Dear NEYT Family and Friends:
2007 has been a splendiferous year! People just like you, both far and near, have contributed so, so much in making our first year in our new theatre a complete and utter dream-come-true! We just had our first annual faculty, staff, board, mentors, and friends of NEYT pot luck end of year "sharing of the love" gathering. We gave $100 gift certificates from great restaurants in the area to seven of our most devoted workers: Bari Shamas, Scott Brown, Michelle Meima, Jerry Stockman, Liz Smith, Laura Bliss and Sandy Klein, all of whom have gone way beyond what is humanly possible to make NEYT the place of exploration and safety and fun and leadership and love that it is. We now have about six new young 20-something guys and gals, who teach and direct with NEYT and they are all so, so cool and fun and energetic and wise and skilled and, to the kids, they are ROCK STARS! So we are in good, very good, hands now.
We now intend to keep the livery/stable building (which stands between our new lobby and Elm Street) on its feet and renovate it back to its wonderful old self. It will have classrooms and storage and office space, with a connector to the current lobby and an elevator so that those with disabilities can access our tech booth and acrobatics/yoga classroom. The New England Center for Circus Arts will build out along Flat Street: I hope next to the Church building.
As for our last few events of the year, Guys and Dolls totally sold out, as did Scott Ainsley (blues singer) and so did Cheryl Wheeler and Lisa McCormick. For every one of these events we have had over 70 cars parked out in front of the grass oval (protected by huge stones moved from my backyard for free by Rocky LaRock—thank you!) and also along the roadway that leads to the shop and out in front of the building where we have parking for those with disabilities. People are going wild for the building because the seating is great, the view to the stage is so good, acoustics are wonderful, the parking is easy and it is accessible to all.
Our annual budget has grown from 165K a year, to 450K this year in our new building—that is a giant leap for one year. But as I write this, we are forecasting that we will meet our budget for 2007. We have exceeded our fundraising goal, recently met a $10,000 challenge match and some end-of-the-year donations are still coming in. We are so grateful to all of you who have contributed to the fall campaign. As I am sure you are all aware, in order to meet the financial demands of increased programming and the new building, we have stepped up our development and fundraising initiatives. And we are so appreciative of each and every one who responded to our new challenges and helped us meet our goals. Carlotta Cuerdon is our Development Director, and please call her if you have any questions about fundraising. She’s at 387-4665.
We have a newly forming parents and friends organization, and anyone is welcome to get involved. Call the NEYT office to find out more, or check the Parents and Friends Association link under Support Us on the NEYT website. We also have a newly organized alumni group and led by alums Jess Callahan and Nick Bombicino. We have over 10 kids in our new technical theatre program and NEYT is also forming ties with the local middle school. The Boys and Girls Club was recently awarded a large grant for kids activities that that they want NEYT to be involved with, and the Brattleboro Area Middle School which hopes to get a 141K 21st Century Grant (they’ll hear about that in April) want us to share in that grant with faculty teaching and exchange.
We continue to do school shows and Rosa Palmeri and Allie Bliss worked with Peter Gould to open a two-woman Twelfth Night by Shakespeare in a touring format so that they can take it to schools in the winter. I will create a new work with Jonathan Mirin in May that will be acted by six hearing kids and six kids who are deaf. The Austine School is very excited about that. Our Theatre Adventure Program for kids with disabilities has expanded to three groups: one is after school, one is during school hours and draws kids from the local schools in cooperation with the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, and a third is all adults and meets in the mornings. Theatre Adventure Program Directors Laura Lawson Tucker and Darlene Jenson have helped the Brattleboro Music Center start their own program for kids with disabilities and are helping to train their teachers and run their program in the classroom.
Our mentor group is at 25 with about six kids as “mentees” (kids working to earn the right to be mentors).
We have so many kids (36) who wanted to do a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream starting in January and opening March 6, that we have hired two directors and will stage two complete productions to run in repertory. Our teacher-parent-student "end of semester" conferences were wildly successful and have reaped great insight and benefit. My clown class for January is already full and other classes are filling rapidly: we got word out very early this year.
On an organizational front, our financial reports are now simple and clear, and easy to understand, and everything is budgeted. Our board is now working in a committee format, such as marketing, development, organizational structure, finance, etc. I have restructured our staff to avoid overlap, defined everyone's role and worked hard and successfully to bring harmony across the board to the organization; we are all in a very good place and differences have been ironed out. NEYT parent Michael Knapp has worked so well to bring NEYT into the top 20 youth theatres in the world when a person Googles “youth theaters” and staff photographer Laura Bliss has also taken on management of the website and is adding new material every day. There are new capabilities on the site, for example, donations can now be made on line with a credit card, and we are looking into other options for using the web for purchases, including tickets.
Our alums are coming back from many professional training conservatories and universities. Noah Smith just completed a semester training at the highly prestigious Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass. Jess Callahan, recent grad from the BU professional BFA acting program is now employed at a youth theatre in Boston, is writing a play for a professional group, stage managed a professional production this fall and is working on learning all she needs to know to begin her own company. Sam Perry performed his thesis at BU (BFA acting) last week.
Our building is so in demand by the community now (the Brattleboro School of Dance has reserved the entire building for two weeks in May) that we definitely are overflowing and need more space, especially office space immediately. We are storing over 1,000 costumes now at the book press in North Brattleboro. The building is beautifully maintained by Scott Brown, David Potter and Jeanette Perra. David and Jeanette work on a tuition-exchange system, and Scott is donating his services absolutely free. What a guy!
I could write another page but I will let you go. The bottom line is that we have a highly professional and skilled board and our financials are in good shape. Carlotta went to a three-day development conference and is honing her fundraising skills. Our faculty is among the best in Vermont and New England. I have made friends with two other youth theatres: The Drama Studio in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Odd Fellows Youth Theatre in Middletown, Connecticut. The Odd Fellows, which is 35 years old, wants to collaborate with us, and the Drama Studio has done so in the past.
I send you all best wishes for a challenging, adventurous, love-and- opportunity-filled 2008. And remember to "leap and the net will appear"... it sure has worked for us!
Dear NEYT Family and Friends: