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Hartford Stage Implements Community Access Program for Hartford Communities

The Hartford Stage Community Access Program  ensures that the art onstage is accessible to Hartford residents who traditionally have been unable to attend in the past due to a variety of economic and social barriers

Hartford Stage has launched a Community Access Pilot Program, inviting non-profits who support members of Hartford’s underserved communities to bring an intimate group of their constituents to enjoy a complimentary season of live theatre. Initiated by Hartford Stage’s interdepartmental Community Engagement staff committee, the Community Access Program ensures that the art onstage is accessible to members of our city who traditionally have been unable to attend in the past due to a variety of economic and social barriers.

"We're delighted to launch this pilot program. Between A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Christmas Carol, and Feeding the Dragon, this multi-show initiative provides access to a range of theatrical experiences and a chance for us to build deeper relationships over the course of a season," said Elizabeth Williamson, Associate Artistic Director for Hartford Stage.

Three Hartford nonprofit organizations were selected to participate in the pilot program, including Community Renewal Team’s Generations – a multi-generational housing campus that provides affordable housing and supportive services for grandparents raising their grandchildren; Salvation Army Marshall House Family Shelter, which offers women and families a safe place to sleep, meals, education, employment skills training, advocacy services, counseling and compassionate care so that they are empowered to lead responsible, self-sufficient lives; and Walk in the Light Church of God, which offers community assistance programs for veterans, youth, and victims of domestic violence.

The participating organizations were chosen based upon recommendations from Hartford community leaders and their expressed desire to increase access to the arts for the individuals they serve. 

“Our families were thrilled to take part in this program with Hartford Stage and to have the chance to see a world-famous Shakespeare play,” said Yolanda Ortiz, Program Manager, Housing and Community Services at the Community Renewal Team. “The play offered quiet moments of reflection and moments of extreme laughter – everyone had a fantastic time, and they cannot wait to go back for the next show!” 

“Marshall House's involvement with Hartford Stage's Community Access Program has had such a positive impact on the women and families we serve through our emergency shelter programs,” said Sarah DiMaio, Program Director for Salvation Army Marshall House. “To be able to offer a night out where parents can treat their children to an event that they would otherwise not have access to is a blessing. Hartford Stage has given these women and families a chance to be a part of the art and theatre community in Hartford. All who attended spoke of how much they enjoyed themselves for days after the show. Marshall House staff and residents are excited to be involved in the Community Access Program and we look forward to upcoming shows this season.”

Walk in the Light Church of God Archbishop Dexter C. Burke said, "The youths and members of our religious organization are delighted to be in partnership with Hartford Stage and to be invited to view and provide feedback on such a great Shakespearean play. This partnership is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when churches and businesses work together reaching out to area individuals, providing them with opportunities and encouraging them to dream big.”

Participants from all three organizations, ranging in age from 9 to 51, enjoyed A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Post-show feedback revealed that for a number of participants, it was their first time experiencing live theatre. Many indicated that they felt welcomed at the theatre and expressed both enthusiasm for the production and a desire to see future productions. The valuable feedback provided by the participants will help the Community Access Program grow, as well as offer insight into additional ways Hartford Stage can improve accessibility to the theatre for local communities.

For information about the Hartford Stage Community Access Program, call 860-520-7114 or visit www.hartfordstage.org/community-outreach/ to sign up for email updates regarding next season’s program.