July 31, 2014
   
Boston Children’s Theatre Thrives Despite the Economic Downturn

April 27, 2009 — While many organizations are struggling in the current economic downturn, one small nonprofit, Boston Children’s Theatre, Boston’s oldest and only theater company dedicated exclusively to young people, is having a banner year.

Children are flocking to Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) acting classes and BCT productions are attracting healthy audiences. In addition, BCT Academy summer sessions, planned in Boston and on the North Shore, are selling out.

Driving the organization’s revitalization is its new executive director, Burgess Clark.

Clark joined BCT last summer, having been hired away from North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, where he served as director of education and children’s programs. The BCT board, which had interviewed dozens of talented, experienced arts administrators, was impressed with Clark’s vision for a new beginning for BCT, which was founded as an independent theatre company in 1951.

Clark officially took over the helm of BCT last October. His first production, The Sound of Music, sold out its run this past fall and received glowing reviews.

For the current main-stage production, Clark replaced a non-musical play selected by the former executive director with the contemporary musical, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and tickets are selling briskly. When two school day performances sold out almost immediately, Burgess added two more.

BCT students also are valued by colleges and universities. All 13 of BCT graduating seniors were accepted by the colleges of their choice. Next fall, BCT students will be attending such schools as New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Emerson College, Carnegie Mellon, Boston Conservatory of Music, and others. Many students also have received merit scholarships.

Harnessing the Power of the Web

Clark has re-designed the BCT website and uses it and other Internet venues (including Facebook) to reach young people through their prime means of communication. When he introduced exciting new classes for the current season, the number of new students increased immediately.

BCT has organized a student exchange sponsored by the Patton Trust in Saarbrucken, Germany. Young German students will attend BCT’s performing arts programs this summer. In addition BCT, under Clark’s direction, is collaborating on programs with the USS Constitution Museum and entered into an alliance with Boston Casting.

Fundraising has increased and old debts have been retired. The BCT board has been energized and has expanded with new members joining from suburban towns and the inner cities.

Clark’s goal is for BCT and the city of Boston to become recognized as national leaders in children’s theatre.

“I feel that Boston not only deserves a nationally renowned theater dedicated to children and telling their stories, but being that we are Boston, a city already well-known for its educational sophistication and children’s causes, should be one of the national leaders in quality theatre for children. Boston Children’s Theatre is poised to become just that,” he said.

Despite the dour global economic forecast, Burgess expects BCT to continue to thrive. He noted, “In my experience people are willing to invest in quality education for children, regardless of the economy.”

Board President Henry Lukas, who has been involved with BCT for more than 15 years, said of Clark, “His enthusiasm, breath of knowledge and vision for the future of BCT has energized the Board. He demonstrates every day that the board made the right decision in selecting him to lead Boston Children’s Theatre."

Clark and his growing professional staff have proposed a diverse schedule for next season. Productions will target specific age groups and will complement grade school curricula. For the Christmas season, BCT is partnering with Boston Playwright’s Theatre to present a blend of professional adult actors and children in Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Clark, an award-winning playwright, wrote the script, which was originally produced for the National Theatre of the Deaf.

The Velveteen Rabbit, another script penned by Clark, also will be presented by BCT next fall. Other titles for next season include The Diary of Anne Frank, Seussical Jr. , and Miss Nelson Is Missing.

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