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New theatre program at Russell Sage

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Albany/HV: New theatre program at Russell Sage
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The New York State Theatre Institute shut down last year due to a lack of state funding, but Sage College has a new program that it's hoping will fill the void. Our Megan Eaton has more.

TROY, N.Y. -- Several Sage Theatre students and teachers got their "start" in NYSTI.

"I got my equity card through NYSTI," said Sage graduate Shannon Rafferty.

"I started summer stage when I was probably like in second grade that was like a theatre summer camp." said Sage sophomore Morgan Przekurat.

Unfortunately, NYSTI had its final curtain call in 2010. Russell Sage College felt they had a void to fill. That's how the Theatre Institute at Sage was born.

According to one of the program's new administrators, David Bunce, "Around the productions for the creative and performing arts department we'll be doing educational programming that helps teachers tie it into curriculum."

While the Institute will in many ways mirror NYSTI, there will be a few, money saving changes. NYSTI had a staff of 28, the Theatre Institute has two.

David Bunce and Sara Melita are veterans of the stage, and the classroom, but they won't be putting on costly professional productions just yet.

"The biggest financial liability for NYSTI was producing the plays, it's very expensive to produce shows," Bunce said.

Instead, they'll be providing educational supplements to Sage productions like the upcoming Seussical the Musical.

"It's a school for a feeling it gives students an opportunity to really get that effective component that we know is so important," Melita added.

The Theatre Institute's not just about educating children on the art of the stage, it's about training young actors to be comfortable on stage.

"Those students that are interested in going into theatre as a career they certainly have an opportunity at the theatre institute to come work on productions," said Melita.

The Institute will also provide several workshops for interested children and teens, like Saturday's on Stage, where they teach acting and performance skills. Sage students will help out by teaching.

"If you can grab a group of children and go look what you can do look what you can do, oh the thinks you can think, I think that's a great message to do theatre," said Sage senior Brian Sheldon.

Bunce and Melita hope to someday get professional productions back into funding, which is currently provided through August by Sage, and minimal workshop fees.

"It gives them the taste of the professional world and that's why they're here," notes Rafferty, who is helping choreograph Seussical.

For now, they'll continue to give Sage students, and potential theatre buffs, the opportunity to express themselves through the art of the stage.

The Theatre Institute's Open House will be March 19th from 10-11 a.m. You can check out their website at ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP