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Erie Elementary Turns to Kickstarter to Fund School Play

By Victoria Johnson | October 14, 2013 8:41am
 Erie Elementary Charter School has turned to Kickstarter to raise money for its next play, "James and the Giant Peach."
Erie Charter Elementary School Kickstarter Campaign
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HUMBOLDT PARK — When bake sales weren't lucrative enough, teachers putting on a musical at Erie Elementary Charter School tried another route: online fundraiser Kickstarter.

Director Evan Trad and music teacher Kim Kays are trying the new way to raise money for this year's play after struggling to raise money through traditional fundraisers in the largely low-income community.

They've faced a shrinking school budget, too.

"In the past we've worked with the budget the school provided to us, which wasn't a very big budget before the cut, so that's why we decided to try Kickstarter this year," Kays said.

That's not to say the plays haven't been fun for the kids, but the teachers say they can do an even better job with more funding.

"We've done three plays in the past, they've all been musicals and the kids loved them, and actually for the resources we've had, we can put on pretty entertaining productions," Kays said. "But the costumes have not been great, and we're just doing what we can with what we have."

They launched that Kickstarter campaign at the end of September and have less than two weeks to meet the goal of $6,000 to put on "James and the Giant Peach." As of Sunday night, they'd raised $900.

The campaign is bolstered by a video featuring testimonials from students about why they like acting and how excited they are to put on the show.

"I've been involved in theater since I was in elementary, so I know how much I had getting on stage and getting to act and play different roles and bring stories to life," Trad said.

In the past they've asked kids to pay a participation fee, but with about 80 percent of the school's students getting free and discounted lunches, many families just can't afford it.

Though they helped the kids who couldn't afford it, Trad knows that some felt like they could not participate at all if their families couldn't afford the fee.

"It's frustrating," Trad said. "We want to make this an opportunity that anyone who's interested can be a part of."

If they don't raise the money, Kays and Trad said they will continue to scrounge at thrift stores and cut out cardboard props, but hope it doesn't come to that.

"This year we're hoping to put together a super professional play," Trad said.