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Whitney M. Faison
Digital Marketing and Communications Manager, Meals on Wheels America
WWPR Pro Bono Committee member

Sitar Arts Center offers multidisciplinary arts, music, dance and theater opportunities for DC’s youth year-round. June kicked off with Camp Sitar—an immersive day-long arts program, where 89% of students come from a household with low-income. As part of the six-week summer program, students collaboratively produce a Broadway style musical. 

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Sitar’s Summer Musical – a testament to the quality of programming at Sitar and the team of professionals who help students create magic on stage. 

Under the leadership of A. Lorraine Robinson, Senior Director of Artistic Programs and Strategic Partnerships at Sitar Arts Center and three-time recipient of the Tony Awards’ Honorable Mention for Excellence in Theatre Education, the summer musical program is thriving. Joining the Sitar team fifteen years ago as they moved into their current 10,700 sq. ft. Adams Morgan location, Robinson has built Sitar’s musical program from the ground up. 

“When we started at the new space in Adams Morgan, the theater was still under construction,” said Robinson. “There was no budget, and we were still working on recruiting students. It’s amazing to see how the summer musical has evolved.” 

Since its inception in 2004, Sitar’s summer musical program has put on fifteen high-quality productions including Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and West Side Story, just to name a few. 

Sitar’s summer musicals are chosen to be socially and culturally relevant to what is going on in current events.

Robinson says, “I remember when we put on Hairspray in 2015. It was around the time of social unrest in Baltimore. We made sure to include post-show discussions with the audience.” 

In honor of the 15th anniversary celebration of the musical program, Sitar will return to a favorite past musical–a revival of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. To fully immerse the audience in Sitar’s creative and innovative programming, the sweet smell of chocolate will permeate throughout the lobby during the production. 

Alongside Robinson, the Sitar summer musical team consists of a cohort of esteemed professionals within the DC theater community, including experts in video, production, lighting and set design. Acting coaches and choreographers work with students throughout the rehearsal process while teen interns, paid through the DC Summer Youth Employment Program, provide leadership for the youth cast and crew as lead actors, stage managers, costume designers, and theater techs. 

During her 15-year tenure as Senior Director of Artistic Programs and Strategic Partnerships, Robinson has loved the opportunity to create here at Sitar. 

“It’s been so rewarding seeing students find their passion,” Robinson says. 

The entire team at Sitar Arts Center believes strongly in the mission of the organization and the value of performing arts. Sitar Programs Coordinator Naomi Cohen, who is now working on her third musical at Sitar, loves the transformation that the students can have as a result of the program. 

“Theater is empowering for students; it’s unlike any other art form. Students have so much fun in the rehearsal process; for some of them, it’s their first time on stage,” said Cohen. 

For a sneak peek of Sitar’s production of Willy Wonka, visit Sitar Arts Center on July 13 or July 27 to help build sets and design props. RSVP to lorraine@sitarartscenter.org. We encourage you to learn how your support makes a difference in Sitar’s summer musical program here