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Heritage High School among winners of NBC theatre grant

Inspired by the true story of how a high school musical became a revolution, Auli’i Cravalho and Damon J. Gillespie star in NBC’s “Rise.” Facebook/Rise
Out of thousands of applications, NBC executives announced this week that Heritage High School has been selected as one of 50 high schools in America to win $10,000 for a new theatre grant.

“It’s been an amazing whirlwind,” Heritage High Director of Theatre Angela Ramacci said. “We certainly have some quiet kids, but we also have very energetic ones, and I think even the quiet ones were unbelievably thrilled and stunned.”

Inspired by the network’s upcoming Jason Katims drama “Rise,” which premieres March 13 and follows the effects a high school theatre department has on its surrounding community, NBC launched R.I.S.E. America, a program that grants a half-million dollars to high school theatre programs across the country.

“As I was in the process of creating ‘Rise,’ I witnessed more and more funding stripped from the arts programs,” Katims said. “One of the schools we shoot ‘Rise’ in offered us free reign of the school theater all season because they don’t use it. They no longer have a theater program. All this inspired me to talk to the network about finding ways to support high school drama programs.”

R.I.S.E. (Recognizing and Inspiring Student Expression) America has awarded 50 high schools a $10,000 grant that will enable them to enhance or revitalize their theatre programs. The winning schools can use the grant money to cover critical needs, such as master classes and production expenses.

Katims said the great thing about R.I.S.E. America is that schools can use the grant however it most needs it — whether it’s to build a set, repair a stage or help fund a trip to participate in a theater competition. The money will give a tremendous boost to these theater programs and in some cases be the difference between having a theater program or not having a program.

“I am incredibly proud that our program is giving the same opportunity to today’s high school students to experience theatre as I had in my high school theatre program in Rockford, Illinois,” Chairman of NBC Entertainment Bob Greenblatt said in a prepared statement. “Being a member of a theatre troupe profoundly changed my life and I hope that the grant not only enriches the lives of these students but extends into their communities.”

Ramacci said the Heritage theatre department is honored to have been chosen and to represent Leesburg, the county and state, as they are the only winner from Virginia. She also looks forward to forging connections with other theater departments and organizations.

To administer the grant applications and award process, NBC partnered with the Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF), an organization dedicated to shaping lives through theatre education.

To qualify, high schools had to have an existing theatre program or a champion of theatre arts in their teaching staff in cases where a school’s theatre program was cut because of budget constraints.

Eligible high schools submitted a video up to two minutes long celebrating their theatre program, a 500-word essay explaining why their school should be awarded the grant and how they will use the $10,000 should they win and a letter of recommendation from a school principal or administrator endorsing the application.

Ramacci said that while the Heritage theatre program has seen some success, she has big goals for how the program can use the grant to improve and set it up for long-term success. She will work with NBC, ETF and school administration on how to best use the funds.

The Heritage theatre department will be part of Saturday's NBC RISE presentation at noon at the D.C. Convention Center, where they will be presented with an official check, perform, meet some "Rise" cast members and get a sneak peak of the show.

Loudoun residents can see the award-winning Heritage theatre program at its upcoming spring production of "Beauty and the Beast" April 26-29 and May 4-5. Ramacci also urges Loudouners to see plays put on by other high schools.

“We hope that everybody goes out and supports local theater. As one of many schools, we hope everyone is going out and supporting all of the schools in LCPS and beyond,” Ramacci said. “The entire idea of RISE is that we’re recognizing student expression, so we want to just help promote theater in that way too.”


This is great news for Heritage families! Kudos to schools who think outside the budget box, seek private funding for programs that are cut, and get it! I bet their home real estate prices will rise because of this creative thinking, too.

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