Oceanside’s Star Theatre Company promotes arts-funding initiative


Actors in the Star Theatre Coast Kids program perform in “Hairspray” in November 2017 at the theater, which is located in Oceanside. (Star Theatre photo)

Charlene Pulsonetti

In a state known for generating entertainment enjoyed around the world, it may be surprising to learn that funding for art and music education in California public schools comes up short.

An independent study cited in the proposed Initiative 21-0036 — The Arts and Music in Schools Funding Guarantee Accountability Act — states that 90% of elementary schools, 96% of middle schools and 72% of high schools in California “fail to provide a high-quality course of study across art disciplines.”

Educators and celebrities have spoken up in support of the proposed ballot measure, spearheaded by Californians for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools, and now local arts organizations are getting involved to help collect at least 623,000 valid signatures by May 1 to qualify the initiative for the November 2022 ballot.

Oceanside News logoPaul Friedman, general manager of the Star Theatre Company in Oceanside, has seen firsthand the favorable impact that its workshops and performances have had on everyone who walks through the doors, notably children who participate in its youth theater company, Star Theatre Coast Kids.

“(Star Theatre Company managing artistic director) David Schulz takes the kids and says, ‘You guys have got each other’s backs. We are here as a team. We are here to help each other grow. This is where we let it fly, this is your safe space. This is where everyone is rooting for you,’” Friedman says.

Through creative expression, Friedman says that children find purpose, friendships and self-confidence.

Paul Friedman
Paul Friedman

When the Star Theatre team first learned about the initiative, Friedman says there was a consensus that they had to lend a helping hand.

He says that the initiative is especially promising because it will implement a consistent source of funding for the arts year after year.

“It doesn’t do a lot of good to have a program only sustained for a year or two,” he notes. “It ensures continuity. Proposed is a lot of reporting and transparency — it’s heftier than initiatives in the past.”

The initiative proposes that around $900 million be earmarked each year for arts education, which includes performance, visual and digital arts, all without raising taxes. Seventy percent of funds would be allocated for public schools across the state, with the remaining 30% additionally dedicated to serving economically disadvantaged communities and students. Each school would receive a set amount based on its pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade enrollment, and schools would be required to follow accountability measures such as publicly available reporting on how funds were allocated at the facility.

David Schulz
David Schulz

Through these efforts, students could be better prepared to take on future opportunities in related careers and higher education.

The full initiative text and statistics can be found at voteartsandminds.org.

There has already been a considerable response to the company’s signature-collecting effort, but more help is welcome. To get involved, call 760-721-9983 or email thestartheatre[at]gmail.com.

Or, Friedman says, attend an upcoming performance, such as “Newsies The Musical” scheduled from April 29 to May 8. Visit startheatreco.com.

Through these in-person events, he says, “We can engage other people in the signature collection process, but more importantly educate people that this is a thing and it is a need.”

Actors from the Star Theatre Company in Oceanside perform in “Sweeney Todd” in July 2019. (Star Theatre photo)
Actors from the Star Theatre Company in Oceanside perform in “Sweeney Todd” in July 2019. (Star Theatre photo)

The arts are more than just paintings on a wall or music on the radio — they’re a means of expressing ideas and emotions that span the human experience.

And in uncertain times, they’re a welcome respite that kids and adults alike can benefit from.

“Our goal is that everyone who comes into this building has to leave feeling better than when they walked in,” Friedman says. “It’s magic.”

“We think of theater as a generator of empathy,” he says. “You can’t perform in a show without putting yourself in the shoes of the character, and you can’t truly understand and appreciate a show unless somehow you’re touched by what you’ve seen in a way that takes you outside of yourself and puts you in someone else’s space.”

And, he adds, “If you let yourself (experience this), I think it brings us closer together. In today’s world, never have that been more needed.”

Charlene Pulsonetti is a local freelance writer.

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