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Posted on: November 17, 2023

The Clayton Center Launches 2023-24 School Stage Series

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The Clayton Center shared the excitement of live performance with more than 900 Johnston County elementary school students on Wednesday, November 15, through the first show in the 2023-24 School Stage Series.     

Buckets N Boards, a comedy percussion show, introduced students in grades 3 through 5 to basic rhythm concepts, body percussion, beat boxing and percussion. The show also focused on exploring and encouraging creativity. The student audience represented Cooper Academy, Riverwood Elementary, West Clayton Elementary and West View Elementary schools. Several homeschool groups also attended.  

The School Stage Series was created by The Clayton Center last year to support arts education for all grade levels. The series provides field trip opportunities for local students to attend professional performing arts events in the Auditorium during the school day. These events are offered free to local schools and are supported by the Town of Clayton through its Cultural Arts Department. The department also seeks grant funding from organizations such as the North Carolina Arts Council, Johnston County Arts Council and the Clayton Cultural Arts Foundation. 

Buckets N Boards was supported in part by a $7,500 North Carolina Arts Council Organization Support Grant.  

“I take great pride in the successful collaboration between the Cultural Arts department of the Town of Clayton and the Johnston County Public School system. Together, we have created a wonderful opportunity for local students of all ages. The Clayton Center serves as an exceptional venue to showcase and celebrate the vibrant world of theatre arts, enriching the educational experience for our community's youth,” said Dolores Gill, Town of Clayton Deputy Town Manager. 

Martha Vandergriff, The Clayton Center’s educational programming coordinator, said the primary goal of the School Stage Series is to bring school children into a professional theater to expose them to the arts and the possibilities that exist for their own participation in the arts. This exposure will help to cultivate tomorrow’s adult audiences for performing arts in Johnston County and beyond. 

Other goals include reaching diverse young audiences within the Clayton community who might not otherwise get to experience a live performance in a professional theater, reinforce the importance and value of the arts in a heavily STEM-focused education system and underline the value of multicultural stories and cultures through artistic expression. 

“It is so rewarding to see the excitement of the students as they come into the auditorium on a show day and to see how they react to the performance throughout the show,” Vandergriff said. “Buckets N Boards was a particularly interactive show, and the students were enthusiastic and engaged with the performance the entire time.” 

She added that the school programs teach valuable lessons students can apply to their classroom learning.    

A large part of the success of the School Stage Series is the partnership developed between The Clayton Center and JCPS. Vandergriff works closely with JCPS K-12 Fine Arts Teaching & Learning Specialist Sarah-Fawn McLamb to coordinate the program and select the schools and grade levels who will attend the events.  

“I am very thankful for The Clayton Center and for Martha's work in putting The School Stage Series together. There are many students who would never have the opportunity to experience live music and theater performances in a professional venue without this Series,” said Sarah-Fawn McLamb, K-12 Fine Arts Teaching & Learning Specialist at Johnston County Public Schools. “My passion for the arts was stimulated by similar school sponsored opportunities such as this and I am sure these experiences do the same for our many students today.”  

McLamb says JCPS Fine Arts is thankful for the community partners who continue to provide wonderful educational performing arts experiences to local students.  

The School Stage Series will continue at The Clayton Center in January with performances by internationally known, multiple award-winning storyteller, spoken word recording artist and author Donna Washington. These shows will be geared toward students in grades K-2, 6-8 and 9-12.  

Visit for more information regarding The Clayton Center’s School Stage Series. 

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