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A scene from the video performance of “The Planets,” a virtual event produced by McCallum Theatre Education. (Photo: Jack Hartin, Special to The Desert Sun)

Yellow school buses no longer line up outside the McCallum Theatre to offload hundreds of students eager to experience high-quality dance, music and theater. But in true theater tradition, the show must go on.

Vice President of Education at McCallum Theatre, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, said: “Facing the restrictions of the pandemic has motivated us to creatively continue our mission of making the arts available and accessible to the youth in the area. We want to move students into creative problem-solving and self-expression through the Aesthetic Education Program.” She credits the long-term relationships with 25 school program partners for the ability to deliver the virtual instruction that will reach 91 classrooms before the holidays and many more thereafter.

Alongside the 33 classroom teachers, six teaching artists, Mark Almy, Sue Roginski, April Rhodes, Calvin Larson, Karen Rae Kraut and Holly O’Farrell, will conduct four dynamic 30-minute Zoom classes to each classroom prior to the video performances of “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” and “The Planets.”

Also, exciting inquiry-driven and layered activities are presented for students in a Google Classroom. Because the education is delivered virtually in the student’s home, an added benefit is the potential to engage entire families in the process. Chairs and coffee tables are moved aside to temporarily convert family rooms to dance studios as multiple generations interact with the activities.

The objective of the Zoom and Google Classes is to prepare kindergarten through fifth grade students for a more meaningful experience when viewing the performances. These encounters with works of art are designed to awaken imaginative learning and inspire a greater awareness of the educational, cognitive, emotional and spiritual power of the arts.

An exciting new partnership with Riverside County Office of Education Visual and Performing Arts will bring the Aesthetic Education Program to 12 classrooms at Perris Elementary School District outside of the Coachella Valley. This implementation will be a model for future expansion in Riverside County.

McCallum Theatre Education believes that all human beings are inherently creative and therefore provides additional programs to all age groups. The Palm Desert Choreography Festival and Open Call Talent Project serve as powerful vehicles for developing artists and providing exciting and affordable performances to the public. The Choreography Festival is dedicated to the advancement of dance as an art form and the promotion of quality choreography. One festival outreach project, The East Valley Dance Project, will launch this fall and run through February, engaging students at Desert Mirage and Coachella Valley High Schools.

Open Call is a talent project/competition for singers, dancers, musicians, jugglers, mimes and other aspiring performers. The project is open to all residents eight years of age and older and provides an opportunity to work with the theater’s professional artistic and production staff. 2020 finalists were creatively presented in a TV special this past July, and the program is now amassing views on McCallum’s YouTube channel.

For more information, call (760) 346-6505.visit mccallumtheatre.com.

Marge Dodge serves on several local non-profit boards supporting her passions of education, literacy and the arts. She is a member of the board of The Muses & Patroness Circle of McCallum Theatre.

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