Do you think your child may be interested in performing arts? There are so many great public schools around the Hudson Valley, yet many lack one thing: a strong theater arts program. This is especially true for children in elementary school. That’s one of the factors that led to the creation of Beacon Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit which serves as a creative space for children and adults in the Hudson Valley.
In February 2017, husband-and-wife duo Kate and Jake Vander Linden co-founded Beacon Performing Arts Center with Tim Grady. Their mission was to create “an educational theater experience from a professional perspective for all age groups,” Jake notes. With a team of professionals, the performing arts center first started by offering summer classes and workshops and put on Elf Junior as its inaugural production.
Coming from a theater background in New York City, Kate and Jake were inspired by the teaching aspect of theater. They settled in Beacon because of the artistic talent present in the Hudson Valley region. To them, the region offers a sense of community and support with immense opportunity for theater arts being that New York City is so close.
Before becoming permanent residents of the Hudson Valley, Kate and Jake went to school at Millikin University, where they graduated with BFAs in musical theater. After, Jake worked gigs in New York City, took up regional gigs, and starred in the first Broadway National Tour of Ghost the Musical. Kate and Grady met when they were both starring in the First National Tour of Elf the Musical. In addition to Elf the Musical, Grady has experience at Radio City Music Hall, McCarter Theater, and the Riverside Theater, to name a few. He also co-choreographs the commercial break entertainment annually for the Tony Awards and is the red carpet correspondent for Actors’ Equity Foundation and Backstage Magazine, in addition to numerous other roles.
Each year, BPAC puts on six productions, two for elementary school students, two for middle school, and two for high school. There are often multiple casts per show, ensuring that everyone has a spot to perform. There are also acting and dance classes for adults offered throughout the year. Whatever your age, starting at 18 months to adulthood, there is something for you. There are programs to challenge at any level, from beginners to more seasoned professionals, and anyone is welcome to get involved.
Some notable productions include Putnam County Spelling Bee, which was the first high school-only show in 2018, and Newsies, which was put on effortlessly by a middle school cast in 10 days time. The most recent production was Finding Nemo Kids, during which the children took on the challenge of puppetry, and the team, actors, and volunteers came together to create an inspiring production. Coming up, BPAC has Mean Girls High School Version and Mean Girls Jr. on January 26, 27, and 28. For elementary levels, the performers kick off Seussical Kids on May 4 and 5.
The performances are open to the public and are held at Beacon High School, thanks to a special partnership with Beacon Players (Beacon High School’s drama group). The partnership allows resources to be shared, and many of the high school students participating in theater are involved with both groups.
The impact of BPAC has been immense, as it brings people together on and off the stage to form a community.
“Art is self-expression in so many ways. For me it’s expressing yourself through a means that normal life doesn’t allow you to. You work as a team, it’s a creative outlet, you can dive into imagination, it is a social event, and people are coming to see a story being told,” Jake notes.
BPAC is also so grateful for the immense parent support, volunteers, team of professionals, and the community, as the programs would not be possible without them.
Beacon Performing Arts Center
327B Main St, Beacon
Related: Best of Hudson Valley: Kids 2023