COH Receives Grant to Provide Free Theater for Kids

CLAREMONT — The Claremont Opera House (COH) has announced that a grant from the Couch Family Foundation will be utilized to give the gift of live theater to area children.

According to a press release, COH Board President Felicia Dalke, in conjunction with the COH Board of Directors, recently wrote a proposal that aimed to enable students from around the region to see performances at COH for free. “The first year of COVID, basically all of our programming shutdown. As things started to come back last year, we noticed that a lot of the school-related items still weren’t going ahead,” said Dalke over the phone. She went on to describe the scene during last summer’s kid-friendly shows, where much of the 700-seat Opera House sat empty, and actors played to only a few handful of kids and families.

To assuage this drop in youth viewership, the board applied for a grant from the Couch Family Foundation in October, and heard back with the good news in December. The funding will make it so area students can attend 14 2023 shows at COH free of charge. “Doing this for kids was really important to us as a first effort, as a way to take away some of the cost in these economically challenging times,” Dalke stated. “No matter what your financial situation, you should be able to come and experience the arts.”

These 14 productions will, according to the release, include Drama Fest productions, school season shows, summer Impact Theater shows, The Repertory Theater’s summer production, Amplified Arts’ upcoming theatrical showings, and a special production of Peter and the Wolf by Symphony NH. In the release, Dalke states, “This is our opportunity to fill the theater with students, who can enjoy the experience of live theater.”

The diverse range of shows and experiences harkens back to the Opera House’s new Mission Statement, which reads; The mission of the Claremont Opera House is to build community through diverse arts experiences. According to Dalke, the hope is to rejuvenate the Opera House as a resource to the city. “We are a community resource,” she said. “That building was built for this community and city to enjoy.”

According to a press release, COH Board President Felicia Dalke, in conjunction with the COH Board of Directors, recently wrote a proposal that aimed to enable students from around the region to see performances at COH for free. “The first year of COVID, basically all of our programming shutdown. As things started to come back last year, we noticed that a lot of the school-related items still weren’t going ahead,” said Dalke over the phone. She went on to describe the scene during last summer’s kid-friendly shows, where much of the 700-seat Opera House sat empty, and actors played to only a few handful of kids and families.

To assuage this drop in youth viewership, the board applied for a grant from the Couch Family Foundation in October, and heard back with the good news in December. The funding will make it so area students can attend 14 2023 shows at COH free of charge. “Doing this for kids was really important to us as a first effort, as a way to take away some of the cost in these economically challenging times,” Dalke stated. “No matter what your financial situation, you should be able to come and experience the arts.”

These 14 productions will, according to the release, include Drama Fest productions, school season shows, summer Impact Theater shows, The Repertory Theater’s summer production, Amplified Arts’ upcoming theatrical showings, and a special production of Peter and the Wolf by Symphony NH. In the release, Dalke states, “This is our opportunity to fill the theater with students, who can enjoy the experience of live theater.”

The diverse range of shows and experiences harkens back to the Opera House’s new Mission Statement, which reads; The mission of the Claremont Opera House is to build community through diverse arts experiences. According to Dalke, the hope is to rejuvenate the Opera House as a resource to the city. “We are a community resource,” she said. “That building was built for this community and city to enjoy.”

Kicking off this program will be the upcoming Ode to Mulan, a Drama Fest production, set to debut on January 21st. This show provides local youth actors the opportunity at center stage. Students from Bluff School, Disnard School, and Maple Avenue School are set to star. This year’s effort is under the direction of Brandi and Kevin LaPlante. According to the Board President, this grant came at the perfect time for the directors, as it allowed them to perform this year’s show at COH with no additional costs to them. “In recent years, the cost to use the space has gone up. We don’t want cost to prohibit organizations from using our space.”

A show for older students appears on February 3rd, when Amplified Arts’ Stardust premieres on the COH stage. The show, directed by Shelly Hudson, is the 18th production for the company that was founded in 2015. In the press release, Hudson describes the show as, “A wonderful farce about theater and allows the cast of kooky characters to poke fun at, and rejoice in, all the things we love and laugh at about creating live theater.”

Tickets for the Drama Fest and Amplified Arts productions are on-sale now. Dalke states that they are available at www.cohnh.org, or by calling the box office at 603-542-4433. When adults purchase their own tickets, there will be an option to add student tickets, and these will appear as free. Dalke also emphasized that while this program will directly help the youth of Claremont, other communities are welcome as well. “We will not turn away any child that requests tickets to a show,” she said.

To help celebrate Black History Month, COH will feature a production of Heroes of the Underground Railroad on February 24th. The show will be performed by Bright Star Productions, and COH hopes it presents an opportunity for area schools to take students on field trips, as they did pre-COVID. “Our audiences have not gotten back to pre-pandemic levels, so our revenue is down from where we were projecting. We said we don’t want that to stop us from making this available to kids,” stated Dalke. At this time, the COH staff is said to be reaching out to area schools to confirm their participation. Reportedly, home schooled children can also request seats by calling the box office or emailing pr@cohnh.org.

Dalke made sure to praise the Couch Family Foundation for all they have done in the past two years. “The Couch Family were fantastic during the beginning of 2021, they allowed us to launch our Renaissance campaign that helped with our summer shows. This allowed us to expand our staffing, and diversity our programming,” she stated. In the press release, the Foundation is thanked for the ability to greatly increase student attendance, without concern for cost.

At this time, it is reported that the Hypertherm HOPE Foundation has also pitched in a contribution that will help parents attend COH’s summer programs with their children.

Ultimately, this appears to be the first step into an ever evolving process to get student-involvement back into local theater. In closing, Dalke said, “We are hoping this will be a perpetual fund, to continue doing this in the future.”

Source:
Free For Our Future: COH Receives Grant to Provide Free Theater for Kids
By Tyler Maheu EAGLE TIMES STAFF Jan 12, 2023
Photo Credit: Drama Fest 2020, Bluff School, Tom Sawyer – Provided by the Claremont Opera House
https://www.eagletimes.com/news/free-for-our-future-coh-receives-grant-to-provide-free-theater-for-kids/article_13af8f41-10f1-5037-8436-91a06b006cb8.html

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