This school’s theatre program has performed in a cemetery. How it got NBC’s attention.

Drama students at Boyle County High School received a $10,000 grant from NBC inspired by the network’s new series “Rise.”
Drama students at Boyle County High School received a $10,000 grant from NBC inspired by the network’s new series “Rise.” Boyle County Schools

There’s an unlikely connection between a Kentucky school district’s budget constraints and a new NBC drama that starts March 13.

NBC officials said a donation program inspired by the upcoming drama “Rise” — about a high school theatre department and its effects on a small town — is awarding Boyle County High School in Danville $10,000 to help its theatre program.

Through a program called R.I.S.E. (Recognizing and Inspiring Student Expression) America, NBC awarded each of 50 winning schools with a $10,000 grant that will cover the needs of their theatre programs. NBC is facilitating the program in partnership with the Educational Theatre Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to shaping lives through theatre education. To qualify for the grant, the high schools were required to have a theatre program facing budget constraints.

“We have five schools in our district and we don’t have a single theater,” Boyle County theatre teacher Frieda Gebert told the Herald-Leader. “Every time we do a show I have to rent a theatre. The only place we have to practice is a classroom that we share with psychology. ... I did the play Spoon River Anthology, and we did it outside in a cemetery. I had to petition the city government to let us use the cemetery. I can’t afford to rent a theatre twice. I’m only a half-time drama teacher. We don’t even have a full-time drama teacher.”

Gebert thinks Boyle County drew the judges’ attention for “the complete lack of any facility to perform, to rehearse, to have costumes or props, but at the same time our real, incredibly good program.”

“We have such fabulous actors. We have our own thespian troupe here. These kids really work at theatre and to do that with almost no resources is remarkable.”

Each winning school submitted a video and an essay. The Boyle County students in their video performed a skit that highlighted both the lack of facilities and their talent.

In the essay Gebert submitted, she said part of the money would be used for the school musical “Sister Act” in May.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

"Rise" premieres on NBC on March 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Visit for more information.