Interact Program

StageNotes: A Midsummer Night's Dream

InterACT: Changing Students’ Lives, One Show at a Time

by Education @ Hartford Stage

Education students enjoying a matinee performance. Photo by The Defining Photo
Education students enjoying a matinee performance. Photo by The Defining Photo

Each year, InterACT exposes hundreds of underserved students, grades 9-12, to professional theatre by inviting them to participate in the Student Performance Series, Hartford Stage’s matinee program, free of charge. Teachers may apply to bring one or two classes. Hartford Stage teaching artists lead a series of in-school, pre- and post-show workshops exploring themes related to the productions with all InterACT students. InterACT is subsidized through Hartford Stage corporate and foundation funding.

The primary goals of InterACT are to expose students to a wide range of genres of dramatic literature and performance styles reflecting the diversity of performing arts practitioners, our audience, and our community; develop critical skills related to drama and language arts; and to strengthen the relationship between students and Hartford Stage by cultivating students’ identities as scholars, critics, and fans of live theatre.

Education @ Hartford Stage recently spoke with Kimberly Childress, Theme Coach for the Humanities Department at Hartford’s Bulkeley High School, about how InterACT has positively affected the lives of her students.

How long have you been connected with the InterACT program?

Bulkeley’s Humanities Studies program has been connected with the InterACT program since 2009.

What were some of your favorite shows or moments from this past season?

While all three shows were wonderfully produced and entertaining, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey were powerful and relevant for our students. The Piano Lesson’s music was gorgeous and transported us to another time and place full of emotion and depth; while Pelkey’s use of humor was an avenue into a painful and unjust incident of hate. The actor’s seamless transition to multiple characters was amazing, and the message was so inspiring.

What are you looking forward to the most about this season?

This season’s selection of productions proves to be as exciting as last season’s.  It is difficult to choose, but for the students I am most looking forward to A Christmas CarolA Ghost Story of Christmas.  The larger-than-life set and intense level of action feed the students’ imagination and pushes forward the important themes of greed and responsibility to others that are prevalent throughout our Humanities Studies curriculum.  It has always been a student favorite, and Hartford Stage never disappoints.

How have you incorporated the work with Hartford Stage into your classroom?

In addition to the wonderful workshops held by Hartford Stage teaching artists before and after the show, the productions that the students see live on to become proof points or evidence in their future work in the Humanities Studies. In many instances, the plays help build background knowledge for our students who have limited travel and life experiences outside of Hartford.

What was the experience like for your students to attend the theatre?

For most of my students, Hartford Stage is their first exposure to the theatre.  It is exciting and vibrant, and they quickly learn that they become part of the experience and that an audience has a responsibility and indeed do interact with the actors/production.  They become passionate about a character(s) or an issue.  It is so gratifying to see their faces after a show and literally be begged to come again.

Why do you think InterACT is valuable?

I believe the ability to expose Hartford students to theater is what makes InterACT most valuable.  It is a cultural experience that builds literary knowledge and promotes empathy in students in a unique and powerful way that many students do not have access to.  InterACT also exposes students to the arts as an avenue for employment, whether it’s acting, audio-visual work, design, etc.  Many schools in Hartford, including Bulkeley, do not have performing arts in their curriculum or as after-school activities (Bulkeley does have band). Finally, InterACT also promotes the arts in Hartford and builds student awareness that Hartford is a destination for culture and entertainment.

For more information on InterACT – or pre- and post-show workshops, call 860-520-7244 or email