CHARLOTTE, NC — When it comes to theater and the arts, diversity is pretty low.
A few years ago, the Actors Equity Association did a study showing that white men made up the majority of acting and manager contracts.
Getting into schools with elite performing arts programs is also difficult, but it’s even more of a challenge for minorities and low-income households.
But that’s where Corey Mitchell comes in.
For more than 20 years, he has taught at the Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte.
“Five years into my teaching experience, I actually quit, and I quit for a year and what I found was that I missed it so much,” he said. he declares. “Every day is an adventure with the students.”
His larger than life personality, as well as his skills, won him many accolades, including the Tony Award for Excellence in Theater Education, but his teaching career was soon coming to an end.
“I was already in the process, and in this phase of ‘OK, it’s time for me to mix some things up,'” Mitchell said.
He originally planned to retire in 2020, but he halted those plans after the death of George Floyd, and the protests across the country ended up inspiring him.
Mitchell decided to create a nonprofit college prep program called the Theater Gap Initiative. The program would provide rigorous training and resources to help students of color break into the arts.
“The direct benefit to students that they’ll get is someone passionate and not just one person, multiple people who are passionate about helping them achieve what they believe they can do,” Mitchell said.
High school student Rayna Allen is the program’s first-ever accepted student.
She spent months applying for colleges with fine arts programs, noticing the lack of diversity.
“Do I even want to go here if I know I’m going to be in a class full of white people and no one else who can even understand me in any way? It was definitely a toll I had to think about myself,” she explained.
The program is something she is really looking forward to.
Mitchell and his bright personality will be retiring from the North West at the end of May, but he is excited about this new journey and the group of students he will help shape.
“I used to think of myself as agile, and this opportunity gives me a chance to be agile again,” he said.
The Theater Gap initiative will partner with Central Piedmont Community College to deliver this new program.
The program will attract 24 students, with applications closing May 17.
You can read more about the program and the work Mitchell does here.