December 23, 2021

About ACT

ACT provides quality arts experiences to the youth of the mid-Columbia through live theatre performances and educational camps, classes, and workshops. Both the live theatre shows and the camps/classes are designed specifically for pre-school through high schooler to learn performance techniques, technical theater skills, team building, problem solving, creativity, personal responsibility, and more! All of our productions are open to the general public (with some age suggestions) and our classes are available for pre-school through high school all year long.

Mission of ACT

It is the mission of the Academy of Children’s Theatre

  • to provide educational opportunities in the theater arts for young people of all abilities and levels of interest;
  • to produce quality theater for and by the young with appeal to all ages;
  • and to expose people to diverse ideas and cultures through the theater experience.

“The City (of Richland) has provided grant funds to make various modifications to your facility and you’ve always used the funds in a timely and responsible manner. I look forward to watching your theatre grow and to the many partnerships we will forge in the future.” -Joseph Schiessl, Planning and Redevelopment Manager, City of Richland

History of ACT

The Academy of Children’s Theatre (ACT) was conceived in 1995 by a small group of local educators, theatre professionals, and parents who sought to create an organization that would provide dramatic arts instruction and performances geared especially toward children. Since that time, ACT has built a reputation as a professionally run, high-quality children’s theatrical organization.

From 1995-2004, ACT operated out of a variety of temporary facilities and moved locations seven different times. As ACT grew, moving drained valuable time and energy from providing services. None of the temporary facilities provided optimal rehearsal/performance/education space, and constituents had trouble keeping track of ACT’s location. Without appropriate performance space, ACT is required to rent local school auditoriums for each of our four, yearly MainStage productions. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reserve school auditorium space at times that meets ACT’s needs, as the in-school band, choirs, and drama groups have their own practice and performance schedules. Rental and equipment transportation costs have exceeded $10,000 a year, funds that could be better spent on programming or staff. Both rental costs and scheduling conflicts are significant factors that have limited ACT’s capacity for physical and programmatic growth.

In the fall of 2003, ACT was very fortunate to find a 17,000 sq. ft. warehouse facility with the potential to meet all our needs. At the time of purchase, the building had adequate office space, limited restrooms, a mezzanine for costume and props storage, and a large open warehouse area. With the purchase of the facility in April 2004, ACT made its final move into our permanent home! ACT envisions that this facility will allow it to serve a broader community role as a Cultural Center for Children.

After moving into the facility in 2004, ACT spent the next three years renovating half of the warehouse area, which has greatly enhanced its ability to provide services. This area now boasts two finished classrooms; a Black Box rehearsal and performance area; an expanded mezzanine used for lighting, sound production and additional storage; adequate bathrooms; a new entrance and ticket booth; a donor recognition plaque; and optimal HVAC, lighting, and electrical capacity. For the first time, multiple classes/rehearsals/performances can comfortably occur simultaneously throughout the building. ACT is now looking forward to finishing this project by building a 300-350 seat theatre in the back half of the warehouse and paying off the mortgage.

Board of Trustees:

  • Nancy Schenter, President
  • Ernie Fontana
  • Heather Carlson
  • Kathryn Payne
  • Steven Miller
  • Jamie Ohl
  • Clint Howell
  • Cathy Kelly

Office Staff:

  • Josh Darby, Artistic Director
    • After spending a year and a half working and training with the inspiring Seattle Children’s Theatre Josh is thrilled to be back with ACT as its artistic director, improv director and teaching artist. Josh loves to work with kids of all ages and teaching theater arts to the next generation is a true passion. He is a graduate of CWU class of ’08 with a BA in Theatre Arts: Youth Drama, SCT Teaching Apprentice Program and Columbia College of Hollywood emphasis in Acting for the Camera . Since graduation he has worked in children’s theatre as a teaching artist, actor, writer and director in Seattle, Los Angles and the Tri-Cities. Along with teaching with ACT, Josh is continuing to teach with Seattle Children’s Theatre and Three Rivers HomeLink School in Richland.  He couldn’t be more psyched to keeping working with and learning from the great people, families and students of ACT! And as always Josh is a proud member of Hufflepuff House! Josh teaches Spontaneous Combustion, Sparks, Saturday morning Pre-K classes, the After School Acting Series for 1-3 graders in the fall & 4-6 graders in the winter, and private acting lessons. He will also be directing The Hobbit this winter and Little Women: The Musical this spring.
  • Anne Spilman, Managing Director
  • Julie Schroeder, Education Coordinator
    • Julie Schroeder has been involved with different aspects of theatre for over 40 years. She has acted, directed, or has designed hair, makeup and costumed for over 100 shows. She has been involved with the Academy of Children’s Theatre since 1999, directed ACT’s award winning Troupe, and has been a part of the staff as the Education Coordinator since 2007. Her grandchildren are third generation ACT.
  • Connors, Development & Marketing Director
    • Connors is the Development Director at ACT responsible for fundraising, marketing, and public relations efforts. She has a degree in Dramatic Art from the University of California at Berkeley and is very passionate about the power of theatre to inform, engage, and enrich people’s lives. organizes fundraising events and activities, including the annual Heart for the Arts gala in winter and the Secret Garden Tour in summer. She also is responsible for grant writing, an annual giving campaign, and serves as our spokesperson and liaison to the community. She previously worked as the Foundation Director at Kennewick General Hospital and as the Director of Community Relations at United Way.