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Education Director Prepares Local Theater Students with Life Skills

"WETA Hometown Heroes" Features Marcia Gardner in September

Washington, D.C. — Marcia Gardner, education director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is the focus of a month-long WETA Hometown Heroes profile airing in September on WETA TV 26. WETA selected Gardner for her development of education programs that encourage underserved students in Arlington, Virginia, to expand their imaginations in order to think innovatively about the world around them. Her profile premieres just prior to the broadcast of Antiques Roadshow on Monday, September 8 at 8 p.m. on WETA TV 26 and repeats throughout the month.

Gardner directs the theater’s community outreach and education programs which cater to underserved middle and high school students in Arlington County. Through the mechanics of theater, Gardner illustrates to students, many who have no previous theatrical training, that fundamentals of drama can be applied to expand other parts of life too. Gardner mentors students, urging them to broaden their experiences through work in two programs: Signature in the Schools and The Apprentice at Signature.

Through both programs, Gardner provides students skills that will help them grow and become lifelong learners. Gardner has designed the courses to persuade teens to pursue roles that boost self-confidence by encouraging them to think about their environments in fresh ways. The curriculums encourage students to step out of their comfort zones to seek new perspectives on classroom topics. “I feel strongly that combining history and theater gives us all a chance to look at the world in a new way and become more responsible citizens,” explains Gardner.

Signature in the Schools partners with Arlington County Public High Schools in low-income neighborhoods. Gardner attempts to increase teens’ interest in theater and education by connecting plays to subjects students study in the classroom and topics covered on the Virginia Standards of Learning (S.O.L.) exams. Participating students receive study guides and attend workshops to understand the multiple theatrical elements in the plays, written specifically for the course. To conclude the program, Signature Theatre buses in peers to support the program participants who produce and star in a theatrical performance.

The Apprentice at Signature program offers high school theater arts students experience in a professional performing arts environment. To prepare students for a career in the arts, Gardner offers audition workshops to help pupils polish their audition skills. Students also work with professional actors who provide constructive advice. Each year, Signature Theatre awards one student a $3,000 scholarship to study performing arts in college. For more information about Gardner and Signature Theatre visit

Celebrating its 10th year, WETA Hometown Heroes is an Emmy-Award winning multimedia project that heralds individuals who improve their communities and encourages others to volunteer service. To be involved and to submit nominations, visit the website where you will find volunteer opportunities at area organizations, archived WETA Hometown Heroes features and forms to nominate a hero. Gardner’s WETA Hometown Heroes profile will also be featured on the WETA media player, WETA Watch Online, at Featuring more than 100 videos, WETA Watch Online includes the latest videos from WETA local productions such as The WETA Guide, WETA All Access and WETA Extras.

WETA Hometown Heroes is made possible through the generous support of Park Foundation, Inc.; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

WETA supports educational and culturally enriching opportunities for local youth through programming and outreach workshops such as Reading Rockets and Ready To Learn. To find out more about these projects, visit WETA’s community website at

WETA TV 26 and Classical WETA 90.9 FM are public broadcasting stations serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with news and public affairs, educational and cultural programming and related services, including four digital channels. WETA is committed to producing programs that highlight the history and people of the Greater Washington area. WETA produces WETA All Access, The WETA Guide, WETA Around Town, WETA Neighborhoods, and WETA Extras, spotlighting local people, places and events. WETA’s headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. For more information on WETA and its services, visit Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of WETA.


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