SPS teams aim to expand theater’s market

As part of our Student Powered Solutions (SPS) program, teams from Albert Gallatin and Laurel Highlands high schools began a semester-long project this month to help Uniontown’s historic State Theatre Center for the Arts attract a younger audience. 

Opened as a movie theater nearly a century ago, the venue has seen its ups, downs and transformations. Ready availability of television entertainment combined with the advent of multi-screen theaters siphoned away patrons and forced its shutdown in 1973. It found new life several years later as a music hall featuring country western greats like Johnny Cash, but couldn’t sustain profitability. Revived a third time as a nonprofit by the Greater Uniontown Heritage Consortium in 1988, the theater has since pursued a mix of programming—from touring stage productions, to classic movies, school musicals and civic events. Still, it struggles to overcome multiple obstacles including an inability thus far to attract young patrons, Executive Director Erica Miller told students after they toured the theater in early October. 

The student teams will offer possible solutions as one of the Project-Based Learning opportunities SPS organizes between schools and businesses or organizations willing to let kids can try their hands at tackling real world problems. PBL not only gives students a chance to apply their classroom lessons, it also helps them develop the soft, transferrable skills needed to succeed in the workplace. At the same time, the students can bring fresh perspectives to the businesses and organizations that take them on as consultants.

Students peppered Miller with questions in anticipation of doing deeper research. They’ll reconvene at the theater in December to present their findings.