Theater, music or dance — above all, the performing arts revolve around creative expression.

Whether portraying a character on stage or sneaking a peek behind the scenes, students will celebrate the depth of human emotion, learn the significance of critical feedback and develop cognitive abilities complementary to other disciplines. Qualities entwined with stage performance, from courage to perseverance, follow students throughout their future careers and lives.

The arts teach society about itself, pointing out attitudes, mindsets, current conditions and even historical context. It’s this dynamic source of education — kinetic energy, stimulating visuals and sound — that awakens an understanding not found in textbooks. The following student-friendly destinations are worth a standing ovation.

Plaza Theatre
Plaza Theatre, Glasgow, Ky.
Credit: Brent Moore

Plaza Theatre

Glasgow, Kentucky

Home to many community, church and civic groups, Plaza Theatre is often utilized for concerts, plays and recitals. Customized tours can be arranged for student groups.

“We have a very intimate theater space,” said Carolyn Glodfelter, executive director of Plaza Theatre. “The 1934 historic Plaza is like walking back in time, but with all the modern amenities to see any live theater performance, concert or movie. We love taking students into the original projection room and showing them how ‘new’ technology worked in the 1930s to 1950s.”

The theater was a dream of Bruce Aspley, who purchased his first theater in 1915, The Dixie, located in Glasgow above the Bradford Hardware Store. He then went on to purchase the Lyon Opera House in downtown Glasgow, later renamed the Trigg Theatre. Money from this successful operation was used to finance the Plaza Theatre.

“The Plaza Theatre is a great way to experience history,” Glodfelter said. “It was built as a segregated theater during the Great Depression. Touring the theater is a great opportunity to explore these topics.”

Glodfelter recommends middle and high school students visit to see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Oct. 25–27, 2019, and It’s A Wonderful Life, Dec. 13–15, 2019.

Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group
Credit: Jason Isaac

Blue Man Group

Las Vegas, Nevada

As three bald, blue men explore the world, together with students in the 830-seat Blue Man Theater, they discover music, comedy and surprises at every turn.

“By the end of this spectacular journey, students will be saying, ‘I don’t even know what just happened, but I loved it,’” said Jenn Oshiro, senior sales manager for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. “We offer at least one school-only matinee each spring, making it perfect for a field trip.”

Additionally, Blue Man Group offers a backstage tour experience, Behind the Blue. Educational components can be tailored to any age group.

“But by far, the most fun and interesting experience student groups can book is a theater talkback where they can speak with a performer or crew member, as well as be in the house for soundcheck,” Oshiro said. “It’s a great way to experience the real-life preparations required to put on our award-winning show. Our performers, especially our band, love having student groups in the theater. They can see the fun you’re having in the audience and feed off your energy.”

In addition to Las Vegas, Blue Man Group also is based in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Orlando and Berlin, Germany.

Historic RCA Studio B
Historic RCA Studio B, Nashville, Tenn.
Credit: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Historic RCA Studio B

Nashville, Tennessee

Located on the famed Music Row, Historic RCA Studio B gives students a chance to learn what it’s like to record in a professional studio — and to hear stories about performers who came before them.

“As one of the most famous studios in the world, Historic RCA Studio B immediately fills you with creative energy,” said Dana Romanello, senior tourism and admission sales manager at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which helps preserve the studio. “To stand where Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton stood and recorded many of their hits is an experience like no other. Students get to walk among the many original instruments and equipment used on over 1,000 top 10 hits.”

Students receive private, guided tours of the studio, and learn about the evolution of recording technology and the science of sound. The tour gives students an up-close, inside look at the music industry, while also showcasing advancements made since 1957 — and not just in recording technology.

“This studio was breaking barriers in regard to racial equality, women’s rights and creative freedom,” Romanello said. “Our hope is that every student leaves feeling inspired in some way — to write a song, be the next record executive like Chet Atkins, or simply stand up for what they believe in.”

Playhouse Square in Cleveland Ohio
Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio
Credit: Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square

Cleveland, Ohio

Aside from touring the studio, students are encouraged to make their own recording during their visit. As part of the Star for a Day itinerary, students may spend up to 30 minutes recording a selection of songs from their own repertoire.

During a tour of Playhouse Square, students discover how the theaters were built, how they were saved from the wrecking ball and how Playhouse Square has become a center for excitement and economic development.

“Most people are surprised by the size of Playhouse Square,” said Cindi Szymanski, assistant director, brand marketing and communications. “With 11 performance spaces and more than a million guests each year, we are the largest performing arts center in the United States outside of New York’s Lincoln Center. Five of our spaces are historic theaters that were built in the early 1920s. All have been beautifully restored, making them a show in their own right.”

Szymanski said middle and high school students often attend Broadway shows and special student matinee performances that either Playhouse Square or its resident companies present.

“Theater tours are quite popular, and we also have a program called Careers in the Performing Arts that gives students the opportunity to find out what it’s like to be part of a production, whether on stage or behind the scenes,” she said. “Our Group Services Department is ready to assist educators in planning a visit to Playhouse Square and will help every step of the way from securing tickets and bus parking, to finding the best place for lunch or dinner.”

Szymanski recommends students visit to see Disney’s The Lion King, Aug. 7–Sept. 1, 2019, and Disney’s Frozen, in the summer of 2020.

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Cortney Erndt oversees Student Group Tour magazine and contributes to all Group Tour Media publications, online and in print. She has an affinity for adventure travel; find her on a sky ledge — maybe sky diving — and reporting on it. Her favorite destinations connect cityscapes with captivating culture and good coffee.