Facetime Community Theatre creates performing opportunities for children

This article can be found published on The Phoenix‘s website.
Children rehearse for a Facetime Community Theatre production. (Lisa Starczewski)

Children rehearse for a Facetime Community Theatre production. (Lisa Starczewski)

Lisa Starczewski started a business in 2008 to offer musical theater classes in response to students wanting to do more in the realm of theater. She called this the Facetime Performing Arts Studio, located in Franklin Commons.

Starczewski, who spent years as a director at Phoenixville High School, believed in Summer Stage and wanted to create a non-profit theatrical program for students of all ages.

In 2009, she created Facetime Community Theatre.

“I created the business at the state level and then sat on it for a while,” Starczewski said. “Finally in 2011, I did all the paperwork for the non-profit status and we just jumped in.”

… [Please continue the story on The Phoenix website by clicking here.]

She put together a board of directors with women who possess different skills and talents, including Vice-President Kate Nice and Secretary Jessica Potts, who happens to be Starczewski’s daughter.

“[Starczewsky] and I had been friends and colleagues working together at Phoenixville High School as co-directors for the spring musicals for several years,” Nice said. “She recognized my love for music and for theatre, as well as for children and education.”

The theatre is a three-week camp open to children in late elementary school up through college. The students learn a musical and put on several performances at the end.

Throughout the practices are also workshops where the students can learn from makeup artists and professional actors.

“I wanted to create a theater where we could do programming that is innovative and unique, but definitely educational minded,” Starczewski said.

Everything used in the production is made through the help of volunteers, from the costumes to the set and even odds and ends jobs.

“Everybody was very hands on with our first program because we needed everyone to be involved,” Starczewski said. “We had people doing box office and tickets, we had people working our snack bar, we had a lot of parent help. It really does take the entire community of summer stage participants and people in the community who just love theater and wanted to see Facetime succeed.”

The biggest fundraiser for the theatre is the annual Fall in Love with Facetime, which will be held Oct. 5 at the Franklin Commons.

The event will feature a silent auction and a concert, along with appetizers and drinks.

Though it’s an annual event, the first was held just six months ago.

“We just felt that the spring was a crazy, busy time for everybody, so we were hopeful that maybe the fall might be a little better,” Starczewski said. “We had over 130 people come, which was great for a first one.”

The silent auction has collected donations from community members and businesses, but also from a celebrity source as well.

“Tina [Fey] autographed one of her ‘Bossypants’ books,” Starczewski said. “She also got us a script from the 30 Rock live show that’s autographed by everyone. Not just the cast, but everyone that was involved in the live show.”

That’s not all she’s done. Fey has recently endorsed the theatre and released a video she recorded, which can be found on the theatre’s website at facetimecommunitytheatre.org.

“Alex Fey, who is Tina’s nephew, had worked with me at Facetime Studio since I opened my doors and taken classes with me since he was in first grade,” Starczewski said. “ were so excited with the program that they offered to reach out to Tina and ask for her support.”

The money collected at Fall in Love with Facetime directly funds Summer Stage and any other programs they do over the year.

After the success of its first production in July, Starczewski and the board are hoping for the following years to go just as well.

Oliver, the 2012 Summer Stage production, was a hit for the kids and community who saw it.

“The success of the show surpassed my wildest expectation,” Potts said. “We sold out or came close to it every single night. Even the matinee – traditionally a small show – was packed. I spent weeks after the show responding to messages from audience members about how much they enjoyed their experience.”

There were no mess-ups, missed words or choreography, said Starczewski. The 55 students who were a part of the show knew the production after the weeks at camp.

Every student who signed up for Oliver also had a role in the production.

“We want every child who does it to feel very involved,” Starczewski said. “We don’t want a child to be involved and be in one number because it’s just not as fun for them. We want to get them on stage and give them as much face time – which is where our name comes from – as possible.”

Plans are already in motion for 2013 Summer Stage and a show is already chosen: The Music Man.

“I am genuinely looking forward to seeing the students who will return from last year and welcoming the newcomers that will join our cast,” Potts said.

Nice added that they are confident in their choice of shows and is anxious to share it with the students.

While the board gets ready for the production, the theatre also has other plans in mind, which they see as short and long-term goals.

Facetime hopes to also have an adult theatre and become a full-subscription theatre. Starczewski has listed this as a short-term hope.

As for long-term, she has a much bigger plan.

“Our dream as a theater is to build a facility and have our own theater,” Starczewski said. “That is something we will be fundraising for over the next few years and trying to develop and figure out if it’s possible to build.”

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