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Children's theater gets grant for new van

Children's theater gets grant for new van

Nonprofit children's theater is looking to buy a new van.
Children's theater gets grant for new van
Tiffany Parkhurst played Alice in the Schenectady Theater for Children production of "Alice in Wonderland." The group is raising money for a new van.

The Schenectady Theater for Children is looking for a new van, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region is willing to help out, again.

Back in 2002, the non-profit helped the traveling theater troupe with the purchase of a new van, and nearly 14 years later it’s time for another vehicle. Last month the Ronald McDonald House agreed to give the STC a $5,000 challenge grant toward that end, and the group has most of 2016 to raise the extra money and purchase its new mode of transportation.

“We raise as much money as we can, and once we’re ready to buy the new van, they’ll give us the last $5,000,” said STC president Claire Nolan, explaining how the grant works. “Our challenge is to come up with enough money to make it work. We’re already working at it, and we have a board meeting next week to make more plans. We’re all going to put on our thinking caps and find ways to encourage people to help us out.”

The Schenectady Theater for Children was officially created in 1975, although the group’s beginnings can be traced back to a Junior League of Schenectady children’s theater program in 1967. That program was directed by Elizabeth Paine, a Schenectady resident and drama major at Cornell University.

“We’re two years older than ‘Sesame Street,’ ” said STC treasurer Dee Mulford, referring to the long-running children’s TV show that was first televised on PBS in 1969. “When we were on our way to a performance 13 years ago our truck was hit by a car. It was on the news and we got a phone call from Time Warner offering the use of a truck from their fleet, and then we got a phone call from [the] Ronald McDonald [charity]. I was surprised at first, but they said they offer support to any group that has anything to do with children. But now that truck is getting old and we need a new one.”

The STC has performed in front of school groups throughout Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties, and also offered presentations aimed at older audiences.

“For rural kids and inner-city kids, it’s often their first live-theater experience,” said Nolan. “We put on a show for about an hour with lights, sets and costumes, so these kids can appreciate the magic that theater can create. It’s great fun for us to see the excitement in their faces, but we’ve also bridged out quite a bit and do performances aimed at adults.”

The STC currently has its home base at Rotterdam Square Mall. The group originally called Yates Elementary School in Schenectady its home, and was also at what was the Schenectady Museum and the Mohawk Mall.

“We have an open mic night for kids at our mall location, and we also run week-long camps for children in February and March and a two-week program in August,” said Nolan. “They are all hugely popular, and it’s almost all done by volunteers. We have a few people who are paid a small stipend, but mostly it’s area actors and stage crew donating their time.”

Among the more popular features offered by the STC is the “Great Mind Series.” Well-known impersonator Paul Stillmann of Cameron Mills, New York, just west of Elmira, performs on a regular basis for STC as Theodore Roosevelt and Ben Franklin. Other presentations are done by local actors, including Nolan, who portrays Mother Jones, Madame Curie and Georgia O’Keeffe, and Bill Hickman and Rita Russell, who play John and Abigail Adams.

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]

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