A Hummel Report InvestigationA struggling non-profit community theater relocated - and reinvented - itself four years ago with a simple mission: to give back to the community. This month Jim Hummel profiles the Academy Players, which has raised thousands of dollars for charities, other non-profit organizations and people in need. He finds they’re not only surviving - but thriving.
Click here for more information on Academy Players.
The energy level is high this Wednesday night in February as three dozen kids head into their final rehearsal of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.
They’ve been practicing for nearly two months; but with opening night now on the immediate horizon there’s the usual mix of excitement, anticipation and jitters during the tech rehearsal.
The kids are members of the Academy Players, the longtime theater company from East Greenwich that moved to Providence four years ago.
A group of adult actors is next door getting for another play in a couple of weeks.
Rita: We reinvented ourselves. We all sat down, I called everybody I knew who was proficient in the arts.’’
Rita Maron was the catalyst for the move. She has a dance and choreography background and taught theater in both public and private schools. Her vision for a rejuvenated Academy was simple: a non-profit community theater that gives back to the community.
Right beside her: Rita’s daughter Chelsea - who came back to Rhode Island after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a theater degree. That wasn’t the original game plan, but Chelsea couldn’t pass up the opportunity of working with her mom on a creative new initiative: The Stage Door Project.
Every performance Academy puts on raises money for other non-profit organizations or people in need - about 20 a year - and has brought in thousands of dollars over the past four years.
Chelsea: ``I fell in love with the community aspect, I fell in love with doing this with my mother, doing the theater with her, it’s just been an amazing thing to do.’’
The Academy Players had been a fixture in East Greenwich since 1956, performing at Swift Gym for years, then moving to the Varnum Armory on Main Street. But Academy was struggling and in 2010 Rita made a pitch to move it to a complex of buildings owned by her husband’s construction company on the Providence/Johnston line.
The central location made geographic sense, and they had more space - including the main theatre, a practice room and storage area down the hall, and a separate dance company next door, where the kids gathered before the opening night of Charlie Brown.