Backstage Theatre receives $16,000 grant |

Backstage Theatre receives $16,000 grant

Daily News staff report

The Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge received a $16,000 TAFF grant from the Andrea-Mennen Family Foundation to expand and redevelop KidsPlay, its popular children’s theater workshop program.

A cornerstone of the Backstage Theatre’s community involvement, the longstanding children’s workshops took on the name KidsPlay in the early 1990s. The goal is to grow participation and instill a love of the performing arts in children.

“We hope to foster curiosity in the arts, develop skills and, along the way, create an arts patronage and talent base for the future,” said Backstage Theatre artistic director Christopher Willard. “But this program has been seriously wanting for a little help, and the TAFF grant is a very timely and welcome rescuer.”

Formed in 2000, the Texas-based Andrea Mennen Family Foundation was established by Christina Mennen Andrea to help children and young adults build a positive foundation by meeting and overcoming mental and physical challenges. They see the investment in the Backstage Theatre’s work as a way to garner more involvement from the community.

“Sometimes a little push from one philanthropic person or organization can have a positive, snowball effect,” said Andrea, who has a home in Breckenridge.

The grant will allow the Backstage Theatre to expand its KidsPlay program to encompass three age brackets (6-9, 10-12 and 13-14) for the fall and spring sessions. KidsPlay will also add two summer workshop programs incorporating music and dance as a way to give children and youth well-rounded instruction in all disciplines of the performing arts.

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“I’ve been hoping to create separate age brackets of learning for quite some time now,” said Willard. “Having students learn with their peers will allow for more challenging skill- and age-appropriate curriculum to be introduced that will correspond with the maturation level of the students in each workshop.”

The TAFF grant allows the Backstage to lower its tuition cost for the KidsPlay program, making it more affordable for families of all income levels. The grant also makes it possible for KidsPlay classes to present performances, free of charge, for families and friends at the close of each session. “All the things we’ve been wanting to do with this program we can now do, thanks to TAFF,” Willard said.

The Backstage Theatre is currently hiring instructors for the upcoming workshops and will make announcements soon regarding the individual sessions, which are set to begin in mid-September.

“We are tremendously grateful to the Andreas for this generous gift,” Willard says. “It truly is a next-level type of grant that gives the program a chance to spread its wings and welcome more children to the theater. But we’ll need assistance to keep the program flourishing, and we hope donors will jump on board to help the program continue to grow.” Contributions can be made at

The Backstage Theatre is a 39-year-old arts institution. Community programs through the nonprofit include adult and youth workshops, year-round productions and special events.

On Saturday, the Backstage will offer a free program for kids ages 5-12 from 1-1:45 p.m. as a part of the countywide Fall for the Arts celebration. Backstage actors will interpret stories to bring children’s books to life. Tickets are not required. The event takes place at the Breckenridge Theatre, 121 S. Ridge St.