Just after AhHa!Broadway’s founding, the pandemic necessitated us adapting in-person programs to online offerings (i.e. theatrical makeup tutorials, toddler dance classes, 1940’s radio play workshop, Russian & Spanish language dance instruction). Also, online free educational videos with singing & acting tips for kids. Urgent needs inspired 1940’s radio workshop for seniors and veterans. Then, ongoing low-cost, safe-space standup comedy 5 week online workshops (still strong 1 year in with 2 weekly sessions) led by professional comedians, with free live showcases and special free shows for senior centers.
In 2020 I launched the 1,000 Kids initiative – fundraising to bring technology and arts education programming to 1,000+ kids in NYC’s 5 boroughs. Our initial test-drive crowdfund attracted corporate partners (MouthMedia Network, Socialfly, Sheets & Giggles, etc). Raising $5k+, immediately enabled expansion of access to virtual programming for kids.
Then a 2-week in-person musical theatre camp in Aug 2021, securing the 1st NYC rights to Disney’s Descendants the Musical. It was a cathartic experience for the 21 kids, most of whom had emotional challenges and were provided economic-base assistance.
We also served programs for 285 elementary school children in a Brooklyn public school. And a collaboration with Citizens Committee NY resulted in a $500 grant.
In October, I relaunched the 1,000 Kids initiative, associating with Citizens Committee of NY, then 21 Ethos for their tech expertise and corporate connections. With a live theatre performance and auction event, plus viral exposure from being featured by “Humans of New York”, crowdfunding raised $69k+ from 2k+ donors, plus $41k+ more for operations/other initiatives.
2022 brings 5 family-friendly in-person outdoor musical theatre performances of The Kindness Project, an original production about kindness, in each of NYC’s boroughs, starting with a partnership with Brooklyn’s Success Community Garden. Copies of a Louie Armstrong-inspired book “What a Wonderful World” will be distributed free.
By continuing to educate myself, network, keep a financially lean operation without significant administrative costs (I have not yet taken an income either), attract high-caliber teaching artists and partners, and tell our story, we’ve steadily made progress in spite of the pandemic in expanding our range of programming, making it increasingly accessible (free or minimal cost) regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or economic background. While we have primarily focused our efforts in NYC, we’ve also served kids, seniors and veterans in 9 states.
–Heather Edwards, Co-Founder/CEO