Liberty Theater launches new educational program

Jan. 21—When Liberty Theater executive director Jennifer Crockett asked staff how they should use a recent donation, she said the decision to launch a new educational program was unanimous.

In the hours leading up to shows, staff sometimes have to call friends to ask for backstage help, as there are few workers in the area with the technical skills to operate rigging, lights and curtains. .

With stage expansions and new equipment on the horizon, this labor shortage will become a bigger problem for the downtown theater.

“We were kind of like, ‘How can we recreate this supply chain?'” Crockett said.

The Liberty will launch a new after-school program in September, offering a year-round formal theater education program. In addition to acting classes for all ages, staff hope to train locals to run the show behind the scenes.

The program, called The Brosius Academy, was made possible by a $100,000 donation from Mike and Laura Brosius, who moved to Astoria in November from Seattle.

The couple have been renovating a Victorian-style house in town for several years. Passionate about art, they have long enjoyed visiting the Liberty.

“It’s a great space,” Mike Brosius said. “When you think about the size of the community and the space, how well it’s been done, that’s obviously a showpiece for Astoria.”

The retired couple said they were delighted to be part of the community and hoped to get more involved.

Mike Brosius joined the theater’s board of directors. Before their first meeting, he asked what the couple’s donation could be used for. The staff came back with a pitch for the education program.

“That’s what they found, which fits really really well with us because, to me, if we can get one potential student interested in the arts who might not have had the opportunity, it’s a very good use of money in our opinion,” he said.

The youth program will likely be modeled after that of the Northwest Children’s Theater and School in Portland, which offers acting classes and acting exercises for age groups between 4 and 14 years old. The courses will give rise to several student performances per year.

The Liberty plans to partner with local schools and performing arts centers to create the program and eventually hold classes in different locations. The theater will still host the Missoula Children’s Theatre, a popular touring camp, for at least another two years.

Classes will have tuition, but the Liberty plans to have a scholarship program to cover costs for low-income and underrepresented youth. The theater is also considering after-school transportation options.

Crockett envisions a technical skills training program preparing them for behind-the-scenes jobs and hopes to involve local talent in teaching the classes.

“There are so many great actors in this town and directors,” she said.

The Liberty has begun looking for a program director to develop the program and expects to make a hiring decision by early March.

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