Alyson Brown, a drama teacher at Clarke Middle School, has had an eye out for the opportunity to bring her students to Disney World for a long time. Now that’s turned into a dream come true.
Clarke’s drama program has been selected to participate in the Disney Imagination Campus, a hands-on enrichment program for performing arts students. Brown excitedly made the announcement in a video posted to her YouTube account. “I’m a huge Disney fan and to be able to bring this experience to my students is just so exciting,” Brown said in an interview with LexObserver.
Brown said that Clarke drama students are equally excited about the Disney performance option, and saw a record turnout for auditions. While no selections have been made, Brown said 37 students will be going to Disney World to participate in the program.
The participating students will head down to Florida in February 2024 during the vacation week to take part in the program’s workshop and to perform on a Disney stage. In the performing arts workshop, the Disney Broadway Magic Workshop, Clarke drama students will work with Disney theater professionals on songs from their production of the Disney musical Descendants. Students will then take center stage and perform for Disney theme park guests.
“The students have grown up watching the [Descendants], so the transition to the stage production is a natural one for these young performers,” Brown said.“ I love that the show explores good and evil and gives young people the permission to create their own stories.
The original cost of the trip for each student had a price tag of $1600. Brown said that fundraising efforts are underway to help cover some of the expenses. Butter Braid pastry sales, concessions at drama shows, basket raffles, a talent showcase, a restaurant collaboration, and other fundraisers are planned.
“We are committed to making this trip affordable for any student who plans to attend so we plan to aggressively fundraise to help defray some of the costs for the participants,” she said.
Earlier this summer, Brown sent an application to Disney Imagination Campus that included her students’ audition tapes, costumes, choreography, and vocal work. She was notified of Clarke’s selection of the program two weeks ago. “This is something I have been working on for a long time,” Brown said. “This year seemed like the right year. Everything seemed to fit together.”
Connecting students with industry professionals is not an unfamiliar venture for Brown. Students travel to New York City every year for a Broadway intensive to learn from its drama technique.
“We are consistently making cross-curricula connections and use theater to teach collaboration, instill empathy, and develop life skills,” she said.