All About Theatre

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All About Theatre: Musical theatre education

Santa CruzSanta Cruz
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

All About Theatre (AAT) is a young people’s theatrical training and production company dedicated to inspiring empathy. We provide a safe environment for toddlers to teens to work together to produce high quality entertainment and socially and culturally conscious theater. We are “empathy in action”.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if children could show adults how to love each other and get along across differences, touch their hearts and change their minds?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Culturally narrow standards towards youth lead to unsafe environments and negative experiences. Youth with differences are particularly targeted. A host of consequences result from bullying, humiliation, and violence. We are not employing highly effective and research driven methods that use music and other forms of theatre arts to make a change in the way people relate to each other. Lack of leadership and insufficient collaboration.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

AAT is planning to collaborate with innovative social and arts programs in Santa Cruz to become a driving force in promoting acceptance and positive solutions for intolerance. We expect to teach tolerance through example by using material chosen to showcase local talent and promote themes of acceptance, positivity and social justice. We will use performing arts as an avenue to express, educate, build confidence, and address solutions. We are planning to collaborate with programs that support and advocate for student safety such as The Diversity Center, The Safe Schools Program, Gay Straight Alliances, CASA, school art and theatre programs, Tannery Arts, Take Back Santa Cruz, Watsonville Film Festival, Santa Cruz Next and Nexties Santa Cruz
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

AAT was a strong supporter of the dramatic production of “Can’t Get There From Here” a fund raiser for The Rebele Family Homeless Shelter. We donated all the sets, sound equipment, material and space to build all the sets. Students note that almost everybody gets ridiculed and tormented to some degree, especially those that are for musically talented, bright, or considered “different” in any way. One student, a talented singer, dancer, actor, and comedian grew despondent and depressed. The only community that accepted him was AAT. He then starred in a production at AAT and was showcased in a student talent night with a theme that addressed acceptance. With his self-confidence restored, he moved to a better environment and thrived.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Many of the students now involved in AAT have been regularly bullied, teased and made fun of in both middle and high school. The expanded AAT program could to make a difference for other students that are marginalized and perhaps allow them to stay at their existing schools. To date AAT has produced more than 80 live shows, many with live orchestras. A total list is available on the website, Many of the shows were specifically chosen for themes of acceptance and change: Hairspray, Seussical, Shrek, Frozen, Annie, Horton Hears a Who, The Sound of Music, Les Miserables, Spring Awakening, and many more. The quality of these productions was superb, and they were very well received by a large community audience. The community has recognized Lindsey Chester, AAT's founder and director, by giving her one of the first Nextie's Award.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We will be the theatre community that makes a difference in peoples lives through provocative and thoughtful examples of change and acceptance … making changes in the way we think, feel and act towards one another. This will grow into collaborative efforts that address prejudice on all levels. We will grow together with the programs that already exist. With the support of changemakers we can focus both on productions and community impact without compromising our efforts. Seeding the planning and collaborative efforts will enable the growth to continue, sustaining our working relationships.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Currently all costs are covered by ticket sales for productions, tuitions for workshops, classes and other training, donations for scholarships from individuals, advertisement sales in programs, and contributions from businesses, families and friends. This is adequate for now, but expanding our community outreach will require grants and other sources of income to grow our organization.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We are not aware of any other organization attempting to accomplish what we have outlined for AAT. We already have close working ties with many in the Santa Cruz arts community. We differ in many ways and are similar in some, especially the knowledge of the change in consciousness available through participating in theatre and arts. What is different is continuity and fun. AAT will continually be a presence, to bring that message to an ever growing consciousness through new and entertaining avenues; not through preaching but by laughing, singing, sharing and entertaining.

Founding Story

Theater allows us to have a deep and profound effect on a child's life. At AAT we nurture and encourage all interns and staff to be sensitive to each individual child’s situation and comfort level in social situations. We create a safe environment that is not driven by force, or criticisms, or fear of rejection and lack of acceptance. When you work towards small goals that are attainable for both the child and yourself, you start to see that breakthrough, that “aha” moment. When it happens, you want to jump up and down, shout for joy. You are swept up in a tidal wave of huge exhilaration. You see the "LIGHT" come on in their eyes... they suddenly feel like they can accomplish anything, no barriers, no fears, the sky is the limit.


The Founder/Visionary for AAT is Lindsey Chester: Neuroscience BSc; 16 years experience directing theater in Santa Cruz County; Youth Educator, London England; and 2014 Nexties Award winner. She is assisted by a board consisting of community leaders, child advocates, and committed supporters of theatre and the arts for children. AAT is also staffed with a few musical and theatrical directors, but is mostly supported by a core group of volunteers.
About You
About You
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About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

United States, CA, Santa Cruz

Country where this project is creating social impact

United States, CA, Santa Cruz

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals, Businesses, Other.

Supplemental Information
On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):

Santa Cruz.

How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

We give youth confidence building skill development in performing arts events. The productions address complex themes of acceptance, diversity, working together, environmental challenges, overcoming obstacles together, drug abuse, hate and loss. We expose youth and their allies to high quality theatre that is both entertaining and informative, performed by youth, and in some cases written by youth. These productions are taken into schools, public events, and the community. Through productions of drama, song, and dance we will work with collaborators to bring change to youth who are frequently marginalized so they can become the teachers and leaders of compassion.

Tell us about your partnerships

Arts program partners: Cabrillo Stage, Tannery Arts, Watsonville Film Festival, theatre arts programs in schools and home school support systemsSupport for differences and youth leadership: Diversity Center, Safe Schools Program, GSA in middle and senior high schoolsLeadership for community: Take Back Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Nexties (Event Santa Cruz) and Nexties Santa Cruz Youth


Being a new non-profit, organizationally moving from a for profit to a 501(c)(3) this year, requires getting a Board of Directors up to date, working as a team, and a change in style. This has been recognized and remedied by choosing a strongly qualified 7 member team. There are two members that have taken non-profits to successful organizations, two members with successful business backgrounds, several members with extensive experience with collaborative multi-organization team building experience. The entire Board is prepared to work hard and is dedicated to the success of this effort.

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

creating a safe space, developing emotional competency, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, instilling courage.

Target Age Group(s)

3-5, 6-12, 13-17.