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Cleveland Play House Actors Teach Cleveland Students More Than Theater Skills

Cleveland Play House teaching artist Eugene Sumlin working with students from Marion-Sterling school [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

Kids acting up in school is nothing new. But teaching artists from Cleveland Play House help Cleveland students act out their emotions in the safe space of the classroom. 

CPH recently received a $2 million federal grant to expand its CARE program, Compassionate Arts Remaking Education, which puts teaching artists into K-8 classrooms in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

CPH teaching artist Colleen Longshaw Jackson [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

The funding comes from the Assistance for Arts Education Development and Dissemination Grants Program. This program will increase the number of schools served from four to 10 and add about seven new teaching artists to a current group of six.

Teaching artists like Colleen Longshaw Jackson from Jamison school encourage students to open up about their emotions.

CPH teaching artist Colleen Longshaw Jackson [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

"We take drama and theater techiniques and help students learn how to articulate how they feel," she said.

At Marion-Sterling, teaching artist Eugene Sumlin makes sure each student feels safe sharing those emotions in class.

CPH teaching artist Eugene Sumlin [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

"That's the first thing, because we've learned if they don't feel safe and they don't trust you, they're not going to go with you where you need them to go," he said.  

CPH commissioned national playwrights to compose monologues specific to Cleveland and young CMSD students, which they perform in class.

CPH teaching artist Colleen Longshaw Jackson [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

"Once we give them this idea that there's nothing they can't do, they'll pick up a script that's challenging for them and mess up half the words.  But they don't quit," Jackson said.

With the new grant, CPH director of education Pamela DiPasquale plans to broaden the CARE program to work with more students and address difficulties in their everyday lives.

An indepedent assessment of the program to date found it is key to address traumatic events the students experience through the curriculum. 

CPH teaching artist Eugene Sumlin [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

“We know for instance the impact of trauma… can undermine a student’s ability to form relationships, regulate emotions, learn cognitive skills,” she said.

Sumlin sees direct results from the students who participate in the program that go beyond the K-8 classrooms.

CPH teaching artist Colleen Longshaw Jackson [courtesy: Cleveland Play House]

"As they get confidence, they start talking about their future, they start talking about college, they start talking about high schools and dreams," he said.

Cleveland Play House CARE program

View this post on Instagram @elsumlin of @cleveplayhouse CARE program with @teachcle_cmsd which received $2million @usedgov grant for more applause.ideastream.org and listen to 90.3 FM WCPN

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Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.