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UI Theater Student and Alumnae Win JPEC Elevator Pitch Award

Three women with ties to the University of Iowa theater department were awarded a $1,000 business development prize earlier this month for a theater program they created this summer.

UI theater student Maggie Blake and spring 2011 theater graduates Maggie Jones and Theresa Augsburger received the award Dec. 2 at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s biannual Rose Francis Foundation Elevator Pitch Competition for their new Osage Summer Theatre Program, a series of theater classes offered to K-12 students in the Osage community in north Iowa.

Blake and Augsburger delivered a two-minute speech to a panel of judges asking for funding to continue their project and were met with overwhelming support, Augsburger said.

“Having total strangers be excited and engaged in our program was a reminder to us of how necessary it is to have arts education for students and how the Osage Summer Theatre Program can help fill that need,” Augsburger said.

The summer program was first developed hypothetically by Jones through a grant writing course at UI last year, she said. With Osage’s newly built Cedar River Complex auditorium, Jones imagined it as a perfect opportunity for residents to utilize a stage, perhaps for the first time.

But for Jones, at the time, it was only an idea. Her friends, however, thought otherwise.

“I talked with Maggie and Theresa about it and they said, ‘Why don’t we do it?’” Jones said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? No one is interested in theater.’ And they said, ‘We are. Let’s do it.’”

By June, the trio had a full program established for K-12 students in Osage, Jones’ hometown. In two-week sessions, kids learned the basics of theater and rehearsed and performed a show for the community at the end of their program. With seed money from the city of Osage and insurance and safety support from the parks and recreation department, Jones said the first summer was a success.

“We had over 35 kids participate,” she said. “For our first year, that’s really great.”

Blake said the program is the first of its kind in Osage, so providing an outlet for kids interested in theater was their primary goal.

“We want to give kids the opportunity to get involved in performing arts, try it out and see if they like it,” she said. “Osage is a wonderful community, very supportive, but the only things available there are sports. We wanted to offer an alternative.”

Blake, Augsburger and Jones plan to use the money from the Elevator Pitch Competition to create a website and market and advertise their program for next summer. In the future, they hope to expand their program statewide.

“We’re really excited to get into our second year … and we know Osage is excited,” Jones said. “We’re always working toward bigger goals, and it’ll only get bigger with more help, so this is a great opportunity for us.”

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