Fox Theater Foundation trains youths for stage careers

The Fox Theater Foundation in Riverside lets students experience live theater on stage and behind the scenes.

Its programs returned in spring. While the theater was dark for a period during the COVID-19 pandemic and students programs were on hold, the second half of this academic year was a busy one.

The organization returned with its Live Tech program, for which it partnered with Live Nation. This vocational and career technical education for high school students teaches hands-on theater technology. The free program, offered to Riverside and Alvord unified school district students, trains up to 200 students in audio, visual, lighting and stagecraft on the equipment used at the Fox Performing Arts Center in downtown Riverside. Not only did students miss the program, but Live Nation employees also were looking forward to its return, according to Cynthia Wright, the Fox Theater Foundation’s executive director.

The Live Tech program creates meaningful career paths for students looking for non-traditional employment opportunities, Wright said. For example, Adolfo Diaz, a Live Tech alum from Riverside’s Ramona High School, landed a job thanks to the program.

Students take part in the Live Tech program, offered by the Fox Theater Foundation in partnership with Live Nation. (Courtesy of Fox Performing Arts Center)
Students take part in the Live Tech program, offered by the Fox Theater Foundation in partnership with Live Nation. (Courtesy of Fox Performing Arts Center)

“The assistant production manager said they need more students like Adolfo,” Wright said. “We helped a student find a career path that is perfect for him.”

In addition to the Live Tech program, the Fox Theater Foundation brings students to the stage, working with Broadway performers and seeing shows. The opportunity to hear performers discuss their path to success and challenges has a big impact on students, Wright said. It can be inspiring because students can imagine it happening in their own lives. It can also be more meaningful when the mentor experience occurs in their hometown instead of in a distant city.

The coming season’s Broadway programs include, “Step Up,” “The Nutcracker,” (to be staged in partnership with Inland Pacific Ballet) “Anastasia,” the Aretha Franklin story, “RESPECT” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” The Fox Theater Foundation plans a full season. Wright also hopes that master classes for students will return and give them the opportunity to meet performers from Broadway shows.

Recently, the Fox Theater Foundation received a Community Impact grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation for programs to increase its reach to the Latino community. While the organization reaches a diverse population by working with school districts, it wants to create programs for Latino families.

Working with Richard Rodriguez, a professor of media and cultural studies and English at UC Riverside, the Fox Theater Foundation will survey the Latino community. The survey will be out in summer and Wright encourages Latino families to participate and help shape fall programs.

“We want to work more with Latino families, and we don’t want to presume what the community wants,” Wright said.

The Fox Theater Foundation plans to ensure that the theater, its performances and educational programs will be available to the community for decades to come. The organization was planning for a capital campaign at the onset of the pandemic. Ultimately, the foundation would like to raise the funds for an endowment to support its work.

The Fox Theater Foundation is separate from the theater and is not run by Live Nation. Although the foundation’s partnership with Live Nation is strong and successful, it depends on grants and donations to provide and increase programs for local youths.

“Our donors are unique in that the greatest benefit they receive is their love of The Fox and knowing that kids are being exposed to performing arts,” Wright said. “I’m incredibly grateful for the support, even though we had an in-person hiatus.”

Information: 951-826-5769 or

Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.