Picture of FWBHS Theatre students on stage

Fort Walton Beach HS Theatre Wins Prestigious Grant to Support Theatre Education

Fort Walton Beach High School recently announced that the American Theatre Wing, best known as the creator of the Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards, is awarding the Fort Walton Beach High School Theatre Department with a Classroom Resource Grant from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative.

“I believe passionately that the arts should be available to all young people. The grant proposals received revealed an incredible level of need in every corner of America. This is merely a start – and a thrilling one – but I’ve never been more aware of the challenge ahead,” said Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“There is no more vital way to ensure the long term health of our art form than to provide educational resources for young students with a passion for the theater. The need is nothing short of overwhelming, and our goals are ambitious. We are filled with pride over this year’s grants. Our focus is now on the expansion of this program that Andrew started, to cover even more schools across every corner of this country,” said Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing.

With the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation’s help, the American Theatre Wing is investing in Public Schools to help drama teachers get more of the resources they need to provide quality drama instruction in their schools. This project is an expansion of the work that the multi-Tony Award winning composer and producer has been doing to promote and fund arts education through his Foundation in the United Kingdom.

Through this Classroom Resource grant-giving program, funding is provided directly to under-resourced public schools to provide instruments, dance floors, lighting grids, and other necessary materials to help create new and enhance existing theatre programs.

These grants are part of the American Theatre Wing’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, a major new national initiative which received $1.3 million in seed funding from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation to promote diversity, equity, and access to the arts. The Initiative’s focus is to bridge the gap between talent and opportunity, creating a stronger pipeline to the professional theatre for promising artists of all backgrounds—fostering a future generation of theatre makers and patrons that reflects the diversity and dynamism of America as a whole. 

“The recognition from the American Theatre Wing is a tremendous honor,” said director Christa Whittaker. “My students and I put in tremendous effort to keep our program one of the best in the state of Florida. It’s a blessing to have the funds to begin making the space safe to work in.”

More information about the ALW Classroom Resource Grants can be found at http://americantheatrewing.org/program/the-andrew-lloyd-webber-initiative/.  Information about Fort Walton Beach High School is available at www.FWBvikings.com.

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About FORT WALTON BEACH HIGH SCHOOL:

Fort Walton Beach High School (FWBHS) for $22,000 to create a safer performance space for the school’s active theatre program.  FWBHS is located in the panhandle of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico in an area where the school population is largely influenced by the military and its support industries. The school’s auditorium facility was built in the 1960’s, and as arts funding is a low priority in the district, the rigging system, curtains, and lighting systems are damaged and unsafe for the production level that the faculty and student body are capable of accomplishing. The program is committed to safety, quality performance, and excellence in theatre—even with limited resources. Every student in the program helps with the productions-- sets are built by the 13 to 18 year olds in the program under the direction of faculty. Teachers feel that ownership of the work makes a positive difference in the culture of the school. Fort Walton has a reputation as one of the strongest theatre departments in the state of Florida, producing quality plays that showcase the talents of students and brings value to the community--Producing challenging work that not only is entertaining and provocative, but that is also engaging and relevant to their audience.

About the American Theatre Wing:

The American Theatre Wing (Heather Hitchens, President and CEO) is dedicated to advancing artistic excellence and nurturing theatre’s next generation: on the stage, behind the scenes, and in the audience. For a century, the Wing has pursued this mission with programs that span the nation to invest in the growth and evolution of American Theatre Traditionally, the Wing has encouraged members of the theatre community to share their off-stage time and talent directly with the theatre audience at large--whether it was singing for the troops in the Stage Door Canteen of the 1940s, or sharing their stories on a podcast today.  As the founders of The Tony Awards®, the American Theatre Wing has developed the foremost national platform for the recognition of theatrical achievement on Broadway. Yet the Wing's reach extends beyond Broadway and beyond New York. The Wing develops the next generation of theatre professionals through the SpringboardNYC and Theatre Intern Network programs, incubates innovative theatre across the country through the National Theatre Company Grants, fosters the song of American theatre through the Jonathan Larson Grants, honors the best in New York theatrical design with the Henry Hewes Design Award, and illuminates the creative process through the “Working in the Theatre” program and media archive. The American Theatre Wing has entered into a long-term partnership with The Village Voice to co-present The Obie Awards, Off Broadway’s Highest Honor. Visitors to AmericanTheatreWing.org can gain inspiration and insight into the artistic process through the Wing’s extensive media collection, and learn more about its programming for students, aspiring and working professionals, and audiences.