NEW YORK — In the heart of the theater district here, Bravo last Tuesday unveiled a new public affairs program designed to bring theater education to children in 20 markets this year.
Through its "Bravo On with the Show" program, the cable network will lead a tour of Broadway-trained performing arts teachers, who will conduct one- and two-day theatrical workshops in local high school or community theaters.
Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Lea Thompson have endorsed the campaign and will appear in public service announcements for the initiative. Bravo plans to produce new PSAs, starring the local student performers, in each market where the tour stops.
The national PSAs also can be customized with the affiliates' names and voiceovers, and are designed to help viewers lobby for increased theater-education funding in the local schools.
In some markets, Bravo and its cable affiliates will target at-risk children for the program.
Bravo Networks president Kathleen Dore said the initiative, which was two years in the making, came in part as a response to school cutbacks in theater-arts programs. "We felt this was something that Bravo could do uniquely and could do well," she said.
In partnership with theater-arts education company Camp Broadway, the network conducted a trial workshop with schoolchildren in New York. The first tour stop is set for May 19-20 in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Dore said the theater-arts workshops not only instill performing arts skills, but also help children develop the poise, self-confidence and a sense of teamwork that can serve them well later in life.
At the press conference, Thompson recounted how a theater arts program in her native Minneapolis "really changed my life. I want to do anything I can to help give children those experiences."
Among the cable affiliates that have signed on to participate this year are AT&T Broadband, Cablevision Systems Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., Insight Communications Co. and Time Warner Cable. Bravo hopes to expand the program into more markets in the future.
Time Warner Cable senior vice president of corporate affairs Lynn Yaeger said the new Bravo initiative fits in with the MSO's goal to help communities bring arts education back to the schools. Yaeger said such programs "help better prepare kids for life in the modern workplace."
To help promote interest in the theater, Bravo also plans to tape a Nov. 12 event called Broadway's Best, which will bring together more than a dozen top pop recording artists to sing Broadway show tunes. The event will air on Bravo early next year.
"Bravo on with the Show" is in some ways reminiscent of the "VH1 Save the Music" public affairs initiative, which aims to bring music education back to the schools. It is also funded in large part by a high-profile, annual on-air event, Divas Live.
"Certainly the success that VH1 has had encouraged us that we could have an impact," Dore admitted, but added that there were significant differences in the new Bravo program. "This is a very personal and direct intervention with a child's life."
Bravo will post information about the "Bravo On with the Show" tour at www.bravo.com.