Pushcart Players Receives Arts Education Grant


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Pushcart Players in “Alice in Wonderland” (Photo: Gerry Goodstein)

Verona-based Pushcart Players received a generous grant from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey to provide theater arts education to children on the Autism spectrum and with other cognitive and physical disabilities. The John F. Kennedy School in Newark will benefit from the school-year long residency program.

Healthcare Foundation of NJ (HFNJ) is founded and guided by the Garden State’s Jewish community, and works to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable, underserved populations. JFK School in Newark identifies and enhances the talents of their special learners, directing them toward productive citizenship.

“And Pushcart Players delivers the benefits of arts participation to learning and to life,” said Paul Whelihan, Pushcart’s producing artistic director. “The Healthcare Foundation is providing a pathway to learning, healing, and human connection. The collaboration among HFNJ, JFK School, and Pushcart is phenomenal!”

Teaching artists from Pushcart will be integrated into the lessons at JFK School each week for students to develop, create, and present original musical theater works. The program is designed to offer both arts literacy and learning in other areas of development. Piloted during the 2015-16 semesters at JFK, the current program deepens and diversifies active arts participation by the students and faculty.

“Theater at its best is a transformative process,” said Whelihan. “Both actors and audience should leave the theater or classroom feeling differently from when they entered. At JFK School, I have seen unrestrained joy in the students as they create and perform. And there is a true communication among performers and participants. Here, it’s abundantly clear ‘why we do what we do.’”

During the residency at JFK School, Pushcart will also perform its productions of “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “Peter and the Wolf” to offer high quality theatrical experiences for all students. These performances by professional artists (Actors’ Equity Association) are supported by study guides, post-performance assessments and other supplemental materials, and adapt to any location with innovative scenery, costumes, lighting and sound systems.

Pushcart Players is the award-winning professional touring theater company specializing in arts education for children. Twice nominated for an Emmy©, Pushcart is the recipient of numerous state and private awards for excellence and innovation. A social-profit organization founded in 1974, Pushcart brings substantive musical theater, workshops, and residencies to young people and their families in schools and theaters nationwide. The company has traveled more than 6 million miles nationally and abroad, from the rural red schoolhouse to the nation’s White House.

Pushcart Players addresses social studies, literature, history, the Autism spectrum, special educational needs, and values clarification for young people, their families, and their educators. For further information on this or any Pushcart program and service, visit www.pushcartplayers.org.

As a social-profit organization founded in 1974, Pushcart Players’ programs are made possible in part by Actors’ Equity Foundation, ADP Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The Healthcare Foundation of NJ, The Hyde & Watson Foundation, The Montclair Foundation, NJ State Council on the Arts / Department of State, The Pine Tree Foundation of NY, The Puffin Foundation, The Turrell Fund, Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement, Josh & Judy Weston Foundation, and The Whitehill Foundation.

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