News Go behind the scenes with Omaha Performing Arts

Students and teachers stay connected to theater

Posted On Mar 30, 2021, 16:23 PM by Bill Grennan
O-pa staff left to right: Daniel Diaz, Taylor Wyatt, Bill Grennan, Annie Gaston 

Providing students with quality arts education is a challenge that many of our area schools face. That challenge is complicated further due to the COVID pandemic.  However, Omaha Performing Arts’ teaching artists and staff are up for the task. They help bring access to arts education for students and teachers through our Disney Musicals in Schools program.

The Disney Musicals in Schools program, or DMIS for short, builds sustainable musical theater programs in public elementary schools throughout Omaha, Council Bluffs, Lincoln and surrounding communities. In a typical year, a team of O-pa teaching artists provide support to school staff as they mount their first 30-minute Disney KIDS musical. Over the past five years, O-pa has helped 21 schools in 8 different districts start their theater programs. With the prospect of working directly with schools and performing shows on hold for this year, O-pa’s teaching artists thought outside the box and created three different initiatives to help DMIS alumni schools stay engaged with the performing arts no matter the circumstances.

DMIS Omaha Take Home Kit Photo 1
Teaching artist, Kelsi Weston

The first is take-home activity kits for students based on the seven different Disney KIDS musicals. Nearly 1,000 take-home activity kits were delivered to schools across Omaha, Lincoln and Plattsmouth. These kits provide students with all the materials needed to have fun and get creative with shows like Aladdin KIDS, Frozen KIDS, The Jungle Book KIDS and more! The activities provided include designing Elsa’s castle, building a magic carpet (that actually flies!), and creating a vast jungle that Mowgli and Baloo live in.

Next, O-pa’s teaching artists created sing/dance/craft-a-long videos for schools.  These pre-recorded videos help students perform song segments from Disney KIDS musicals like ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ from The Lion King KIDS and other shows.

Lastly, O-pa stays connected with teachers by hosting monthly virtual professional development sessions for alumni school staff. These monthly sessions help teachers sharpen their skills in music directing, choreography, accessibility and more. By helping teachers deepen their understanding of musical theater production, DMIS alumni will be ready to hit the ground running once they return to the stage.

Left to right: Teaching artists, Marcel Daly and Hillary Horner

For O-pa teaching artists like Marcel Daly, the opportunity to keep schools engaged with the arts has been a worthwhile task.

 “With this being my first year as a teaching artist, it was very heartbreaking concluding that I wouldn't be working hands on with the schools,” Daly said. “Having said that, nothing brought me more joy than thinking about how these projects are going to help the kids express themselves, as well as give the teachers some support.”

Around this time last year, students got to live out their dream of performing their Disney KIDS musicals on the Holland Center stage. This year’s activities help students stay connected to that dream. Like the Disney Musicals in Schools’ theme song says, “Start with a dream and imagine where you take it.”

Learn more about the Disney Musicals in Schools program.