Throughout the year many families come through the doors of the Center to share in an exceptional live experience together. They prepare for the performance by doing research and buying tickets, they may discuss why they are excited or listen to the songs. After the show, they often chat about their favorite moments or what lessons they took away from the show’s message.
The joy in sharing these experiences together is overwhelming and heartwarming and each year, the Center makes a point to help this experience happen for families that might not otherwise have the opportunity.
The Broadway League’s Family First Nights®
is a nationwide program that is specifically designed to encourage underprivileged families to attend theater on a regular basis. For those who participate in the program through the Fox Cities P.A.C., it is also a dynamic, interactive experience that changes the way they interact with eachother and look at each performance. This season marks the Center’s ninth year participating in the Family First Nights®
program in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley. The goal of the program is to introduce families to the magic of Broadway and create lasting memories through dinner discussions, activity suggestions, and hosted education extension activities to give them deeper perspective on what they will be seeing.
“I like to emphasize that it is a family program that will allow them to have quality family time,” said Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley Unit Director Kristin Griswold, who helps to coordinate the experience at the Fox Cities P.A.C. “For most families they are all experiencing something new at the same time which can be very impactful. They are able to go home and talk about what they saw and learned as a family.”
Families are selected from the Boys and Girls Club for this program through an application process. The Boys and Girls Club determines what families meet the predetermined qualifications and invite them to apply for the experience. Those selected share why they want to be a part of the program and how it will impact their family dynamic. Families accepted into the program commit to attending all performances and related extension activities scheduled.
“The education extension activities we plan are fun, educational, and are designed to stay true to the idea of bringing families together by enriching their theatrical experience,” said education coordinator Cassie Schwandt. “We’ve done everything from a holiday sweater party to exploring recording studios, meeting with people in the newspaper industry and more. We hope these experiences provide families background on the performance and open up important discussions and allow participants to enjoy time with one another as a family unit and also as a larger group.”
For Griswold, she sees first-hand the difference this program can make for families.
“I’ve seen families that on a day to day basis are so on the go, both parents and children are tense and on edge, that they have trouble having positive interactions with each other. They come to our program and are able to relax and enjoy themselves and each other for a night and usually leave in high spirits,” Griswold said. “Often my favorite part of the program is watching the reactions of the kids during and after a performance. Many times it will be their first time at a musical and to see their excitement about what is occurring on the stage is inspiring. I’ve witnessed a love of theater blossom in many kids over the years and am excited to be part of it.”
This year’s Family First Nights program participants will see The Sound of Music and Finding Neverland.
The Broadway League’s Family First Nights® is supported by John and Sally Mielke.