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3:35 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

Matinee program brings students to performing arts

Curtain Up! series includes pirates, Shakespeare and Disney

From where do students come who attend these performances?

70 percent public school

10 percent homeschool

20 percent private/charter.

What kid wouldn’t want to see a magic show or maybe find out how Jeremy Jacobs became a pirate? Perhaps she wants to see the musical Beauty and the Beast or Petra and the Wolf (Peter’s granddaughter)?

The Curtain Up! Education Series offers free admission for students to seven performing arts productions this school year. All shows take place at the Performing Arts Center on the Prescott Yavapai College campus and Camp Verde’s Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts. Camp Verde has fewer selections, and both productions sold out in three weeks, said Ryan Gastonguay, school matinee coordinator.

This past year, 8,719 students enjoyed a series of nine shows that included life-sized dinosaur puppetry.

“Erth’s Dinosaur was particularly popular from last season,” he said. “It was intense at times — especially when T-Rex walked out onto the stage. The reaction from the kids was priceless.”

This year 11,674 students have signed up, a response Gastonguay calls “just crazy.”

Two events already have taken place: Bill Blagg’s The Science of Magic, and Moon Mouse, A Space Odyssey, which involved black light and puppetry. Blagg explained to students how he created his illusions through scientific methods. The demonstration culminated in the levitation of one of the teachers from the audience, to the delight of those in the audience, Gastonguay said.

Moon Mouse A Space Odyssey was visually stunning with its lit up life-sized puppets and laser effects. “The story had an anti-bullying focus and the kids were very receptive and engaged with the presentation. The teachers and students all agreed this is one of the best education series productions they’ve ever seen,” he said.

Students pay no admission. The $5 per person fee is covered through federal funds from Forest Fees revenue, and grants from Acker Music Park Association, Yavapai College Foundation, Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe, and Arizona Public Service.

Some of the more popular productions sold out quickly this year, like Beauty and the Beast. The least favorite, but popular nevertheless, are the Shakespeare plays. This year, members from the Utah Shakespeare Festival will present “The Tempest.”

The concert series used to be called New Horizon, then the School Matinee Program Series. This is the first year as Curtain Up! Education Series. The performances are open to students in all public, private, homeschools and charters. Teachers go online to fill out a ticket order form or can call Gastonguay.

“We will accept donations, because, for some, this is the only chance they have; so more students will get to experience the performing arts,” he said.

Attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis for those who sign up. Gastonguay maintains a data base of schools and homeschoolers, and sends out emails and packets at the beginning of the season.

Next up is the Okee Dokee Brothers, Nov. 2, are a Grammy-winning folk duo who sing about their adventures in the great outdoors in hopes kids will gain a greater appreciation for the world they live in.

“It’s exciting to see schools embracing this,” Gastonguay said about the series.

For more information, visit under the Education link, or call 928-776-2000.