By Lauren Jeong, program associate
Partnerships are critical to our nonprofit ecosystem because they challenge our thinking, expand our audience size and help us more fully meet need through complementary services. However, finding the time, resources and alignment to foster new partnerships is not an easy feat, particularly across issue areas and sub-sectors. That’s why the Foundation was excited to see a new partnership effort formed by two of our recent Managing for Excellence Awardees.
Synchronicity Theatre, a 2018 Managing for Excellence awardee, and Literacy Action, a 2017 awardee, recently partnered to provide a robust arts and literary experience that brought Literacy Action’s family literacy program and Synchronicity’s production of A Year with Frog and Toad together. Synchronicity offers diverse programs from mainstage performances to theatrical workshops that challenge the mind, build empathy and expand culture through the creation and support of new theatrical work that empowers females. Recognizing that approximately 22% of people in the Atlanta region are ‘low literate’ (US Census), Literacy Action offers instruction for adult learners in six levels of reading and writing, four levels of math, computer and work skills, grammar and oral expression, and preparation for the GED (high school equivalency) examination. Literacy Action’s programming includes a family literacy initiative that fosters reading for the entire family, ensuring parents and grandparents have both the literacy skills and knowledge of strong learning behaviors that they need to reinforce what their children are learning in school and assist with homework.
While on the surface these organizations may not have many similarities, they were able to find overlap and co-create a meaningful experience. Synchronicity brought two actors from A Year with Frog and Toad to a family literacy class at Literacy Action, gave each of the students a collection of the Frog and Toad books, and then read expressively from the text while the Literacy Action teacher went over techniques for helping young readers. All of the adults who attended the class were invited to Synchronicity Theatre to see the performance of A Year with Frog and Toad on December 8. Each child who attended with them also received a plush frog or toad. After the show, there was a short reception with the cast to further bring the books to life. This effort was funded by Junior League of Atlanta.
“At Synchronicity, partnership is baked into our mission, as we work to build community using theatre. When we met Literacy Action’s Executive Director Kerry McArdle through our shared Managing for Excellence award, we knew right away we had a perfect partnership. Since our Family Series shows are most often based on children’s books, we knew that combining the skill of our actors with the skilled teaching team at Literacy Action would help really bring the books to life. Attending the family literacy class with our Frog and Toad actors was heart-expanding and humbling, as newer adult readers invested in learning how to help the young readers in their lives. Seeing them at the theatre clutching plush frogs and toads, and copies of the book as they met the actors, was such a joy. We can’t thank Junior League of Atlanta and The Community Foundation enough for making this powerful partnership possible,” Rachel May said of the partnership.
Kerry McArdle of Literacy Action explained, “It was such an enriching experience for our adult learners to have Frog and Toad themselves bring the book to life as part of a lesson on how to engage children and grandchildren in learning to read. We’re so grateful to the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the Junior League of Atlanta for making it possible for our family literacy students to not only learn from this workshop but also have the special experience of bringing their young ones to the performance!”
With the success of this initial partnership effort, Literacy Action and Synchronicity are discussing possible ways to work together in the future. This is an excellent example of unique organizations coming together to expand audiences and amplify the experience for their constituents.
Synchronicity will be running A Year with Frog and Toad through December 30, an excellent family activity over the holidays.