Andrew Lloyd Webber, Heather Hitchens and some of the initiative's scholars in 2018. (Photo: Stephanie Berger)

The American Theatre Wing has received a $1 million donation and matching challenge for its national initiative to support and diversify the next generation of theater industry professionals. 

The donation supports the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, a program created in 2016 to provide theater training and scholarships to students at under-resourced elementary, middle and high schools across the country. The gift was made by the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust, a family foundation.

Since 2016, the initiative has provided grants for educational theater programs to 42 low-income schools and provided full scholarships to 93 middle school and high schoolers to receive training outside of school in fields such as production design, acting, musical theatre composition, choreography and stage management. The program offers scholarships, as well as mentorship opportunities with industry leaders, to incoming university students. 

“The pathway towards systemic change that the ALWI promises is now coming into focus as young people provided with in-school theatre programs advance to become ALWI training scholars, training scholars advance to be University Scholars, and University scholars begin to graduate into positions in the field,” said Heather Hitchens, president and chief executive of the American Theatre Wing. “I am extremely grateful to the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust for their generous past support of this Initiative and for their latest extraordinary commitment and vote of confidence.”

This joins efforts from organizations such as the Black Theatre Coalition and the Cody Renard Richard scholarship program, which aim to diversify the theatrical pipeline and create more job opportunities for BIPOC theater workers, particularly those who work behind the scenes. 

With the donation, and a goal of raising an additional $1 million in the next two years, the American Theatre Wing aims to reach 75 public schools and 60,000 students, as well as provide 125 students with training scholarships and support 25 high school seniors entering college.