As a theatre lover, I could not have dreamed up a more perfect place for arts enrichment for the community. Arc Stages, whose tagline is “theatre for every stage,” hits the mark in providing theatre education and opportunities for every stage of life and all stages of development. Arc Stages, located in Pleasantville, runs three theatre companies that currently share the same stage; the educational stage, the community theatre, and the professional theatre. It is a place where you can learn about theatre, be in theatre, or see theatre.
The Educational Stage
The educational stage produces youth productions and conducts workshops for kids ages 3-18 all year round, in addition to adult classes like the adult improv comedy class. In the theatre workshop program, kids register for workshops by age group and are invited to audition. What differentiates Arc Stages from other children’s theatre groups is that the show is not chosen until after the students audition. No students are cut from the program. When students return for callbacks, the director tries different shows out on the students before selecting the most appropriate show for the group.
“It is about the students first. It’s not about vying for parts,” explains Adam Cohen, Artistic Director. “We usually have a list of shows and we try different songs and sides out on the kids and see what show fits this particular group of kids because our goal is to teach them something through theatre and challenge them.”
“We do theatre games and work different types of workshops into the rehearsal process so that it’s not only about the show but about building self-confidence through theatre,” says Galit Sperling, the Director of Education. “We focus on positivity and let our students know that this is a safe space and an artistically and educationally fulfilling sanctuary.”
As auditioning can be nerve-wracking for some younger first time students, no one is forced to audition. “They can sing happy birthday if they want. It’s about us getting to know them,” says Sperling.
All theatre workshops culminate in two or three productions with elaborate costumes and sets at the end of the session.
Arc Stages also runs an in-school playwriting educational outreach program, Visions and Voices, in which they work with local schools teaching kids how to write plays and then produce them. A festival of plays is presented at the conclusion of the program. Visions and Voices is in its fourth year and Arc Stages would love to add more schools to its program.
If you are looking for something for your kids to do this summer, Arc Stages holds a full day summer camp in which different age groups work on different shows. Besides rehearsals for a show, classes during the camp day include Acting Technique, Choreography, Improv & Theater Games, Stage Combat, Music and Vocal Technique, master classes and more.
Campers can choose to enroll in a six-week session or a three-week session. There is also a one-week intensive course. Early registration discounts are available if you register before April 1st.
The Community Stage
The community stage is geared towards adults in the community, whether you are brand new to theatre, returning to theatre after many years, or are professional non-union actors who want to do something in the community. They put on three productions every year. Auditions are open to anyone who wants to participate.
“It’s a mix between people who are accountants, lawyers, dentists, and everyday people that want to get into acting. Some participants are incredibly talented but just happen to do other things for a living. We try to produce a professional looking show but we’re looking for all walks of life in it so it really is the community,” says Cohen.
There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for community members to assist backstage, design sets, work on costumes or help with technical services.
Rehearsals are currently underway for their next show, Avenue Q, which promises to be a great performance. Avenue Q will run the first two weekends of April. The community stage will also perform You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown July 19th-21st. Tickets for all shows can be purchased at arcstages.org.
The Next Stage
The Next Stage is the professional theatre company, which operates under a Small Professional Theatre Contract with Actor’s Equity Association, an actors’ union. They produce two high quality productions a year. The actors in a Next Stage show are generally all union members. Auditions are held at an open call in the city.
The next show has yet to be announced for the professional theatre company. Traditionally, Arc Stages announces their upcoming shows for both the community and professional stage at their fundraising gala in April. The gala, scheduled for April 27th, is always a fun evening where a show written especially for that night is performed for the guests by a mix of community and professional actors. Students from the educational stage also perform a number in the show.
Working Towards a Dream
Arc Stages’ facility has plenty of rehearsal spaces and its own dedicated 74-seat theatre. While having its own theatre has been incredible, a capital campaign is underway to raise money to build a bigger 175-seat proscenium theatre. They are probably a few years away from fulfilling this goal but it will surely add to the magnificence of all that their students, actors and community members accomplish at this magical place.