school has a lot of really creative and innovative teachers that think outside the box," he says.

The real impact of these programs, though, transcends the stage. The work that CATCO staff does in schools like Starling gives the students an opportunity to garner skills that they might not be able to realize anywhere else such as confidence in public speaking, having respect for others, and the ability to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses.

"The objective of these programs, is to put children in the best situation possible to succeed," says Joe.

With committed CATCO staff, and continued support from our invaluable partners, our company can do exactly that.