Now in its 16th year, On Stage! has given more than 300 high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to ‘live’ the arts! This exciting program introduces students to the performing arts – from theater and opera to classical music and world culture – to help them gain a lifelong appreciation for the arts.

Members of the 2015 On Stage group

Students are invited to submit an essay detailing why they want to participate in Iowa State Center’s successful audience development program On Stage! Those selected have an exciting opportunity to attend six varied performances throughout the season. Not only do they attend the shows, they meet with the performers after the show to ask questions and gain insight into what it means to be ‘on stage.’ For many students, On Stage! is their first time experiencing live entertainment; for others, it is an opportunity to expand their arts knowledge and understanding.

 What the students say…

In creating the On Stage! program, we sought to share our love of the performing arts and instill an appreciation for the commitment and passion of the artists. Did we succeed? Here is a measure of our success from former “On Stagers.”

  • One cannot truly express beauty in words, as it is an emotion one feels more than anything. I felt The Sleeping Beauty Ballet was indeed a beautiful experience that will create a lasting appreciation for the art of ballet in my heart.
  • I left (Stephens Auditorium) that night with a new appreciation and understanding for classical music that I hope I will never lose.  (Irish Chamber Orchestra)

We aimed to show the relevance of these performances in their daily lives. Here is more positive feedback.

  • When we got to meet Dailey and Vincent after the performance, they somehow managed to answer a question and turn that answer into advice about what to do when you grow up and have to make decisions.
  • I learned to find the value in each show, even if some did not fit my personal taste.
  • This involvement will help me in the future to be more open to different experiences and help me be more accepting as a person.
  • I’ve been going to shows and concerts my entire life, but something was always missing. No matter how many plays my parents took me to as a child, or how many concerts I convinced them to take me to as a teenager, I always wanted more … On Stage! has been a wonderful experience for me in so many ways, but most importantly because it opened my eyes to shows I never would have seen on my own accord, or shows my parents never would have taken me to, and ended up liking some of them more than concerts I begged my parents for weeks to take me to. On Stage! has truly opened my eyes to all the types of arts out there previously unbeknownst to me.
  • As I began the long trek for preparing for college repeatedly I hear that colleges are looking for what they have deemed a “well rounded person”. … Theater is an art form that loves to test boundaries. Just by being in theater I thought I was testing boundaries, but because of this show I have realized that I have been testing the exact same boundaries each time, which doesn’t really make it testing boundaries. This experience allowed me to sample so many different kinds of art… It is thanks to On-Stage! that I have finally realized what being well rounded means. It means trying new things and knowing yourself. That is why with confidence I can say that it is thanks to On-Stage! I am now a better “rounded person”.
  • I don’t think I can articulate how grateful I feel for this experience. Every performance exceeded my expectations and I’m glad to have been able to go to every one of them. Before On Stage!, I don’t think I really understood or gave enough credit to the audience’s role in each show. I realize now that each show elicits a different response from the audience, and the audience can just have as much of an effect on the performer(s).

We are proud to see how On Stage! helps in fulfilling our mission to open the door for students to learn about and value the wonderful world of the performing arts. We look forward to sharing experiences with more students and with you for many, many more years!

Please contact Sara Compton at or 515-294-7389 with questions or if you would like to support On Stage!