Vice President of Communications for The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory Lisa Condit spoke with President of Conservatory and Education division Meghan Montaner about the history and future of the conservatory. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: I want to talk about your recent promotion to president of our conservatory and education division. That is a wonderful show of support and acknowledgement for all the hard work and accomplishments that you and the whole education team have made over the years.
Meghan: I started with the theatre in 2007. I came on board to assist Troy while he was working with the board to open the theatre and to bring in donations. Previously, I had been working in the community doing theatre, directing, working in school systems and working with Worcester Foothills Theatre. I was passionate about this opportunity for Worcester to have Broadway for the first time.
The Growth of the Conservatory
Lisa: What has happened with our Conservatory and Education division is really the culmination of a lot of your vision for the organization, as well as your background and skills. How were you able to respond to the need for really exceptional technique and performing arts education, starting with the Youth Summer Program?
Meghan: That was our first education program that we started back in 2009, and it was successful right out of the gate. We really couldn’t have predicted the success that we’ve seen over the last four years. That first semester, in January of 2017, we had 12 classes. Then, come that fall, we had 90 offerings and we were reaching 300 to 400 students. It was a huge jump in those nine months, and we’ve been able to continue to grow and bring an incredible faculty together.
We’re really about process over product and making sure that students really understand the performing arts, whether it be through dance or music, or drama. I think that’s one of the things that sets us apart.
Lisa: We have some wonderful opportunities this summer, you want to touch a little bit on some of the offerings from the conservatory?
Meghan: One program I’m excited about is WYSH, it stands for Worcester Youth Speak Honestly and is supported by our wonderful Worcester Arts Council. We received a grant to start a theatre workshop for Worcester teens. They’ll go through a number of leadership exercises and talk about their life experiences in Worcester. It will all culminate in a performance in our BrickBox Theater July 12th and 13th. That’s underway right now, they are a wonderful group of kids and we’re excited to hear their stories. That’s what theatre is all about, telling stories and creating empathy through the understanding of other’s experiences.
Later in the summer, our teen and pre-teen programs are going to be performing Oklahoma!. It’s such a great, fun summer show. Our Youth Acting Company is working on a musical for the end of June, Urinetown, which is a terrible title, but such a wildly fun and comedic show. If you are a musical theatre lover, you’ll want to come see it. It has wonderful music, incredible dancing and some beautiful singing.
Lisa: It all sounds incredible, tell us about your Dance Intensive Week.
Meghan: Dance Intensive Week will take place in August and it’s an opportunity for some younger dancers to come into our studios to work with our visiting faculty. They’ll be exposed to a variety of dance styles including ballet, which is the main focus of our dance program, but they also experience flamenco dance, jazz dance and some contemporary dance. It’s a fun week and we end it with a little showcase for parents. It’s a great way for kids to get exposed to some different dance styles and to experience a little preview of our conservatory.
Lisa: Another part that I think is interesting and important for us to mention is, in addition to the classes and other offerings, there are a lot of community programs and community outreach happening. We have our Virtual Student Matinee Series.
Meghan: We have seven virtual matinees that we’re offering this year and we’re continuing to get requests. In an average year, we have about 16,000 kids that come through our building just for student matinees alone. This year, we didn’t want to let go of that experience for kids in the community and for teachers who have built that into their school year. There’s still time to check out our website, it’s easy to get access to these shows. Not only do you get to watch a show, but there are also study guides and behind-the-scenes videos that the students can access, and teachers can take advantage of.
The Importance of the Arts
Lisa: It’s incredible, all the creativity and flexibility and innovation that goes into this. If you were to pick something that you feel is important for people to remember in a time like this that you’ve learned from this past year, what would it be?
Meghan: This year was a reminder for all of us of how important the arts are for health. For physical health, mental health and for connection.
I think for any child, I just want them to find their place in the world and I want them to find that thing that makes them feel good about themselves and feel confident. That’s what I see when our students are coming through our doors and when they’re interacting with one another.
It’s about finding their place and feeling comfortable and being able to let their guard down, even if it’s just a few hours a day.