As Growing Theater Mentors, Carnegie Mellon students (both undergraduate and graduate) earn university credit by sharing their theater skills with at-risk middle school children from Propel Charter Schools. Mentors also further develop these skills by guiding the children through the development of the production of a play. The Growing Theater program is also part of the middle schooler's language arts and arts curriculums. A workbook has been created to support the parallel educational goals of Growing Theater and Propel Charter School-Homestead. The program is coordinated by Anne Mundell (Associate Professor, Design Option Coordinator) from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama.
During weekly meetings with the guidance of the CMU Mentors, the Propel students write their own play based on a short story. Elements of good storytelling, including structure and character development take center stage in this portion of the program. The Propel students and CMU mentors work in small groups to write individual scenes based on the different sections of the story. Groups then collaborate to form one cohesive play. The children are also introduced to the world of theater design by partnering with mentors to create an environment for their play.
After the play is written, Propel students go through an audition process, memorize lines, rehearse, and work more in-depth with specific characters and the development of an environment. A variety of guests from the CMU School of Drama faculty are utilized to introduce the children to movement, dance, rhythm, and other elements of theater. The seven month process culminates with dress rehearsals and performances in CMU's Helen Wayne Rauh Studio Theatre for the children's parents, teachers and members of the Carnegie Mellon Community. A yearly alumni sponsored award is given to a CMU student to honor an extraordinary contribution to the program.