New Acting Loft education director marches on, Palace parents lower youth acting fees
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
When Billy Butler departed Manchester’s Acting Loft in October after two months as artistic director, he left his recent hire, education director Leah Belanger, to hold down the fort.
Belanger, a Londonderry native, received a B.A. in acting and directing from Keene State College in 2002, spent a year in New York, taught with the Hartford Stage and has worked with the Acting Loft and other area community and professional theater companies since 2004.
Currently, Belanger is working closely with the Acting Loft’s board of directors and chairman, Charlie Basbas, to run Acting Loft, but they will be searching for a new artistic director, she said. Belanger said she’s received plenty of support from Acting Loft, friends and family, and is positive about the educational theater group’s future. She just posted their spring course catalog.
“I feel like this is the most variety we’ve had at Acting Loft in our courses,” Belanger said. “One of the things we are looking to do is to expand the age range we offer courses to, and for each age range expand the number of courses.” They Loft has also added several new instructors.
Belanger’s long-term goal is to integrate the theatrical performance and theatrical education programs. Right now there isn’t a strong link other than the fact that students are being trained and know the audition dates, she said.
Most classes are geared toward youth from upper elementary school through high school at various skill levels, with some adult classes in acting, dance and voice. There are also classes to introduce young children to theater.
In other Manchester theater education news, the Palace Youth Theatre’s Parents of the Palace (P.O.P.) volunteer group has been in effect since May. The plan was for them to run fundraisers to lower the cost of the performance fee for Palace Youth shows. So far, the show fees have gone from $100 to $65 per youth actor per show, said Rebecca Peterson, Palace marketing director. For the cost, kids get two months of rehearsal time, costumes, and a cast T-shirt. Ticket sales help cover other costs, like heating and staffing.
Usually about 20 parents are involved in P.O.P. during a show, and they sell fundraising items at performances. Recently P.O.P. took over organizing the Palace’s float for the Manchester Christmas parade. “The more ideas they have, the more they take ownership of the program,” the more possible it will be to get rid of youth production fees, she said.