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How a Classroom Grant Makes a Dramatic Impact On Park City Students

“Thanks to PCEF, I can hire the people I need – so my students can have the experience I know they deserve.”

Krischelle Hansen, Drama/Theater Director, Park City School District 


When Drama/Theater Director Krischelle Hansen started working in Park City School District, she saw an immediate opportunity. 

“When I started, I was a brand-new teacher,” said Ms. Hansen, “...and there wasn’t room in the theater budget to pay a music director or a choreographer for musicals. Understandably, it’s tough to ask professionals to spend all that time volunteering!” 

Ms. Hansen, whose background is in technical theater as a scenic artist and carpenter, has worked at the Hale Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, and spent two years hustling through the relentless theater training ground that is summer stock on the East Coast.   

When she started at Park City, Hansen was able to cobble a bit of money from her budget to pay for help, but it wasn’t enough to make an impact. 

“The talent and the effort is so much MORE visible onstage when you have a professional music director who is passionate and able to be there, and getting paid to be there! One of the many benefits of a live orchestra with a very talented director is that the music is tailored to each and every show. Over the years we’ve had great support from my talented colleagues, but when COVID hit, adding even more to the heavy load they were already taking on was difficult. The ability to pitch in on their own time [and dime] was asking too much.”

But Ms. Hansen wasn’t ready to give up… Instead, she reached out to PCEF for a Classroom Grant. She wanted to fairly compensate talented individuals who coach theatrical, dance, and music students for the fall musical 2021, as well as provide the latest equipment to offer students a truly professional theatrical experience, both on stage and behind the scenes. PCEF knew of a donor who was interested in this area.

“One of PCEF’s roles is to match PCSD program needs with philanthropic investment,” noted PCEF President and CEO Abby NcNulty. “We were able to secure a large gift from a generous donor to support the ambitious goals of the PCHS/TMJH Theater Department. The mechanism was through our Classroom Grant program, but we would not have been able to fully support Krishelle’s vision without this specific gift.”

Ms Hansen was able to hire a music director, orchestra director, and choreographer. “If kids forget something or they are a little fast or slow,” Ms. Hansen continued, “it’s ok - because a talented director will be able to conduct the orchestra to catch up or slow down. [PCHS Music Director} Chris Taylor did that for us this year.” 

Once Ms. Hansen was able to *officially* hire the professionals she needed for the musical, she could work more fully with colleagues Dave Hallock and Jason Jensen on a pillar of the Theater program: integrating autonomy from the back of the house to the front.

“We want the kids to drive the Ferrari. Our main goal is to set them up so that when the curtain goes up, it is ONLY students working on the production. Student stage managers are in charge of lights, sound, sound mix, and the set.” 

Ms. Hansen continued, “Having the directing and designing opportunity is something that most students don’t get a chance to try until junior or senior year… of college.” 

This experience inspires students to reach for next-level success. In one example, Ms. Hansen talked about a former student who is now doing sonar for the Navy. His expertise in sound started when he joined the tech crew with PCHS Theater. Another student, who studied advanced technical theater at PCHS, set up sound for the Presidential Inauguration. 

As Ms. Hansen says, high school musicals “cultivates communication skills, improves collaboration skills, enforces creativity, boosts confidence, and provides opportunities to practice public speaking - all while creating new connections.”

Senior Zander Levy, PCHS Class of 22, agreed that those connections have already had a tremendous impact on him - and expects his PCHS Theater experience will continue to set him up for success.

“After taking a gap year, I plan on going to the University of Utah to study stage management and theater production,” Zander said. “If it weren't for the experience and connections I have made through the stage tech program, particularly what I have learned from both Mr. Dave Hallock and Jason Jensen, I don't think I would be in the position I am in.”

That’s because, thanks to his extensive training and experience, Zander is already working. He does shows with the Park City Institute, as well as “quite a bit of freelance work both in Park City and Salt Lake.” In addition, Zander owns and operates a DJ and production company - which is what he plans to work on throughout his upcoming gap year. 

PCHS Senior Blake Matamoros can speak directly to confidence and communication…

“I definitely think theater has helped me become a lot more outgoing,” Blake said. “I used to be very shy a couple years ago and now I'm still pretty quiet, but nearly as much.”

“Theater has impacted my life in more ways than one,” PCHS senior Brigitte Davis weighed in. “I wish I could express in words what the theater program has done for me, but there are none that fully convey my gratitude and appreciation.” 

When PCEF donors fund initiatives like Classroom Grants, they enhance educators’ ability to actually, well, educate.

“It has been absolutely wonderful working with PCEF. They’ve ALWAYS been so incredibly supportive. Not only that, PCEF funding has made my life a lot less complicated,” Ms. Hansen said. ”I don’t have to spend more time out of my day going over and over my budgets and trying to squeeze out a little more money. Thanks to PCEF, I can hire the people I need - so my students can have the experience I know they deserve."

If you are interested in supporting educators' dreams for their classrooms - or stages! - we invite you to donate to Classroom Grants here.

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