Tri-City theater academy's leaders take on different roles

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldApril 21, 2013 

The Academy of Children's Theatre is reorganizing its 18-year-old arts education division, naming three key people to enhance the programs.

Adele Connors will be the development director, Deb Donahoe the artistic director and Julie Schroeder the program manager.

"We're expanding the direction of the staff because we see a chance to strengthen ACT's programs and activities," said Anne Sampson, a member of the ACT board of directors. "Hiring a dedicated artistic director has been a goal for several years, and after 18 seasons, we're well-established in the community. We're also in a strong position now and ready to take this step."

The positions are all part time, she said.

Connors brings plenty of experience and expertise to ACT's fundraising efforts, along with a desire to support arts and theater education, Sampson said.

She is the former director of the Kennewick General Hospital Foundation, has worked for United Way and served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Central Washington and the Richland Riverside Rotary.

"She's a perfect fit for promoting ACT's mission," Sampson said. "Having her skills on board will help us move to a new level of fundraising, leading to more and better programming."

Schroeder, who has been an ACT teacher since 2000, will continue to coordinate ACT's education program, but with a focus on giving it a more defined artistic vision.

Schroeder has already introduced several special programs for ACT, such as Work It Out, which helps children combat bullying. She also organized Spectrum On Stage, a theater experience for students with autism.

"Julie has done a great job with our classes, and we're looking forward to more creativity in her department," Sampson said. "She is working on implementing another special program called Write Your Own Story, where she and the teaching staff will be working with at-risk kids and juvenile offenders to write their stories, and then stage them."

Donahoe has been a teacher in the Richland School District for 15 years, lending her theater talent to a number of productions at Hanford High and Enterprise Middle School. She also has made significant contributions in theater to the Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre productions, as well as the Eastern Washington University and Columbia Basin College drama departments.

ACT was formed in 1995 to provide educational opportunities in theater arts for young people of all abilities and levels of interest. It's mission also is to provide an outlet for children and teens that will expose them to diverse ideas and cultures through the theater experience.

In its 18-year history, ACT has help boost professional careers for many Tri-City youngsters, such as Santino Fontana, who is starring on Broadway in Cinderella, and Janet Krupin, who also is performing on Broadway in Bring it On: The Musical.

The nonprofit organization at 213 Wellsian Way in Richland serves more than 6,000 kids each year through performances and classes in the arts.

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