HUDSON, Wis. - NBC's new drama "Rise" premieres Tuesday night. It focuses on a small-town high school theater department. Ahead of the premiere, the network is celebrating high school theater programs across the country.
Fifty high schools were awarded NBC's R.I.S.E. (Recognizing and Inspiring Student Expression) America grants. The $10,000 grants will help cover things like production expenses, technical equipment and master classes.
Hudson High School was among the recipients.
"I cried when we told the kids. Everybody was jumping up and down and just... extremely excited," said Kari Heisler, who directs the fall musical and spring play.
Heisler found out about the R.I.S.E. grant through Facebook. For their submission, a student helped put together a 2-minute video and Heisler wrote a 500-word essay. They also needed a letter of recommendation from an administrator.
"They went by financial need, also just by quality of the program and just the belief that we would do something great with the money and would use it wisely," Heisler said.
The school is still deciding how they will spend the money. According to Heisler, musicals can cost anywhere from $15,000-$25,000 to put on.
"Just the rights for Sound of Music this year was about $5,400," Heisler said.
Hudson High School Principal Peg Shoemaker said the grant highlights the importance of high school theater.
"There's nothing like being in a production. The sense of community, the sense of pride students have, the highlighting of voices, of stage presence... you can't replace that as a memory for a student," Shoemaker said.
Heisler added, "I see it every day, how it changes kids' lives and the amount of skills that they have from doing theater, whether it's on stage or behind the scenes, that they're going to carry with them for life in so many ways."
Hudson High School was chosen from 1,000 school applicants and was the only school chosen in Wisconsin.
Pine Island High School was the only school in Minnesota awarded a R.I.S.E America grant.
The program is in partnership with the Educational Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to shaping lives through theater education.