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ELPRA's virtual theater programming wins 2021 innovative programming award

December 8, 2020
<p>Patriarche Park on September 29, 2020.</p>

Patriarche Park on September 29, 2020.

The East Lansing Department of Parks, Recreation and Arts, or ELPRA, has announced Monday that its virtual theatre programming has been selected as a 2021 Innovative Programming Award Winner from the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association, or mParks.

ELPRA's All-of-us Express Children's Theatre's, or AECT, program to transition kids from face-to-face programming to virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic was selected as an award winner. AECT utilized Zoom and other resources to offer 10 virtual drama camps for 81 students from July to August. One camp included the AECT's Studio Class where students studied "The Little Prince."

Recreation/Youth Program Coordinator Kathleen Miller said she is excited to receive the award, especially during the pandemic.

"We are very lucky that we have an artistic director and our production crew and they are incredibly talented and incredibly creative," Miller said. "So I was very confident that we were going to be able to pull this off. Another key factor is that there is a very strong following in our community for the Children's Theatre."

"So when the kids had to start back in last spring, learning online, they were getting a little lost without being able to interact with their theater friends. And so this was really a good opportunity to get them back. Even though they weren't able to meet in person, we were able to spend some time online with some of their children and nurture that part of their life."

AECT also transitioned a six-month, in-person theatrical study program into a nine-month program by hosting Zoom rehearsals and physically distant outdoor rehearsals. The program hosted two live outdoor performances in August. With performances in a large tent with a limited audience that physically distanced and performers wore masks.

AECT also held its first-ever virtual production of "Snow White" and "The Princess and the Pea" on November 6. Nearly 50 area kids participated and 78 families purchased tickets to watch the performance via YouTube.

“We are extremely proud of the All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre team for their hard work to transition to a virtual format, so that area youth can continue to participate in theatre and the community can continue to enjoy theatre productions during these difficult times,” Tim McCaffrey, East Lansing Parks, Recreation and Arts Director said in a press release.  

ELPRA’s award will be presented at the 2021 Virtual mParks Conference on February 3, 2021, during the 9 a.m. general session. 

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