Image from First Stage's Theater Education programming

Community Partnership Program

While theater plays a significant role in shaping a young person’s academic achievement, career success, health, and overall wellbeing, many Milwaukee young people have limited access to it—due to the lack of arts specialists in schools, budget cuts, and additional financial, transportation, and logistical challenges that unfortunately prevent economically disadvantaged families from attending theater performances and enrolling in arts programs.  

In response to this, First Stage created the Community Partnership Program (CPP) in 2004 to remove barriers and ensure that all children and families—especially those who are historically underserved within our city—have access to our transformational theater experiences. CPP encompasses well-rounded in-school programming, after-school programming, and family engagement.


First Stage offers highly subsidized and free Theater in Education programming for local schools that enrich the core curriculum through arts-integrated lessons. All program curricula are linked to the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards, Common Core State Standards, and 21st Century Learning Skills. First Stage’s programming brings our theater productions to life through arts-integrated lessons with tickets and transportation to the performance.


First Stage offers after-school programming for students from low-income families through the Theater Academy and partnerships with schools and community organizations. Through our Family Partnership Program, First Stage provides need-based financial aid and other logistical support, such as transportation, to ensure students’ successful participation in after-school Theater Academy classes—awarding more than $100,000 in need-based Theater Academy scholarships to nearly 400 students (more than 600 enrollments) in a typical year. First Stage also provides various workshops and residencies after-school for schools and community organizations.   

Family Engagement

First Stage firmly believes that family engagement is the key to our young people’s success. First Stage works with our Theater Academy financial aid recipients and their guardians to provide a wide range of family programming including pre-show workshops and discounted/free theater tickets. In addition, First Stage offers select “Pay What You Choose” theater performances at which audience members may attend at any dollar amount, as well as “First Stage for $5” tickets for families who present their Wisconsin QUEST or ForwardHealth card.  

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