Perry-Mansfield shifts to year-round philosophy with theater, dance programs

The sign at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp welcomes visitors on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. The longstanding Steamboat arts school, which was established in 1913, will begin theater and dance classes Monday as it moves toward becoming more of a year-round community presence.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Acting, singing and dance will take center stage at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp this fall as the school moves into a new chapter of its storied history.

“In September I became the executive director here, and this is really a philosophical change from the board and staff on how we can be more than just the summer camp that we’ve been for 110 years,” said Joe Haines. “This past summer we did a day-camp program that we hadn’t done in half-a-dozen years, we’ve got the year-round programming through the Academy (at Perry-Mansfield) and The Players (at Perry-Mansfield) now under our umbrella, so it’s really an exciting time, a really outward-looking time right now for Perry-Mansfield.”

In the past few years, the long-running performing arts school, created by Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield in 1913, joined forces with Friends of the Yampa Valley Arts (formerly Friends of the Chief) and brought on a year-round dance instructor, Ebany Rae.

“She used to work with José Limón Dance Company in the past, so she’s an experienced young person, an experienced dance teacher that will be teaching our ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop and tap classes,” Haines said. “It’s our first full year of doing these programs, and so we added a couple of theater classes — a general acting class and a musical theater class — for the fall, in addition to a dozen or so dance classes we’re offering.”

Marje Tracy was hired to teach the classes earlier this year. Haines said that although classes begin Monday, enrollment remains open and it’s not too late to register.

Dance classes will run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Perry-Mansfield, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Hayden Center. Theater programs are running Monday and Wednesday at Perry-Mansfield and on Fridays at the Hayden Center. A complete list of classes can be found on the Perry-Mansfield website. Those interested in programs in Hayden should contact the Hayden Center.

“I studied in New York,” Tracy said. “So, I just want to teach them in the musical theater class. I want to teach them about musicals.”

Tracy has been directing high school musicals for 25 years and involved in theater most of her life. She attended the University of Connecticut before graduating from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She studied acting with Robert Modica at Carnegie Hall and singing with Maurice Jampol and Marianne Challis. She led the middle school’s production of “Legally Blonde, Jr.”

“There are so many talented kids in this area,” Tracy said. “I’m just trying to help them and work with them. There’s nothing like it, and I’ve been doing it forever.”

In addition to teaching young actors through the Academy at Perry-Mansfield, Tracy also will put together a community production of “Elf,” which is slated to hold auditions in October and be on the stage in December.

“I’m very excited to do the musical in December, and I think it’ll be great,” Tracy said. “There’s so much talent here, and they just don’t really have an avenue.”

She expects the students at the academy will be a part of the show, but the cast will include the entire community — adults and children — and will showcase the recently renovated Julie Harris Theatre. Haines said that project is about 90% complete and should be fully complete by Halloween.

Haines said the Academy at Perry-Mansfield, the community show and the Players are part of a movement at the school to increase its community presence.

“It is this wonderful facility and they’re opening it up for the town so that the kids and the whole town can enjoy what they have to offer,” Tracy said.

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