Don Brandenburg, the new artistic director at Threshold Repertory Theatre, plans to maintain Threshold's legacy of producing stellar classic and contemporary performances, but with a couple fresh updates. Coming from a long history in theater and a previous role as artistic director with Footlight Players, Brandenburg is certainly up to the task of keeping things quality. "I've been involved with theater my whole life. I've acted, directed, and produced my own shows," he says. "We're going to continue to offer great theater as always and will host other groups and rental companies that want to come in." But Brandenburg does see a couple of areas in need of improvement. "Things were forgotten for a while over here," he says.
To start, the theater will expand its offerings to the community by introducing an impactful program to their repertoire: a youth education program. Courtney Sarre will bring her background working in children's theater to direct the program. She received her B.A. in theater for youth from the College of Charleston and has performed professionally for Walt Disney World. She's taught and directed musical theater in Washington, D.C. where her students appeared at such notable venues as the White House and the National Zoo. She also founded the Musical Theater Center in Mt. Pleasant, which itself has an award-winning theatrical training program for kids. Sarre says she's going to pull out all the stops for the new youth program at Threshold. "We will be bringing much needed quality education to the arts community with strong teachers and leaders for these kids," she says. "Our music director for the program, Diana Flaherty, is a former professional opera singer. There are other schools that offer great music education, but we'll be doing it in a small, nurturing environment, which is so important."
She left the Musical Theater Center to focus on family and on another philanthropic passion, advocating for dyslexic students, but she was ready to jump back into education when she learned that Threshold had a need for a musical education program. After all, music education for kids is her life's work. "I've always been passionate about making sure that any child that wants arts training in musical theater can receive it no matter what," says Sarre. "The plan is to fundraise and grow the program so that kids can have affordable training. We want them here even if they can't afford it. We'll never turn a child away — ever — who wants to study musical theater. My main goal is to have children receive high quality arts education in a very nurturing, loving, safe environment."
The program currently serves children from kindergarten to 10th grade, and they're continuing to grow. Right now, they're in the middle of a fall workshop program that teaches students to perform works from musical theater, character development, and choreography. In January, Threshold will put on their first complete performance starring children. They're also offering an education outreach program for schools. "Watching these kids learn in class is amazing," says Brandenburg. "They all have so much fun. There's a lot of talent in there. I'm really excited about the program."
Between the youth program and their upcoming shows, the new Threshold team has had their hands full. Brandenburg has only been at Threshold for a little over a month, but he's been hard at work arranging for multiple productions to take place. Through Dec. 23, you can catch the Vegas-quality performance of It's a Magical Christmas, starring singing comedic illusionist Russell Anderson who's performed around the world. In February, they'll perform Murder at the Howard Johnson's, a lighthearted suspense comedy. "It's about a love triangle gone wrong which is perfect for the month of Valentine's Day," laughs Brandenburg. And in April, they'll produce The Lion in Winter, a historical dramedy about a 12th century family duking it out over the inheritance of a kingdom. That's not all. "In between our productions, we have other rental companies that are going to be in here. The theater will be active with performances going on," says Brandenburg.
Even more impressive is that, in addition to the ins-and-outs of running Threshold, Brandenburg somehow manages to work a fulltime day job as an engineer. He even plans to fix up the aesthetics of the theater. "Hopefully I can find the time and energy to focus on things other than the artistic aspects of the theater. It's had the same look for a long time now. We'd like to change some colors, change the exterior, and just give it a brand new face," he says. The historic building has been through a lot of changes over the years and the team wants to see it well-maintained for many years to come. "It's been left unattended for a little while," says Sarre. "We're going to give it a new coat of paint and sparkle it up again."
To donate to the youth program or to buy tickets for It's a Magical Christmas, visit thresholdrep.org.