ORLEANS—The Academy of Performing Arts and its Academy Playhouse have been riding a roller coaster for more than a year, with all the highs and lows that implies.
In recent weeks, there's been an upswing as the institution has worked to maintain its school and transform its theater into an arts center more accessible to its students and the community in general. The theater is enjoying a spring cleaning and will reopen April 26 to host the Nauset Regional High School Variety Show.
From the heights of announcing a $4 million campaign to upgrade the theater to the depths of laying off the key members of its production team, Academy officials learned a lot about expectations.
When donors weren't forthcoming for the building campaign, it was shelved. A series of focus groups made it clear that the theater needed to reestablish its connection with the school, and that the Academy “would be better off offering a wide variety of programs,” board vice chair Greg DeLory said in an interview. “That coincided with realizing that it's very difficult to make it as a stand-alone theater.”
The theater's financial woes impinged on the Academy's school, but DeLory said income augmented by fund-raising efforts will cover its operations through the end of June. “We hope by the time June comes around, we will have got some significant donations or a grant to see us through the summer and into the fall so we can have continuity and not have to drop anything,” he said. “We have already suspended producing and initiating live theater.”
Instead, “we're becoming more of a cultural arts center with a theater component. We have stage lights, a sound system, and a tech person available for a company to come in and do a run,” DeLory said. “We don't have an artistic director.” The board is looking to hire an executive director and also reconfigure its own membership.
Righting the Academy's ship depends on fund-raising and volunteer work, lots of which is going forward. Last weekend, Academy dance students began a clean-up at the venerable hilltop theater with the guidance of board member Sarah Mumford and Nauset HS director of drama Judy Hamer. Another such event is set for April 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Evie McGonigle, a Nauset junior from Chatham, sorted racks of stage outfits. “I really love costumes,” she said, noting that Nauset's upcoming production of “Mamma Mia” (May 16, 17, and 18 at 7 p.m.) will feature 37 actors, some of whom will wear four costumes in a performance.
Taking a break, Hamer recalled directing shows at the Academy during her summer breaks, including “Rent,” “Cabaret,” “Guys and Dolls,” “South Pacific,” and “Grease,” as well as “a lot of kids’ shows.” Hamer, who lives just down the street, said that “there's something about this space that feels like home to me.” She hopes to see “more kid-centered plays throughout the year. Kids seem to bring more life to the theater.”
Other efforts to support the Academy include the Parent-Led Fundraising Team, formed last month to “increase visibility of the (Academy of Performing Arts) in the community while promoting the 100 for $100 campaign.” That campaign's goal is raising $100 each from 100 donors to help pay faculty salaries and other school expenses, including those of the annual spring show (June 16 this year) at Nauset Regional Middle School. Donations in any amount may be sent to the Academy of Performing Arts, PO Box 1843, Orleans MA 02653, or you can call the school office at 508-255-5510 to donate by credit card.
Students raised more than $2,000 at a March 31 bake sale at the Stop & Shop and $400 at a lemonade stand in Wellfleet. The Parent-Led Fundraising Team will meet April 27 at 11:30 a.m. at the school; email Carlyn Carey at email@example.com to get on the mailing list.
After listening to parents, students, and other community members, the board announced a new mission statement: “We inspire and build community by providing high-quality performances, art education, and cultural opportunities.”
In a press statement, DeLory called the statement “an overview of our vision to bring together wide-ranging cultural programming, high-quality artistic productions, and inspirational education offerings to support and encourage the artistic and intellectual talents of the greater Cape Cod community.”