Keep Theatre in Low Income High School- Roosevelt High School, Portland, OR
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For the last nine years local theatre teacher, Jo Strom Lane, has dedicated her life to her students, community, and art form. When Miss Lane started at Roosevelt High School in 2007, she was asked to come in and build a theatre program from the ground up. In her first year of teaching at RHS she was given students to teach, since the program had not existed the year before and therefore the students could not forecast for it. Little did Miss Lane know that within the next four years of teaching at RHS that she would bring this group of students to compete with their show "Yellow Boat" to not just state level, but to international level at the International Thespian Conference, where she would then become an award winning high school theatre director.
This is not just her only accomplishment. She also established a drama club and Thespian Troupe which annually goes to competition at the regional and state level in script writing, tech, and acting. She fundraises annually so her students can attend these competitions, since most are low income students and can barely afford the $12 to enter a piece at regional level, let alone the nearly $300.00+ it takes to go to State. Last year, she was approached by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to have her students bring a piece to perform for two weeks at Fringe Festival, but sadly had to turn it down due to the cost. She is a board member of local theater company Twilight Theatre Company located in North Portland, a board member for the Oregon chapter of International Thespian Society, and is extremely involved in Oregon's vast theatre community. Her students often joke that she eat, sleeps, and breathes theatre.
Given all her accomplishments we were surprised to find that Miss Lane would be forced to go down to a half time theatre position by the administration. The Roosevelt High School's administration has "asked" Miss Lane to teach her four and five different theatre subjects (Beginning Acting, Intermediate Acting, Advanced Acting, Theatre Marketing/Stagecraft/Tech) and squish these subjects into just three 1.5 hour class periods. They have also asked her to be the adult supervisor for study hall periods when she isn't busy with her theatre class. Both she and her students are confused as to why they want to cut her theatre program in half, especially when the school got a huge grant from the city and school district to build a new performing arts center with a new theater. The only reason Miss Lane was given for theatre classes having to go half time, was because they "DON'T HAVE ENOUGH STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN CLASSES".
Many of Roosevelt's students don't even know that a theatre program exists at their school. Miss Lane and her students are constantly trying to prove themselves to the administration in order to even be mentioned in weekly announcements and monthly recaps. They are also trying to prove that theatre can be a great tool for teachers in other subjects. History and English through the scripts chosen each season. Math and Science through having to build sets and learn other forms of tech. Not to mention the soft skills that are needed for careers such as public speaking, presentation skills, organization, writing skills , etc.
Because Miss Lane is a tenured teacher so they won't be saving any money by cutting the program. By cutting RHS Theatre program they will be further taking away opportunities that these low income students would not otherwise have without Miss Lane's experience and expertise. For many of Miss Lane's students this news makes them feel as though they are having to cut off a limb, because theatre is the only place where they feel they are safe to be themselves and have an outlet to express their creativity. Roosevelt already lost Choir at the end of the 14'-15' school year, don't let theatre be next.
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