Community Players is pleased to announce a new educational initiative. The importance of providing quality educational opportunities for youth and adults as a key component in a theatre’s programming cannot be under estimated.
My first memory of music and theatre as a child comes from attending a dress rehearsal of my high school's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" (presented during the school day for the elementary students). While I was too young to truly understand the story, moments from that production are still emblazoned in my mind; townspeople coming down the aisles singing "Tradition" and the truly scary (to a first or second grader) dream sequence. It was that experience which sparked a love of the arts in me and I know many of you have had similar experiences.
Unfortunately that experience has become increasingly rare as school districts due to budget constraints and the need to focus on standardized testing have cut back or eliminated the arts from the curriculum. As the area’s largest performing arts organization Community Players feels obligated to make sure the next generation of students have opportunities to experience and participate in quality theatre.
This is not a new obligation as programming for youth has been part of our mission from the early days of the organization starting with a program in 1976 produced in collaboration with the City of Beatrice parks and recreation department. In 1988 several then current and former members of the Community Players Board of Directors in collaboration with Artistic Director at the time Marya Lucca-Thyberg created the Beatrice Children’s Theatre to address the growing need for youth programming. While operating under the umbrella of Community Players’ non-profit status the Beatrice Children’s Theatre maintained an independent board of directors, finances and staffing.
For 23 years Beatrice Children’s Theatre, led by parents who recognize the immense value of youth theatre, has carried the mantel of educational theatrical programming for the area. It would not be an under estimate to say thousands of students, parents, siblings and relatives have been exposed to theatre as the result of their efforts each summer. Many graduates of the program have gone on to participate in regular season productions, contribute to their school’s arts organizations and go on to study music and theatre in college and beyond.
Last year when the Beatrice Public Schools announced early outs on Wednesdays it presented an opportunity for Community Players to build upon the work of Beatrice Children’s Theatre with an after school program, called Acting Up. In just a few weeks that program will present its second production, “Brave Little Tailor”. Earlier this week we learned Community Players is receiving $1,000 grant from the Nebraska Arts Council in support of Acting Up.
With all the accomplishments of both groups in mind, today we are pleased to announce the official merger of Beatrice Children’s Theatre and Community Players. Our combined efforts and future plans for educational programming will now move forward with a unified vision under the auspices of a new program called STAGE DOOR.
The STAGE DOOR is the backstage entrance to a theatre, a door that a friend once described to me as “a magic door” where actors, techies and all those who make theatre possible first enter the building and begin their work. I can’t think of a more appropriate name for our enhanced emphasis on educational opportunities for youth and adults.
STAGE DOOR programming will encompass ACTING UP and future workshops and classes we hope to now offer on a consistent basis for all ages. Under this new program the Beatrice Children’s Theatre name is being re-branded as STARS OF SUMMER. This new name reflects the range of inclusiveness provided by the program for students ages 8 to 15.
It is often joked that “change” is a four-letter-word in many of our communities. This new initiative is a positive change. For those who have grown up with and loved Children’s Theatre very little will change. STARS OF SUMMER will continue to be an all-inclusive summer production experience drawing on students from all the surrounding communities. Parents will continue to play a vital role in the execution of the production. The Beatrice Children’s Theatre board of directors have transitioned to become the STAGE DOOR advisory committee. With Community Players’ Associate Artistic Director, Tyler Rinne, they will continue to be the production team responsible for the STARS OF SUMMER production, including being a part of the annual hiring process for the show’s guest director. They will also provide insight and guidance regarding ACTING UP, workshops and THE YOUNG ADULT THEATRE project (that targets performers ages 16-25).
Today we are also pleased to announce the inaugural STARS OF SUMMER production will be “Aladdin, Jr” a musical adaptation of the popular Disney film. The show will run July 19-22. Watch the Community Players website in the coming weeks for registration information.
This is an exciting change that will combine resources, staff, and knowledge of the two groups. It will eliminate public confusion regarding two independent organizations working out of the same facility with similar missions. Most importantly this will only serve to enhance and expand the quality of educational programming provided here in downtown Beatrice.
In our recently completed audience survey Community Players asked participants to score the future needs of the organization. Expanding educational programs for youth received the second highest score, followed only by expanding our financial base. STAGE DOOR meets the desires of our community and if even one person carries away a lifelong memory like that of the little boy who saw “Fiddler on the Roof” then that STAGE DOOR truly will be a magical experience.
Managing Artistic Director