Founders Dan and Anita Almich have been theater patrons for over 4 decades and have always appreciated the craft presented on the stage. The Almichs have been supporting The Arts in Bandon for years, starting when their own sons were in school and learning to play jazz instruments. The entire Almich family was instrumental in building the community theater in Bandon – Sprague Community Theater. Their love of the Arts spurred their interest into participating with the project. Dan and Anita were members of the local Lions Club, which sponsored the project and helped raise the funds and the roof of the building by contributing hours of their time to make the project a success. The couple also managed the facility for three years after its opening. “The theater has provided a permanent venue for people to present The Arts to others,” said Anita. “It’s really opened the imaginations of the people who use the facility.”
New Artists Productions started in 2000 with a series of concerts that brought audiences to the newly built Sprague Theater and put student performers on the stage. Dan says many of Bandon’s youngsters live and breathe to perform. “You just never know what’s going to spark the kids,” said Anita. Anita says working with local students is like watching her own children grow up. She sees the students taking performance seriously.
According to Anita, the program really took off when local students and families began planning their schedules around the New Artists calendar. The kids are always challenging us to find new projects. After 11 years, New Artists Productions is still growing and changing alongside its student performers.
What skills afford the Almichs to start such a program? Having Engineering backgrounds introduced an new element into how the Almichs viewed stage performance. The mechanics behind building a character from words on the page has always been intriguing. Dan’s background is Engineering Design and Marketing; Anita’s is Mathematics and Finance. As a team, they produce the New Artists Productions shows and events, build the sets, make the costumes, coordinate the music and sound effects, fundraise, and direct the rehearsals.
The joy of New Artists Productions is that it allows the Almichs to use their skills and develop their areas of interest – for Dan it is drawing, designing sets, and set construction. For Anita, it is her home-economic skills and interest in creating costumes.
Why do I need to learn that? How many times have we thought exactly that in a classroom – K-12 or in college? Well, Dan and Anita were no different. Dan had an interest in drawing from an early age. Anita had an interest in sewing and crafts.
Dan pursued his interests in the Arts – drawing, photography, painting, woodworking, and ultimately computerized drawing and graphic arts. Along the way he started working at Northrop Corporation in Los Angeles where he learned drafting (with pencil and eraser in hand) on the board. As his career progressed, he became a manager of the Graphic Arts, Publications, Field Engineering, Electrical Design, and Mechanical Design departments in Anaheim. He eventually took those skills to the Marketing Department were he was responsible for contract proposal writing as Director of Marketing Planning and Research. The successes of all of these responsibilities were reliant on Dan’s skills and talents.
Anita pursued Education as a career (teaching Mathematics) until the economy of the times, the mid-1970s, diverted her attention and focus to career in the Aerospace industry. She learned computer programming and applied mathematics in college; both allowed her to get a job in an Engineering Department and ultimately in the financial side of Marketing.
Hobbies in the Arts became the ‘tools’ in producing youth theater projects. Dan – set design and construction, computer software today allows him to refine his creative thoughts from sketches on a page to accurately dimensioned plans for sets and overall layouts on the stage. Dan uses Corel Draw and Adobe Photoshop software. He has an innate ability to visualize and then put his ideas on paper for everyone to understand. This, in turn, helps generate added creativity and thoughts. There is no New Artists Productions play or event that takes place without a scaled drawing and graphical art rendition of the sets in hand before the first board is cut.
Anyone with a hobby or developed skill can contribute to the success of a theatrical production. Parents of young actors or volunteers in the community can help with costume design, sewing, set and scenery design or painting, stage craft, make-up, … If one’s interest is peaked, there is a place for them in theater. In any size community, there are people who will volunteer their time to support the community – Community Theater is a great way to join in.
In our small community of Bandon, Oregon, a retirement community, there are many skilled and professional people who are looking for things to do – to contribute – to give an additional layer of value/importance to their lives. Plus, when we cannot do something or believe we cannot achieve our goals due to our personal limitations and education, we seek help from the community.
An example of this outreach was the establishment of our vocal program in 2008. We have retained professional educators to teach our students as we, admittedly, do not have vocal or musical training. Another example is workshops we organize with professional make-up artists who know the craft from study, application, or apprenticeship. We seek the most talented experts we can find to work with our program.