New Values, New Future

posted on May 18 2020

by Matt Dorter, Executive Director

The world for kids has changed, and our core values have too.

For 10 years, our 4 C’s -- community, character, confidence, and creativity -- have been embedded, like a GPS chip, in the back of my head. They have served as my navigation, keeping me centered on the super-objective of mainstages: using creativity in education to make kids into better humans. Those 4 C’s have informed the very soul of our business, but now they're not enough. As the world has shifted and our business has pivoted to stay relevant, we have decided to introduce new values to the mainstages mission.

Introducing new core values is no small decision. They are called “core values” because they will determine every component of our business, from the way we treat our partners and staff to the formats and subject matter we use to entertain and educate. These values are imagination, connection, character, and imagination. They will not only guide our decisions on how we run our new virtual programming but how we address current issues. And we are committed to remaining flexible, listening to members of communities we do not represent, and adapting our values and mission as a company moving forward. These values will create new pathways in theater education, strengthening the foundation of our content, and helping reach the highest potential of the world our children are inheriting.

These values are permanent. Even after we are back together in person, our business has changed and we will drop the mic on these values FOR. EVER.


Adapt and Overcome Obstacles

At the essence of improv is the term “yes, and.” We take reality as it presents itself, and make something from that moment, using positivity and creative problem-solving. We have to be innovative, adaptable, and creative in discovering solutions to life’s problems.

What you will see:

  • We will BE LIVE, engaging, and supporting participants in-the-moment, without pre-recording.
  • We will encourage children to be flexible in their mindset and believe those whose experiences are different from their own.
  • We will change for the sake of change, keeping our subject matter flexible and ever-adapting.
  • We will focus segments on mental dexterity, using riddles, puzzles, and cerebral methods of problem-solving


Come Together in Celebration

When we bring groups together in a way that focuses on similarities, we tap into the experiences that lift us up when we are together in person. We think of it like the applause that comes at the end of the show - a palpable sense of celebration that comes from the recognition of group collaboration.

What you will see:


Find your Inner Strength

How you respond when your back's up against the wall is what defines you. We look inside ourselves and summon the inner strength that comes from accessing our emotions. For kids, that means checking in often and communicating our feelings in a way that allows us to be more present.

What you will see:

  • We will truly listen to each other, creating an atmosphere that encourages self-pride and open sharing.
  • We will be diligent in making sure our programs and performances provide a secure, safe space for all of our students, especially those students who are a part of marginalized communities.
  • We will work to ensure that the members of our community - from top to bottom including our teaching artists and performers - continue to educate themselves on ways we can combat implicit bias in the spaces we work in.
  • We will lean on themes that are relevant, including topics of physical and mental health, racism, and gender identity.
  • We will provide a secure, safe space, recognizing the vulnerabilities presented by virtual engagement.


Push the Boundaries of Creativity

The theater has always offered the opportunity to escape reality and see the world from a different perspective. Now is the time to transport people from the present to a world of new adventures, while never resting on our laurels and always innovating.

What you will see:

  • We will push the boundaries of remote learning, leveraging technology to create a highly-produced, professional experience.
  • We will push the boundaries of our comfort zones, and remain open to seeing new points of view.
  • We will utilize the imagination as a tool to encourage empathy in the children who participate in our programs and performances.
  • We will delve into imaginative play and explore larger-than-ever ideas, characters, settings, and scenarios.
  • We will step outside of the ordinary to maintain an infinite perspective, emphasizing the big picture, and focusing on the optimistic future that still lies ahead.

Even the worst of adversities can spawn new means of problem solving and ideation.

When the wind changes course, what used to be a headwind becomes a tailwind – these core values will help us stay flexible and take us in the direction that will strengthen us. At the end of the day, all we have are our principles. If we can look back at our decisions and see that we honored our commitment to the mission that drives us, regardless of circumstances, then we did the best we could do. And that’s what is required of all of us right now - doing our best.

Matt Dorter

posted on May 18 2020

by Matt Dorter

Matt is a seasoned camp and theater professional with over 20 years staff experience at both day and resident camps. Matt graduated New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Theater and Applied Education and served as Company Manager of the New Acting Company in New York City.

Matt has toured with the National Theater for Children and has written, directed, and produced over 150 shows for children. Matt is a consultant on theatrical services for summer camps and is a presenter for the American Camp Association on theatrical best practices.

Matt is proud to be a founding member of the mainstages team and is passionate about the goal of using creativity to inspire social action and strengthen theatrical arts in the youth movement.