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31 October 2023

Supporting Districts with Digital Theatre+: Dr Joseph R D'Ambrosi Case Study

Dr Joseph R D'Ambrosi

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Dr. Joseph R. D'Ambrosi, Fine and Performing Arts Resource Specialist, shares Osceola County School District's quest for the perfect supplementary curriculum that not only aligns with their teachers' expertise but also embraces the digital future they are rapidly moving toward. The introduction of Digital Theatre+ was more than just a step in the right direction for the district; it was a leap into a world of boundless possibilities.

Here, Dr. D'Ambrosi discusses how Digital Theatre+ has not only impacted their curriculum but, most importantly, the students themselves as the platform bridges the gap between theory and practice, connecting students to professional theatre productions, and inspiring them to dream big and pursue careers in the arts.

What attracted you to Digital Theatre+? 

We're always searching for the next best thing in the supplemental curriculum. Our teachers do an awesome job in developing their lessons, a lot of them have been in our district for years. They're seasoned, they know what they're doing. But we also have a lot of teachers that are in their first three years of teaching and our district is also moving more digital as we go. All of our students have a computer at KS1 through 12 and the expectation is that we are using those computers and we're integrating technology in the classroom. So in thinking about how can we integrate technology and innovative ways of using the supplemental curriculum in the theatre classroom, Digital Theatre+ was at the top of our list for a lot of reasons, but that's why we were looking for an incredible supplemental curriculum opportunity for our teachers. 

What impact has having access to Digital Theatre+ had on your curriculum? 

There's so much that we can teach in the classroom, but until students can see the manifestation of those lessons, there isn't that connection and Digital Theatre+ builds that connection. It shows professional-style theatre productions that the teachers can say, ‘look, this is the end goal’, ‘This is what we're working towards between all of our lessons’. So that's been an incredible impact on our curriculum; showing students that end goal, and then it gives them something to aspire to as well. It also increases longevity in our programs. People are more excited, and kids are more excited about continuing in our tutor programs, moving from theatre one to theatre two, to honor theatre, to getting involved in technical theatre courses. So longevity of our program is important, but also the idea that a career in the arts is a viable option, especially for our high school students. Digital Theatre+ has a lot of great resources on careers in the theatre. They can see, ‘Oh, I don't have to just be an actor. I can be a theater manager. I can produce. I could stage manage.’ It just illuminates all these options for kids.

What challenges has Digital Theatre+ helped your district address? 

One of the major issues that we have is bridging the equity gap in our district. Osceola County is a minority-majority district where most of our schools are Title One. Therefore, our students don't have access to quality theatrical productions. For some, they've never seen a play. We do our best, especially for our elementary kids, to get them out of the classroom and into some of the cultural resources we have in the Orlando area. But even Orlando is a tough place to get to from Osceola County, even though it's just 45 minutes away. Digital Theatre+ is an opportunity for our kids to have access to really great Broadway, professional regional theater productions that they wouldn't have access to otherwise. So it's been a challenge to show our kids what theatre looks like in the real world, and you can have this, too. And this provides the bridge for us to be able to do that. 

How has Digital Theatre+ had a positive impact on your students and teachers? 

It excites them. It excites the students. It's for lots of different reasons. Yes, because they can see a professional production and be excited by that, but also, it changes up the school day to be able to sit down and engage with a piece of theatre at a professional level. It's an exciting thing to do. Our teachers love it because it provides prescriptive lesson plans but also inspires them to create their lessons. 

What’s the best thing about Digital Theatre+? 

Digital Theatre+ does a great job of elevating voices that are traditionally marginalized. And in a district where the majority of our kids are black and brown, for them to be able to see themselves elevated on stage, or their voices and experiences elevated on stage, that, to me, is one of the greatest blessings of this program. Moreover, for them to be able to engage with professional work and see themselves elevated on stage, it excites them. It makes them more connected to the work that we do in the classroom. It excites them to be able to see themselves on stage in the future or behind the scenes. 

Watch the full case study below! For those of you who do not have access to Digital Theatre+, you can take a quick tour today to see the wealth of teaching and learning resources available.