Elephant and Piggie's "We are in a Play"!

April 30 -May 15
Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium

Herald-Times Preview

Cardinal For Schools putting students in the seats

Theatre company’s programming for schools is soaring

By Marcela Creps 
April 29, 2016


Reid Henderson stars as Elephant in Cardinal Stage Company’s production of “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play'” at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center. Photo by Blueline Media Productions.

Back in 2010, when Heidi Harmon would call schools about bringing students to a Cardinal Stage Company production, many were uninterested, with some not knowing anything about the theater company.

Things have changed.

With students currently attending productions of “Elephant and Piggie,” Harmon is turning away schools and has no problem filling seats due to last-minute cancellations.

Harmon, director of patron services at Cardinal, said schools outside Monroe County also attend, citing Brown County and Spencer-Owen as school systems that send students to see a show.

“We had kids come down from Paoli this year for our last Buskirk show,” she said.

A group of students from Vincennes came last fall to see “Of Mice and Men.”

Being able to bring students to Cardinal performances has become much easier and more educational. The IU Credit Union Education Initiative at Cardinal includes four elements, with three directed at bringing theater to students.

The Cardinal For Schools brings the ticket price down to $6.50 per person by using donated funds to subsidize the cost to the school. If schools still have difficulty coming up with the money, the Community Access Tickets element can help provide free tickets. Community Access tickets also are provided to social service organizations and Title I schools so that children and their families can attend Cardinal shows.

There are also school tours, funded by Duke Energy Foundation, Smithville Communications and the IU Credit Union Education Initiative sponsors to take shows on the road, as Cardinal did with “Peabody, The Science Fair Affair” in the fall of 2015. That show traveled to Brown, Hendricks, Owen, Greene, Lawrence, Morgan and Monroe County schools.

To help integrate learning with the performance, Harmon said Cardinal provides study guides for teachers, and with older students, the guides include the state and national standards met by attending the shows.

“The teachers see a lot of value in that,” Harmon said.

As director of development at Cardinal, Anne Kostyo helps to make sure there is money for Cardinal to handle such outreach. Over the years, Cardinal has developed a number of relationships with local businesses who want to support the theater company’s efforts to teach kids through the arts.

In the beginning, Kostyo said Cardinal approached schools about the shows offering a ticket price of $12 per student.

“All of the teachers said, ‘I just don’t know that that’s possible for us as a school, to pass that cost on to our families,'” Kostyo said.

For the next three years, funds donated by the 100+ Women Who Care will go a long way in helping kids see Cardinal shows for free. Ideally, Cardinal would like to be able to not have to turn down any student, teacher or school who is interested in seeing a Cardinal show, but there are obstacles that need to be addressed.

For example, without its own performance space, Cardinal is often restricted to the dates it has reserved for its shows. Timing or funding can dictate if a performance’s run can be extended. The theater company also has to pay performers in order to add additional shows.

“We would love to be able to be in a position where we’re fundraising at a level where we can add a show date because donors made that possible,” Kostyo said.

IU Credit Union sponsors the theater company’s education initiative. David B. Sipes, vice president of marketing and business development at the credit union, said the business originally sponsored family-friendly Cardinal for Kids shows and its holiday musical. As a longtime sponsor of the local art scene, Sipes said the educational initiative was a perfect fit.

“Sponsoring youth programs is very important to IU Credit Union, because kids are our future decision makers, leaders and members of our community,” Sipes said in an email. “We believe that the programs we support help enrich their lives while making these activities more affordable for parents.”

The credit union also sponsors youth sports and participates in activities designed to teach kids about finance, but its work with Cardinal extends the business into the performing arts.

“Theater inspires, fosters creativity and imagination and encourages audience members to participate by interacting and reacting to the live performance. For youth who have discovered a passion for acting, we hope that our sponsorship will assist them in developing skills and confidence and boost their self-esteem,” Sipes said.

If you go

WHAT: “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We’re in a Play!'”

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium.

WHEN: 10 a.m. April 30, May 7, 14; 1 p.m. April 30, May 1, 7-8, 14-15; 4 p.m. April 30, May 1, 8; and 6 p.m. May 6, 13.

TICKETS: $11.95-$21.95. To purchase tickets, visit www.cardinalstage.org or call 812-336-9300.