July 1, 2010

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Acting careers lofted
NH training made the difference
Adam Coughlin acoughlin@hippopress.com

Two alumni of the Acting Loft in Manchester directed and produced the independent movie The Mystery Team, which is now out on DVD. And while their success has been great, it is even sweeter because it is being enjoyed by those who helped them along the way.

Dan Eckman (director) and Meggie McFadden (producer) rose to fame by making humorous Internet videos as part of the Derrick Comedy troupe. Acting Loft Artistic Director Chris Courage is not surprised by this rise to fame. He could see it coming.

“Dan was an actor and filmmaker since I’ve known him,” said Courage, which was when Eckman was about 11 years old. “He always approached performance from a directorial standpoint. He didn’t want to be an actor but he wanted to know what actors went through so he could direct them.”

Courage said McFadden worked in the production aspect and as his special assistant for several years. Courage said the Acting Loft was very much an intern program for the two.

“Success brings recognition,” Courage said. “There are a lot of theater companies in New Hampshire. This makes people more aware of what we’re doing.”

On a personal level, Courage said the success of his alumni confirms that what’s being done at the Acting Loft has meaning. Courage began the company 15 years ago to give kids in New Hampshire the kind of training that was available in California and New York.

This feeling of pride is not confined to those involved at the Acting Loft. Mathew Cahoon, Arts Facility Director at Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy, said when students succeed — and he’s had several perform on Broadway — it is what teachers live for.

“As a teacher of theater, nothing makes you prouder,” Cahoon said. “Well, maybe if your own children did it. But after four years with these kids, in some ways, it does feel like they’re your children.”

Cahoon said so many of these students enter high school not knowing much about theater and when they fall in love with it and then shine, it is a great feeling to know you were part of that process.

This sentiment was echoed by Diane Rothwell of the Timberlane School District, whose former students include a trombone player for the singer Michael Bublé.

“Having these alumni come back and tell their story really inspires the young students,” Rothwell said. “Of course we try to help them succeed in many ways, not just in the arts.”

While the success of alumni can lead new students to a specific theater company, others’ success does not keep them performing, according to Courage.

“If someone is interested in acting and then they hear about Dan and Meggie they’ll know the Acting Loft provides great training and it may be the impetus for them to walk through the door,” Courage said. “But once inside they’ll study because of their passion.”


Could these Acting Loft performers be the next big stars? Courtesy photo.

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